For Long Stay in Japan:Each Feature of Top 3 Cellphone Carrier in Japan


When you come and stay long in Japan, you might have interest to a Japanese cellphone or SIM card to save your cost of living.

However, you might be trouble what is the best for you because website comparing their features is a few (Rather than that, I couldn’t find it when I take a glance at the searching result of Google).

 So, I decide to write it, briefly.  

There are Three Major Cellphone Carriers in Japan 

Japanese major cellphone carriers are three companies.

NTT Docomo, AU and Softbank

Let’s take a look each feature.

NTT Docomo

NTT Docomo has the largest market share. It is said that the reception is the best in those three companies. The reason might be because NTT was ordinarily a government-owned-corporation. The cellphones seem to be used by many company employees. 

On the other hand, their cellphone models are less than the other two companies.  Some users of AU or Softbank seem not to be accept the  designs. I’ve heard they say “Docomo models are too businesslike”.

Moreover, their price plan and models are relatively conservative.  For example, Docomo adopted iPhone after the other two company accepted it. 
(However, they’ve lately started “Docomo with” that is provides 1500 JPY discount from monthly fee for limited models.  Gradually, their tendency might get change near future.)

Advantage: Good Reception
Disadvantage: Too businesslike models
                        Their Plans or models are likely to be conservative (It might get change near future)


AU has the second largest market share.  It is said that it provides almost same reception as Docomo (Sometimes better, sometimes worse than Docomo. It depends on situations). 

They have the plentiful models than Docomo. 

In addition, they seem to have kept offering unique plans like Adjust Plan (Japanese Name: Pitatto Plan ピタットプラン) to fit users’ needs for a long time. 

On the other hand, the plans they offer are a little complicated to choose. You could find the most appropriate one, while it might be tough to select. (Actually, I couldn’t figure out which is the best for me. … It is true I am not familiar with their plans though… I am a Docomo user.  )

Advantage: Good Reception as Docomo (It depends on using situations)
                   Plentiful Models
                   Unique Plans
Disadvantage: Too complicated plans to choose.


The last one is Softbank.  It has the third large market share.

I think Softbank is the most innovative in those three. They adopted iPhone faster than the other two. I think the first company which started “unlimited voice call” in Japan  was Softbank among these three (not sure).  

Besides, they offer the global service “America flat-rate option” is free of charge now (As of Oct 17th). You could use it with nice price if you fit their plans.

However, it is said that their reception is not good. 
Sometimes, only Softbank cell phones have no bar though Docomo or AU cell phones have more than one. 

Advantage: Nice Price if you fit their plans
Disadvantage: No-good Reception


These are each feature that is generally said. So, it might be changed in your situation.

I cannot declare which is the best because it depends on what your priority and discount you receive are. So, please compare each company’s plan properly. 

I hope this post helps your long stay in Japan.


NTT Docomo  (English)

AU (English)

Softbank (English)

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