Finding free public Wi-Fi in Japan (that is actually free and public)
Once notoriously difficult to find in Japan, free public Wi-Fi is slowly becoming more and more common. However, not all “public” Wi-Fi is truly open to all members of the public, as many networks that claim to be “free” can actually only be used by subscribers of certain mobile phone networks or other paid services. This can be particularly vexing for travelers in Japan as it can be difficult to locate the places that do offer actual free public Wi-Fi when you do not have access to the internet! In this article, we provide some tips on where to find free public Wi-Fi in Japan along with some advice on how to access it when you do.
Why might you want to access free public Wi-Fi in Japan?
Internet access in Japan, whether provided via mobile internet services such as 5G or fiber-optic home services, is generally fast, stable, and reliable
However, if you are traveling to Japan and will be on the go a lot, you may not have consistent mobile access to the internet if you choose not to pay for mobile SIM card or portable Pocket Wi-Fi router services. While a mobile SIM card or Pocket Wi-Fi are definitely more convenient options, some visitors do still choose to rely on free public Wi-Fi for their internet needs while traveling around Japan. This is obviously a cheaper option (nothing is cheaper than free!) and some travelers prefer eschewing a SIM card or Pocket Wi-Fi and going somewhat “off the grid” during their stay in Japan.
As well as foreign travelers, foreign residents in Japan may also want to be able to access free public Wi-Fi sometimes too, either to save on limited monthly mobile data whenever possible or to access faster connections (though some free public Wi-Fi networks are faster than others). They might also want to use devices such as laptops that generally cannot use SIM cards for internet access.
Whether you are a traveler in Japan or a new resident, actually finding and accessing free public Wi-Fi when you need it can be a challenge, especially in large Japanese cities, which can be difficult to navigate without internet access, or in rural areas, where free public Wi-Fi often does not exist.
This article has all the top tips on where to find free public Wi-Fi and how to access it when you do.
Traveling in Japan with your mobile phone? Watch out for sky-high international roaming charges… If you often travel abroad along with your mobile phone (as most of us do these days), you will be well aware of the need to avoid roaming charges, particularly with today’s smartphones that can rapidly consume large amounts of data in short periods of time.
To avoid international roaming charges (which can be REALLY expensive), make sure to turn off your Cellular Data switch under Cellular in Settings (this is for iPhones…other models may vary, of course). Also be careful with the quick buttons that you can use to turn cellular data on/off with (the ones you get when you swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen) as these are easy to switch on by mistake!
Obviously, you can choose to use international roaming if you wish, but purchasing a temporary Japanese SIM card or renting a Pocket Wi-Fi are probably far better (and cheaper!) options.
Free public Wi-Fi access in Japan - General Information
Not all free public Wi-Fi is actually free. Or public.
In Japan’s major cities, especially in busier areas, opening up your mobile phone’s list of available Wi-Fi options will likely show you several unlocked Wi-Fi networks, often with names including FREE.
Many of these networks, however, require you to either be a paid subscriber of a particular mobile phone network (Softbank, au, Docomo, etc.) or to pay usage fees (such as Wi2 300). Many such sites do not offer registration in English (Wi2 300 does). This meant that for many years it was difficult to find actual usable free public Wi-Fi in Japan, especially for those who could not manage to muddle through the registration or sign-in process in Japanese. The sign-in/registration process sometimes also required an internet connection, which was a bit of a problem if you did not have a mobile connection!
However, due to the huge increase in tourism to Japan between 2013-2019 (which is expected to return, following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions), efforts were made by both businesses and local governments to make free public Wi-Fi more accessible to foreign tourists.
The following section will examine the best places to find free public Wi-Fi in Japan.
Free public Wi-Fi in Japan - Where to Find Free Public Wi-F
While you can always just pull your mobile phone out of your pocket or bag at a random location in Japan, wave it at the sky, and hope for the best, it might help to narrow your search for free public Wi-Fi down a little bit.
(One thing to consider if you come from a country without much public transportation is that businesses in Japanese cities tend to cluster around train or metro stations.)
Here is a list of the locations in Japan where you are mostly likely to find free public Wi-Fi:
- Accommodation (hotels, ryokan, etc.)
- Cafes and restaurants
- Convenience stores
- Train stations, airports, other transportation services
- Shopping centers (malls)
- Tourist attractions
- Internet cafes (manga-kissaten)
Accommodation (hotels, ryokan, etc.)
Nearly all hotels in Japan offer complimentary free internet access in guest rooms via Wi-Fi (some websites claim that only LAN cable connections are provided, but this is now exceedingly rare). Even if you will be staying in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), you will still likely have access to a free Wi-Fi connection in your room, though the quality or accessibility of this connection could vary if it is an older building or the ryokan is located in a remote rural area.
Cafes and restaurants
Starbucks and Tully’s coffee shops are safe bets for free Wi-Fi. They have simple sign-in pages (in English) that should get you connected with nothing more than a couple of clicks. Starbucks seems to be all over the place these days (Japan has the highest number of stores outside of the USA and China), so it is relatively easy to stumble across one (especially if you are in a city near a train station). The Wi-Fi at Starbucks is generally fast and stable.
If you prefer trendier cafes or independent coffee spots, you might be out of luck sometimes as not all provide Wi-Fi connections. This is also the case with bars, which do not typically offer Wi-Fi (a few catering mostly to foreigners, such as the Hub, do).
As for fast food joints, McDonald’s has free Wi-Fi (you’ll be sitting next to lots of teenagers using it too), as do Japanese chains such as Mos Burger or Freshness Burger.
Obviously to use free Wi-Fi at a cafe or restaurant for a while, you’ll need to buy something and sit down, but if you just need a quick map check…well, you wouldn’t be the first person in Japan to stand around outside a Starbucks or McDonald’s with your phone in your hand!
Unless you are really heading for the remote reaches of Japan - say, trekking the Japan Alps in Nagano or cycling around the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori - you will never be too far from one of Japanese all but ubiquitous convenience stores.
The major Japanese convenience store chains (7-Eleven, LAWSON, FamilyMart) all offer free Wi-Fi nowadays in most of their stores. Logging in has recently become simpler and available in English.
The Wi-Fi connections in convenience stores are not particularly fast or stable but they are usually perfectly adequate for Googling something or checking your messages or using online maps to find out how lost you are (plus who wants to spend more than a few minutes in a convenience store anyway!).
Train stations, airports, other transportation services
Free Wi-Fi is available at all international airports in Japan (Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Chubu, New Chitose, etc.) as well as most smaller domestic airports as well. Connections are generally quite good. Logging in is simple and available in English (and other languages too).!
Some of the main train stations in Tokyo (Tokyo Station, Akihabara, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, etc.) and other major cities have only just recently begun offering free public Wi-Fi. Connections tend to be a bit spotty depending on where you are located in the station, so you might find getting online a bit frustrating. Also note that you will probably not have time to connect to the internet if you are just passing through on a train!!
Certain train and bus services also offer free Wi-Fi onboard. The Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train), for example, offers free Wi-Fi service to all passengers, but be prepared for your connection to cut in and out, especially as you zip through all those tunnels south of Mount Fuji! Various buses in Japan also have free Wi-Fi (typically airport buses or long-distance buses; regular city buses do not), including overnight buses.!
Some of Japan’s many ferry services also provide free Wi-Fi!
Shopping centers (malls)
Large shopping centers (malls) of the type common in many countries are found here and there in Japan, along with large department stores such as Atre, Takashimaya, or Mitsukoshi.
Some shopping centers, especially newer or more modern ones, provide free Wi-Fi to visitors. Connections aren’t usually great, so if you need to use the internet for more than just a quick check, you might want to find a specific cafe or restaurant in the shopping center that offers its own free Wi-Fi.
In the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics, major tourist attractions across Japan made great strides towards improving visitor access to free Wi-Fi.
Getting online is generally very straightforward, with instructions available in several languages (including English) along with useful tourist information.
Smaller attractions or those located in rural areas tend not to offer free Wi-Fi (although there are some surprises!).
Internet cafes (manga-kissaten)
If you visited Japan ten to twenty years ago, you may remember the manga-kissaten (漫画喫茶店), Japan’s unique take on the internet cafe. These offer small booths where you can use a provided computer (or your own device, via Wi-Fi) or kick back and peruse some manga comics if you’d like. Drinks and sometimes food (of often dubious quality) are usually available. You usually pay by the hour, but some have special overnight deals (if you miss the last train home and have nowhere else to crash).
Manga-kissaten are normally located near major train stations but they can often be difficult to find as their signs tend to be in Japanese and they are often located in small back streets as well as on the upper floors of nondescript buildings. They are also becoming less common these days generally.
Public libraries usually provide free Wi-Fi, but instructions are generally only in Japanese.
Don’t want to spend your holiday searching for free public Wi-Fi? Here are some other options… While the locations listed above do at least provide foreign visitors with some options for free internet access, you might not want to spend your limited and valuable holiday time in Japan searching for free Wi-Fi.
This is the reason that many travelers these days opt for either purchasing a short-term Japanese SIM card for their smartphone or renting a small portable Pocket Wi-Fi for the duration of their stay in Japan.
Several companies (particularly Sakura Mobile, Mobal, and GTN Mobile) offer SIM cards specially catered to foreign visitors to Japan (with customer service and registration all done in English).
A Pocket Wi-Fi router can be a particularly cost-effective option if you are traveling in a group or want to use multiple devices. Sakura Mobile, Mobal, and GTN Mobile all offer Pocket Wi-Fi devices to foreign visitors, as does the popular Ninja Wi-Fi company.
If you cannot get access in English…(a quick guide to figuring out free Wi-Fi in Japanese)
While more and more free Wi-Fi hotspots in Japan are available in English these days, if you do find yourself confronted with a log-in or registration page in Japanese, this quick guide to figuring out free Wi-Fi in Japanese might just get you through it!
|同意する or 同意します||Accept (Terms and Conditions, etc.)|
|同意しない or 同意しません||Decline (Terms and Conditions, etc.)|
|確認する or 確認します||Confirm|
|名前（姓、名）||Name (Family Name, First Name)|
|メールアドレス or メール||Email Address|
|記入||Enter (information, etc.)|
Conclusion: finding free public Wi-Fi in Japan
While free public Wi-Fi is now much easier to find and use in Japan for English-speaking visitors, it helps to know in advance where to look.
Because free Wi-Fi is now available in most Japanese tourist accommodation, you can rest assured that you will be able to use the internet at your hotel as a base for your explorations each day. Preloading maps or taking screenshots of tourist information could save you from the hassle of searching for Wi-Fi while you are out and about.
Your best bet in a pinch is usually a convenience store, a Starbucks, or a McDonald’s, as these are the easiest to access for free and the easiest to find.
Of course, if you would prefer the peace of mind of an internet connection in your pocket, you might want to opt for one of the Japanese SIM cards or Pocket Wi-Fi specially geared towards visitors to Japan.
That said, free Wi-Fi is out there for visitors to Japan if and when you need it!