How to get a landline telephone in Japan (if you decide you actually need one)
Many foreign residents in Japan these days decide that a landline telephone (also known as a fixed line telephone) at their home in Japan is not really necessary due to the proliferation of mobile phones and apps that allow you to call friends at home or abroad for free. However, having a landline can be useful if your mobile phone stops working, if you are operating a business (and make many long-distance calls), or if you need to call certain numbers for free. If you do decide that you would like a landline telephone at your home in Japan, our recommended provider is Hikari Denwa (光電話), the features of which (costs, application procedures, advantages/disadvantages) are discussed in this article.
Do I really need a landline telephone in Japan?
As in other countries, the need for a fixed landline telephone in one’s home in Japan has decreased markedly in recent years due to the proliferation of mobile phones and apps that allow you to make audio and video calls, whether domestic and international, generally for free.
However, if having a landline at home makes you feel more secure in case of emergencies (or if you lose or break your mobile phone and need to call someone) or if you are running a business in Japan, getting one is definitely an available option.
Landline telephone infrastructure in Japan is generally run by either NTT East or NTT West, depending on your location.
|- NTT East - Service Area|
|Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano (partial), Niigata|
|NTT West - Service Area|
|Toyama, Ishikawa , Fukui , Gifu , Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama, Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi, Fukuoka, Ehime, Kochi, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa, Nagano (partial)|
NTT West/NTT East Service Areas
You can check the above map and table to confirm whether you are located within the NTT East or NTT West service area.
Contacting NTT East/NTT West For information on landlines, internet, and other services in English, you can contact NTT East directly (toll-free) on 0120-565-950 (Monday-Friday: 9:00-17:00). For telephone and internet line repairs, you can call 0120-289-113 (available in English)
NTT West has an applications and general inquiries customer service line available in English on 0120-064337.
Whether you want a landline or already have one installed at your home in Japan, you can definitely save money off your monthly phone bill by choosing a Hikari Denwa (光電話) phone.
Our recommended landline provider: Hikari Denwa (光電話)
Hikari Denwa (光電話) is a fixed-line telephone service in Japan that functions using fiber-optic cables (i.e. the ones normally used for high-speed internet) rather than conventional telephone lines.
In order to use a fiber-optic telephone such as that provided by Hikari Denwa (光電話), you must have fiber-optic cables installed into your home. As getting this done is a rather expensive and time-consuming process just to get a landline (like Hikari Denwa), most of the time a Hikari Denwa (光電話) landline telephone is an additional option attached to an internet contract. It is extremely rare to apply for a Hikari Denwa (光電話) all on its own!
For these reasons, if you have just moved to Japan and have decided that you do want a Hikari Denwa (光電話) landline, the best thing to do is to apply for it at the same time you apply for fiber-optic internet service (doing so often comes with a discount as well). Alternatively, if you are already a fiber-optic internet subscriber, you can ask your provider about an additional fiber-optic landline telephone. Be sure to ask for a discount!
What is the difference between Hikari Denwa (ひかり電話) and Hikari Denwa (光電話)
One of the most confusing things about the name “Hikari Denwa” is that it is used to refer to two different things in Japanese that are transliterated into the same words in English.
When “Hikari” is written in kanji (as in “光電話”), it is used to refer generally to call services that makes use of specific fiber-optic lines (also known as Hikari IP Phones).
On the other hand, when “Hikari” is written in hiragana (as in “ひかり電話”), it refers specifically to the name of a specific product, Hikari Denwa, the optical IP phone available from NTT East/NTT West.
Many other telecommunications providers also use the name “Hikari Denwa” in the names of their telephone products, some using the all-kanji version 光電話: Docomo Hikari Denwa (ドコモ光電話®), Softbank’s White Hikari Denwa (ホワイト光電話®), etc. Names might vary depending on the product and provider, but all the products are essentially similar. They are all telephone services that function using fiber-optic cables.
Fiber-Optic Telephone Services
|Provider||Telephone Product Name|
|NTT EAST/NTT WEST (FLETS’ HIKARI)||Hikari Denwa (ひかり電話)|
|NURO Hikari||NURO Hikari Denwa (NURO光でんわ)|
|au Hikari||au Hikari Denwa (auひかり電話)|
|Docomo Hikari||Docomo Hikari Denwa (ドコモ光電話)|
As you shop around you’ll find many other variations on this name, but the products are all essentially similar: phone services using fiber-optic lines.
Note that if you are already a fiber-optic internet subscriber, you can apply to a different provider for your fiber-optic telephone service. It’s up to you.
Does the quality of service and/or the price vary for Hikari Denwa (光電話) depending on the provider?
Regardless of the provider you choose, there are virtually no differences in basic charges or call charges for Hikari Denwa (光電話), nor are there any differences in phone sound quality.
IP telephone service providers are known as ITSPs (Internet Telephone Service Providers) and VoIP* providers. VoIP providers include NTT, KDDI, and Softbank, as well as many electric power companies.
What doesVoIP refer to? VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is the name of a digital technology used to digitize voice transmissions and transmit them via a network. One huge advantage that VoIP has over traditional analog phone lines is that call charges are the same regardless of distance (i.e. there are no “long distance call charges”).
Differences between VoIP providers in terms of base rates and call charges tend to be very minimal, so there is not really much need to spend time comparing the prices of different Hikari Denwa services when deciding which provider to subscribe to. Rather, it is best to choose your provider based on the type of service and associated rates that they provide.
Hikari Denwa (光電話) Rates Comparison - Major Providers (NTT, Softbank, KDDI)
Here, we compare the base rates and call charges of the Hikari Denwa (光電話) services available from the major telecommunications providers.
The main difference between these providers is that calls from your landline to mobile phones from that same provider can be cheaper. This is especially true of Softbank’s White Hikari Denwa plan, which allows for free calls to SoftBank mobile phones. Therefore, if you often call mobile phones from a certain provider, it might be worth your while to subscribe to that same provider for landline (Hikari Denwa) service.
|VoIP Provider||NTT EAST/WEST||SoftBank||KDDI|
|Hikari Denwa (光電話) Service||Hikari Denwa (ひかり電話)||White Hikari Denwa||au Hikari Denwa|
|Hikari Kaisen Router Service||・Flet’s Hikari
・Various Hikari Partnerships
|・Softbank Hikari||・au Hikari|
|Monthly Base Rate||¥550||¥514||¥550|
|Call Charges (to fixed lines)||¥8.8/3min.||¥9/3min.||¥8.8/3min.|
|Call charges (to mobile phones)||Docomo||¥18/min.||¥18/min.||¥18/min.|
|au||¥20/min. (NTT EAST)
¥20/min. (NTT WEST)
*Requires an application for White Call 24
Hikari Denwa (光電話) - Advantages and Disadvantages
What follows is a quick run-down of the advantages and disadvantages of using a fiber-optic phone like Hikari Denwa (光電話) as your home landline.
Hikari Denwa (光電話) - Advantages
Let’s examine the 4 advantages of Hikari Denwa (光電話) in more detail.
No telephone subscription (and telephone subscription right) necessary
If you wish to apply for a traditional landline, you must obtain a telephone subscription from NTT. Doing so requires purchasing what is known in Japan as a “telephone subscription right” which costs ¥39,600 (installation fee + telephone subscription right)! So expensive!
It seems a waste of money these days to pay so much for a landline phone, particularly as you can sign a Hikari Denwa (光電話) contract without purchasing a telephone subscription right. This will save you a lot of money on installation costs!
If you decide you need a landline telephone, a Hikari Denwa (光電話) fiber-optic telephone is a far cheaper option.
Low monthly base rates and call charges
Hikari Denwa (光電話) has lower monthly base rates and call charges than conventional fixed landlines.
Hikari Denwa (光電話) charges calls to landlines anywhere in Japan at a rate of ¥8.8/3min. Conventional landlines charge different rates based on whether you are making a local call or long-distance call. Hikari Denwa (光電話) is therefore a better deal for those who make many long-distance calls within Japan.
Hikari Denwa (光電話) has a monthly base rate of ¥550 plus the monthly router (Home Gateway) rental fee of ¥300. This combined fee (¥850) is still cheaper than the monthly base charges for a conventional landline telephone.
While the number of households in Japan completely canceling fixed-line/landline telephone service has increased in recent years, many people still want a landline at their home, particularly if they need to make frequent long-distance calls (particularly for business). If this applies to you, switching to Hikari Denwa (光電話) can help reduce your phone bills!
|Traditional Landline||Hikari Denwa (光電話)|
|Monthly base rate||¥1,595-¥1,870||¥330-¥550|
|Call charges (to landlines)||Local:
Long-distance (60 km+):
(regardless of distance)
Use the same phone number and telephone handset as your conventional telephone (if you already have one)
Even if you switch from a traditional landline to a Hikari Denwa (光電話) phone, you can continue to use your current telephone number as well as your actual physical telephone. You do NOT need to replace your phone!
You will also be able to make emergency calls (110, 119, etc.) without any problems.
Good sound quality
Because you will be calling via the internet, you might be concerned about poor sound quality or interruptions to service. However, fiber-optic connections actually tend to deliver clearer sound and fewer interruptions or lags than traditional analog phones due to the stable high-speed nature of the technology.
Hikari Denwa (光電話) - Disadvantages
Let’s examine the 4 disadvantages of Hikari Denwa (光電話) in more detail.
Cannot be used without a fiber-optic line contract(an internet contract)
The best way to understand Hikari Denwa (光電話) landline phones is as an optional extra for fiber-optic home internet, as they require a fiber-optic internet connection to function. You can either apply for internet first and then apply for a Hikari Denwa (光電話) phone or you can often obtain both simultaneously as a package deal from your internet provider.
In terms of monthly fees, this means that your Hikari Denwa (光電話) phone bill cannot be considered in isolation, as you must also pay your fiber-optic internet bill for the service to function.
Saves you some money, but not as much as canceling your landline altogether
While switching to Hikari Denwa (光電話) could save you money, canceling your landline service would obviously save you far more (as the charges would fall to ¥0).
If you do not really use your home telephone much, the savings that will come through switching to Hikari Denwa (光電話) will be minimal. You won’t lose money, but you won’t save much either.
Some special phone numbers are not available
As well as making collect calls, it is not possible to call some special phone numbers from a Hikari Denwa (光電話) landline such as Message Dial (0170) and Busy Check (114). Navi-Dial cannot be called either, apart from NTT Navi-Dial.
Special Phone Numbers - Available or Not from Hikari Denwa?
|145/146||Catch Phone 2||×|
|118||Coast Guard (Emergency)||○|
|135||Specific Number Notification||○|
|144||Nuisance Call Blocking||○|
|148||Caller ID Request||○|
|171||Disaster Message Dial||○|
|184||Hide Caller ID||○|
|186||Caller ID Notification||○|
|189||Child Abuse Hotline||○|
Cannot be used during blackouts/power outages
Because Hikari Denwa (光電話) requires a Hikari Kaisen router to function and make calls via your fiber-optic internet line, it cannot be used during power outages because the router will lose electrical power. However, if you own a smartphone or other type of mobile phone, this is not really a big disadvantage as you can use this device instead.
Making international calls from Japan Very few of us who lived in Japan before the availability of Skype and other free audio/video calling services look back on that time with nostalgia in terms of calling back to our own country. International calls were always expensive and discounts hard to come by, often requiring purchasing phone cards or phoning complex discount numbers.
Thankfully, those days are long gone. If you and the person you are calling both have an internet connection, you can call internationally for free using Skype or similar services (some countries block certain apps or internet services, however, so this may be an issue).
If you do need to call home using your telephone in Japan, however, doing so from a landline will be much cheaper than your mobile phone.
To call internationally from Japan, dial: 010 + COUNTRY CODE + phone number*
*if the number starts with a 0, you may need to drop it
Applying for Hikari Denwa (光電話) as a new applicant for internet and Hikari Denwa (光電話) services
The vast majority of internet providers in Japan offer fiber-optic Hikari Kaisen phones as an optional extra (in fact, many of them will try to simply include in your internet plan or strongly suggest that you take this option, so beware of these sales tactics if you don’t want a landline!). Because phone charges for fiber-optic Hikari Kaisen phones tend to be relatively similar across providers, you should choose your internet provider first (as internet plans vary much more). While you can select a separate provider for your fiber-optic internet and fiber-optic phone, choosing the same provider is often a good idea as you may get a discount.
If you want the fastest internet line speed in Japan, you can apply for NURO Hikari and NURO Hikari Denwa telephone service at the same time. Be aware, however, that NURO installation can take a long time, usually about 1 month but potentially as long as 3 months.
Another factor to consider is whether you, your family members, or the people you share a residence with have contracts with certain mobile phone companies/carriers. If so, you can apply to the same provider for internet and a Hikari Phone (i.e. SoftBank Hikari, Docomo Hikari、au Hikari) and get some pretty good discounts on your mobile phone bill.
|Provider||If you already have a mobile phone contract with the provider, a Hikari Kaisen fiber-optic line can net you some sweet discounts 👌|
|Docomo Hikari × GMO Toku Toku BB (Provider)
|au Hikari × Any provider (Authorized Store: NEXT)
The procedure for setting up Hikari Denwa at your home
This is the general procedure that you can expect when you want to set up a Hikari Denwa landline at your home in Japan:
- Select a provider for your Hikari Kaisen fiber-optic internet connection.
- Make an application for a fiber-optic telephone (Hikari Denwa) as an optional extra when you apply for the internet connection.
- Receive the small router that will allow you to use Hikari Denwa with your current telephone handset.
- If setting up a fiber-optic internet connection at your home for the first time, some construction/installation work will be necessary. You will need to pay the installation costs (some companies offer deals or payment plans). Once construction is complete, you can use your Hikari telephone!
Applying for a Hikari Denwa (光電話) landline if you already have a fiber-optic internet connection at home
If you are already using a fiber-optic internet connection at your home, all you need to do is add a Hikari Denwa service to your current plan and contract.
Simply contact your provider or line operator and apply. Installation/setup costs usually run between ¥3000-5000 (please confirm with your provider).
Conclusion: Hikari Denwa (光電話) fiber-optic landline service
For foreigners in Japan, a landline telephone at home is probably not at the top of your list of essential services these days.
Should you decide that a landline is necessary, however, whether first moving into your new home or after you have been there for a while, your best option in terms of price and service is definitely a fiber-optic telephone like Hikari Denwa.