Whether you are a first-time traveler to Japan or planning to stick around for a while, consistent access to mobile phone service will certainly make your life a whole lot easier. While the big three mobile phone companies (docomo, au, Softbank) might seem your most obvious choices, alternative mobile phone SIM card providers are becoming increasingly popular in Japan due to cheaper rates, flexible cancellation policies, and (sometimes) English customer support. Here, we review Mobal, one of the main alternative providers for those more comfortable with English than Japanese.

Overview of Mobal

Mobal actually began as an American company in 1989 that developed the World Phone, a single device that allowed travelers to stay connected in over 190 countries. In the 1990s, the company realized that international travelers heading to Japan faced particular hurdles with communication, both with the language and complex, expensive, and restrictive local services. This led to the company developing a Japan SIM card for mobile phones that has provided thousands of international travelers to Japan, as well as foreign residents of the country, with access to voice and data services.

Along with their signature International Cell Phone (World Phone), Mobal provides both short-term and long-term SIM cards and rents Pocket Wi-Fi router units. For its mobile services, it makes use of the Softbank network, which has excellent coverage across Japan.

A mobile phone company helping to make the world a better place? Mobal also proudly advertises on its website that the majority of its profits go to charity, including providing daily meals to children in various African countries.


  • English customer support - Mobal is a well-established company developed specifically for English-speaking international travelers and residents of Japan. You can apply for SIM cards or Pocket Wi-Fi entirely in English. Customer service is also provided in English by native speakers to support your needs and answer your questions.
  • Quick, easy, and convenient - you can apply before arriving in Japan so that you hit the ground running with a SIM card or Pocket Wi-Fi waiting for you at your airport, hotel, or residence.
  • Low prices - While Mobal does charge an initial fee to purchase its SIM cards or Pocket Wi-Fi routers, this is quite low and the product is yours to keep. Prices are slightly lower than other alternative providers that cater to the English-speaking market and Mobal offers a cheap 1GB option if you are on a particularly tight budget (or do not require much data). Mobal also does not charge tax, which helps to maintain lower prices.
  • No cancelation charges - unlike the major providers, you can cancel your contract with >Mobal at any time without any cancellation charges (except for Pocket Wi-Fi, see below).
  • Money to charity - Mobal donates a sizeable amount of its profits to charities, particularly in Africa and particularly to those who assist children in need.


  • No fiber-optic home internet - unlike some of its competitors, Mobal does not currently offer fiber-optic home internet, meaning that if you want this service, you will have to look elsewhere. They do offer Pocket Wi-Fi portable routers with 100GB/month of data, however, which do have several advantages over fiber-optic internet (quicker/easier installation, portable, no long-term contracts, etc.) but this obviously cannot offer the connection speed or unlimited data that fiber-optic home internet generally provides.
  • No short-term Pocket Wi-Fi rentals - unlike some competitors, Mobal does not offer short-term Pocket Wi-FI rentals suitable for travelers in Japan. If you are traveling in a group or need to use multiple devices, you could still consider their Pocket Wi-Fi as an alternative to their SIM cards, but will need to factor in the initial cost of the router (¥6,980), the monthly rate (¥4,980), and the ¥3,000 cancellation fee (if you cancel before the end of the 3-month minimum contract).
  • No physical store locations - for those of you who want to deal with someone in person when setting up your mobile phone and home internet contracts, Mobal does not offer physical store locations. Whether or not this is a disadvantage depends on your personal preference, however, as visiting a physical store in Japan (such as one of the big three providers) tends to lead to a lot of waiting!

How user-friendly is Mobal for English speakers in Japan?

Mobal is essentially a company geared toward international travelers visiting Japan as well as those who decide to stay longer and live in Japan long-term. It caters primarily to customers who are more comfortable in English than Japanese. The company’s many years (since the 1990s) of providing mobile phone service in Japan mean that it is well-established and well-aware of its customers’ needs.

Mobal's website - smooth, streamlined, and simple The Mobal website has a streamlined minimalist design, avoiding long unnecessary explanations and allowing for quick navigation. The English on the website is simple yet clear, meaning that even those who speak English as a second language should find it very user-friendly. Good use is made of drop-down menus that keep information concise and clear, but allow for customers to read about services and features in more detail if they choose to. The website also clearly outlines some of the key differences between Mobal’s Japan SIM cards and those of the big three mobile phone providers (described as “traditional Japanese providers” on the website).

Can I apply/register in English?

Yes. You can do everything in English on the Mobal website, as all services are designed with the English-speaking market for both travelers to Japan and long-term residents in mind. The Mobal website makes this process very simple. All you need to do is click on the options that are right for you, fill in your personal information, shipping/pickup information, and payment information, and you’ll be all set for mobile phone service (or Pocket Wi-Fi) in Japan!

Is English customer support available?

Yes. Mobal provides full customer support and technical support in English with native English speakers to respond to your inquiries. You can also visit their FAQ page to see if there is a quick answer to your question.

Mobal - MyAccount Long-term customers can also log in to their Mobal MyAccount to manage their account and access a range of services from the company.

As their website explains, Mobal’s three head offices are currently unable to accept visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you still need more assistance, you can fill out their Contact Us form or send an email to one of their three offices (UK, USA, Japan).

Does Mobal offer support in languages other than English? Yes, the Mobal website is also available in Chinese (中文, Simplified Chinese characters). It is unclear whether any other languages are supported, so if you need support in a language other than English or Chinese, you will need to contact Mobal via the Contact Us form to ask whether they have staff members who can communicate in your language.

What mobile phone SIM card plans does Mobal offer?

As soon as you access Mobal’s main homepage, you will see a green button marked

Mobal's website

Clicking this button takes you straight to a page explaining the various SIM card options that Mobal offers. The four different services that Mobal provides (Japan SIM cards, Japan Wi-Fi, International cell phones, International SIM cards) are also listed at the top of the page with links to their respective pages. If you scroll a little further down the page, Mobal’s primary services are presented again (in a row of “3D panels”) with brief overviews and links to their respective pages.

For visitors to Japan or short-term residents

If you will be staying in Japan for 90 days or less, your best option is probably a Mobal data-only TRAVEL SIM card for your mobile phone that will allow you to browse the Internet, use apps, and access online maps (very useful, especially in big Japanese cities!).

All Mobal short-term plans include unlimited data with no additional charges. You simply purchase your SIM card and you’re ready to go, with no time wasted on long registration or activation processes.

Your TRAVEL SIM card can either be picked up when you arrive at a Japanese airport (be sure to check the airport counter’s hours) or shipped to a hotel, post office, or residence (including AirBnB or a friend’s house) of your choice. There are pickup points in some Japanese cities as well.

Worldwide shipping - not a great idea right now? Mobal does ship their products worldwide free of charge, so it is also possible to get your SIM card before you even leave home. This option is not currently recommended, however, as deliveries have been somewhat unreliable recently due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is probably better to pick up your SIM card when you arrive in Japan.

Note that if you want to make voice or video calls, these SIM cards will not allow you to do so directly. However, you can easily use your unlimited data to make calls via apps such as LINE, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Skype.

Do you need to be able to make phone calls and send text messages? Mobal is unique as the only company that provides SIM cards to short-term visitors that allow for phone calls and send text messages (this can be useful in an emergency or if you need to contact your accommodation, etc.). This option is only available for the 30-day, 60-day and 90-day packages (see below).

Mobal’s TRAVEL SIM card plans for visitors to Japan all have unlimited data and only differ based on the length of time you will spend in the country (i.e. your usage period of the SIM card).

Usage Period Data Allowance Calling/Texting? Price (tax included)*
8 days Unlimited   ¥3,990
16 days Unlimited   ¥5,990
31 days Unlimited   ¥7,490
30 days Unlimited   ¥7,500
60 days Unlimited   ¥12,000
90 days Unlimited   ¥16,500

*prices for reference only; please refer to the company’s website

Pocket Wi-Fi rentals

A Pocket Wi-Fi is a portable WiFi router that functions using a mobile network. All you need to do is turn it on and then connect to the Wi-Fi (as with any Wi-Fi signal anywhere). You can also connect multiple devices at the same time. It possesses a rechargeable battery (a fully charged battery lasts around 20 hours). You can even leave the device plugged in and charging at home while using it for Wi-Fi. The device weighs roughly as much as a typical smartphone.

Not satisfied with your Pocket Wi-Fi router? Mobal offers a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with your Pocket Wi-Fi router for any reason. Discounts are sometimes available if you also buy your mobile SIM card from Mobal.

Instead of rentals, Mobal sells its Pocket Wi-Fi portable routers at ¥6,980 per device. Access costs ¥4,980/month (including tax)* and allows you to connect to Wi-Fi anywhere there is mobile service with a 100GB data allowance per month.

What if I exceed my data allowance? Even if you exceed this allowance, your Wi-Fi will still work (only the connection speed will slow down).

Is Mobal's Pocket Wi-Fi suitable for travelers and short-term visitors? Visitors to Japan should be aware that Mobal’s Pocket Wi-Fi contracts run for a minimum of 3 months. If you cancel before this time, you will pay a termination fee of ¥3,000 (still, if you are traveling in a group or want to use multiple devices, this ¥3,000 fee plus the cost of the device still might be worth it!). After 3 months, you can cancel any time free of charge or keep using the service as long as you want at ¥4,980/month to provide you with home internet as well as Wi-Fi when you are out and about. The device is yours to keep after you cancel your contract. You do not need to return it.

For long-term residents in Japan

Even if you are not planning to make many phone calls, most long-term residents in Japan will require a Japanese phone number and will therefore need a long-term mobile phone contract.

Do I actually need a Japanese telephone number? While acquiring a Japanese telephone number will allow you to make and receive calls and to send and receive text messages, these days many people in Japan use apps such as LINE, WhatsApp or FaceTime instead to send messages and make calls. A data-only SIM card might therefore seem a tempting option.

However, because a telephone number is required in Japan for such necessities as opening a bank account, renting an apartment, shipping almost anything, or signing up for many different public and commercial services, a Japanese telephone number is a must for anyone planning to live in Japan for more than just a few months. As many people moving to Japan no longer bother getting landlines at home, the Japanese telephone number you use for all these essentials will generally be the mobile phone number that you acquire with your new SIM card.

For those who will be staying in Japan for 90 days or more, Mobal offers Japan Unlimited SIM cards. These SIM cards provide you with a Japanese phone number that allows you to make and receive calls directly from your phone. You will not be charged for incoming calls or texts.

Does Mobal charge an activation fee? No, but... Mobal does not charge an activation fee for its Japan Unlimited SIM card, but the SIM card itself costs ¥3,000, which could be seen as analogous to (if somewhat cheaper than) the activation fee charged by some other alternative SIM card providers.

Your monthly data allowance (amount varies based on the plan you choose) will give you the ability to browse the internet, use apps, and access maps on your phone anywhere there is mobile network coverage available. If you exceed your data allowance in any given month, you will still be able to access the internet on your phone (the connection speed will just slow down).

Mobal offers four different data plans for Japan Unlimited SIM cards. The only difference between the plans is your monthly data allowance: 1GB, 5GB, 10GB, or 30GB.

Monthly Data Allowance SIM Card (Initial Price)* Monthly Rate* (tax included)
1GB ¥3,000 ¥1,480
5GB ¥3,000 ¥2,980
10GB ¥3,000 ¥3,280
30GB ¥3,000 ¥4,380

*prices for reference only; please refer to the company’s website

Mobal’s 1GB plan is one of the cheapest monthly data plans available in Japan. For those on a tight budget or those who only need mobile data on rare occasions (to check maps or messaging apps, for example) or who have frequent access to Wi-Fi, this plan could be an excellent option. For those who require more data per month to watch videos, use apps, or use their phone as a Hot Spot for other devices such as laptops, the 5GB, 10GB and 30GB plans might be better suited to your needs.

What happens if I run out of data? Can I still use the internet on my phone? Yes. Your connection speed will slow down for the rest of that month, but you will never lose internet access completely.

Your new Japan Unlimited SIM card can either be picked up at the airport when you arrive (be sure to check the airport counter’s hours) or one of Mobal’s designated pickup locations around Japan. It can also be shipped to your hotel, post office, or residence (including AirBnB or a friend’s house) in Japan.

Worldwide shipping - not a great idea right now? Mobal does ship their products worldwide free of charge, so it is also possible to get your SIM card before you even leave home. This option is not currently recommended, however, as deliveries have been somewhat unreliable recently due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is probably better to pick up your SIM card when you arrive in Japan.

Pocket Wi-Fi rentals

As mentioned above, Mobal offers Pocket Wi-Fi portable routers for sale at ¥6,980 per device. Access costs ¥4,980/month (including tax)* and allows you to connect to Wi-Fi anywhere there is mobile service with a 100GB data allowance per month. Even if you exceed this allowance, your Wi-Fi will still work (only the connection speed will go down).

Because Mobal does not rent Pocket Wi-Fi units to customers but actually sells the devices to you, this service is mainly targeted at those planning to spend 90 days or longer in Japan. There is a cancellation charge of ¥3,000 if you cancel before your initial 3 month contract is up. After that, you pay on a month-to-month basis and can cancel at any time without any cancellation charges.

Mobal Pocket Wi-Fi: an alternative to fiber-optic home internet? If 100GB per month is sufficient for your internet data needs at home as well as when you are out and about, a Mobal Pocket Wi-Fi unit could be a decent solution to your overall internet data needs. Keep in mind, however, that you will still need a Japanese SIM card to provide you with a Japanese phone number.

Does Mobal offer fiber-optic home internet as well?

No. However, you could use a Mobal Pocket Wi-Fi portable router for home internet instead, though, if 100GB/month is sufficient for your internet needs. This has the advantage of avoiding the setup costs and hassles that can occur with installation of fiber-optic internet at your residence (especially if you live in an older building or more rural area). It also has the advantage of being portable, which could be particularly appealing to those of you who travel frequently around Japan for work or pleasure

What is the sign-up procedure for Mobal?

Mobal does not currently have any physical store locations, so signing up for one of their SIM cards or Pocket Wi-Fi units requires a visit to their website online.

Applying for Mobile SIM cards

From the Mobal homepage, you can simply click the green button marked

Another option is to select Japan SIM cards at the top of the page (or drop-down menu), or scroll down and click one of the Japan SIM card explanatory panels.

All three routes take you to the same page (title: Say Konnichiwa To Your Perfect Japan SIM Card). On that page, scroll down past the promotional video to the heading “Choose How Long You Will Be In Japan” and then click on either Long Term (90 days or more) or Short Term (less than 90 days) to display information about your various plan options. Be aware that there are several tabs directly underneath the Long Term/Short Term headings that you can click on to display specific information about Plans, Pick-up/Shipping, and Billing, as well as check out FAQs and Reviews.

Once you have read through all the information and are ready to order your SIM, simply clickto add your desired item to Your Cart (the website uses a cart system sort of like Amazon, so you can purchase more than one item at the same time, like a SIM and a Pocket Wi-Fi, for example).

You will then enter your personal information, pickup (or shipping) information, and billing information before being asked to review and confirm your order.

Japanese Photo ID Required for Shipping To ship your SIM card within Japan, MOBAL requires that you upload a piece of photo ID that displays your shipping address. This can be either your Japan Residence Card (front + back) or your Japan Special Permanent Resident Certificate. If you do not have either of these types of ID (which you generally won’t upon first arriving in Japan), you should choose to pick up your SIM card at the airport or another MOBAL pickup location instead of having it shipped to you. All you need when picking it up is your actual passport (not a copy!).

Should you run into any problems throughout this process, remember that you can always contact Mobal for support in English.

Applying for Home Internet

Follow the same process as for buying a SIM card (above) but click Japan Wi-Fi on the homepage instead (it is slightly confusing in that it is not listed as “Pocket Wi-Fi” even though this is what it is!).

Once you have read through all the information and added a Japan Wi-Fi portable router (Pocket Wi-Fi) to Your Cart, you can proceed to add all your information and then confirm. Note that you can purchase multiple products simultaneously (e.g. SIM and Pocket Wi-Fi) and thus easily arrange for these to be delivered or picked up at the same time too.

Should you run into any problems, you can always contact Mobal for support in English.

How can I pay my Mobal bill?

Payment can be made by credit or debit card (VISA, MasterCard, JCB, American Express, Diners Club International). Credit cards from other countries are also accepted.

You can also pay your bills using PayPal.

If you will be living in Japan for some time but do not have a Japanese credit or debit card, you might want to pay in cash to avoid the fees charged by credit cards from outside Japan. You cannot do this until you have paid for one full month of service from Mobal (you must use credit card or PayPal), but after one full month has been paid for, you may switch to paying in cash at certain convenience stores (Mini Stop, Family Mart, Circle K, Sunkus). Just log in to your My Account page and change your payment preference to cash. After that, you will receive an email each month with the amount you need to pay along with instructions on how to pay at a convenience store.

Make sure to pay on time! Don't forget to pay on time or you will be charged late fees!

Because Mobal is located in the USA, no additional taxes are added. The price you see is the price you will be charged.

Review: Is Mobal the right choice for you??

Overall, Mobal is a very convenient option for travelers to Japan who do not speak (or read) Japanese. Its rates are generally slightly cheaper than some of its competitors.

While Mobal does not offer fiber-optic home internet, its portable Pocket Wi-Fi units (100GB/month) could be used for home and mobile internet (though this cannot match the speed or unlimited data of fiber-optic internet).

For long-term residents (90 days or more), if you do speak/read Japanese or have a friend or colleague who can help you apply, there are a few other providers out there with cheaper rates or more services than Mobal.

Whether or not you choose Mobal will depend on whether you need service in English, whether you require the flexibility of canceling your contract any time, and whether you are willing to put up with some of the hassles involved with visiting the stores of the big three providers.