eSIM or Physical SIM Card: Which is better for traveling in Japan?

eSIM or Physical SIM Card: Which is better for traveling in Japan?

Updated : 2024-04-18 16:02:12

When traveling to Japan, there are three options to ensure you can use the internet in Japan: purchasing a SIM card, buying an eSIM, or renting a Pocket Wi-Fi. Pocket Wi-Fi is very convenient as it only requires turning on the power to connect to the internet. With SIM cards or eSIMs, there may be areas where communication is not possible if the frequencies are not supported, but with Pocket Wi-Fi, you don't have to worry about such issues. In terms of data capacity and communication stability, Pocket Wi-Fi is the best option.
Japan Pocket Wi-Fi Rental

Since the majority of travelers to Japan opt for convenient SIM cards or eSIMs, We would like to introduce the characteristics and differences between eSIMs and SIM cards for communication in Japan in this article.

eSIM/SIM Cards Used in Japan

Advantages of eSIM

Completion of procedures is online-only from purchase to use

For devices with eSIM functionality, the SIM is built into the device, so you can purchase it online without buying a SIM card at a store, and you can also set it up online. It is very convenient because you can buy it anytime, anywhere.

No risk of malfunction or loss due to SIM card replacement

the eSIM is built into the smartphone, there is no need to replace the SIM card. Therefore, there is no risk of damage to the SIM slot or SIM card, or loss of the SIM card. With traditional SIM cards, some people have trouble with the slot terminals becoming less responsive when replacing them, or the SIM card getting damaged. SIM cards are also very small and easy to lose. With eSIM, there is no such risk, which is a significant advantage.

Low price for local Japanese eSIM

Local eSIMs sold in Japan can only be used for communication in Japan, but they are very cheap than roaming-type eSIMs.

Dual SIM capability

Devices with built-in eSIMs may have a slot for inserting a physical SIM card separately from the eSIM. By using both the eSIM and physical SIM card together, you can use them as a dual SIM. Dual SIM allows you to use two SIM cards on one smartphone.

Disadvantages of eSIM

Wi-Fi environment is essential for setup

Initial setup must be done in a Wi-Fi environment. In the initial state, the eSIM does not have the device and user information written, so you need to write it yourself. In this case, a Wi-Fi environment is necessary to download the eSIM profile.

Once eSIM is deleted, it cannot be reinstalled

For eSIM, once the information is written to the device, it cannot be deleted until it is finished. Deleting it is like throwing away the SIM card, so you need to buy a new one if you want to download and install it again. Unlike SIM cards, there is no risk of loss or damage, but be careful not to delete it. Some services offer eSIMs that can be installed multiple times, managed on the server, and can be installed again if you have the same model of device. (Lightpocket also plans to introduce this type in the future)

Limited plan options

There are still not many eSIMs available in Japan.

Requires roaming function (for International eSIM)

eSIMs sold in Japan do not require roaming function because they connect to Japanese communication carrier networks, so there is no need for roaming. However, for International eSIMs, you need to turn on the roaming function to connect to communication companies outside of Japan and roam on Japanese communication networks.

Slightly higher fees (for International eSIM)

While eSIMs are convenient, they are not necessarily cheap. SIM cards sold domestically in Japan are inexpensive, but International eSIMs that require roaming function for communication are relatively expensive. International eSIMs can also be purchased outside of Japan, but for communication in Japan, it is recommended to purchase a local eSIM, which is cheaper.

Advantages Disadvantages
- Online-only procedures from purchase to use - Wi-Fi environment required for setup
- No risk of malfunction or loss due to replacement of SIM card - Once deleted, cannot be reinstalled
- Low price for local eSIM - Limited plan options
- Dual SIM capability - Requires roaming function (for International eSIM)
- Slightly higher fees (for International eSIM)

Advantages of SIM Cards

Wide range of plan options

One of the features of SIM cards is that there are many plans available in Japan, as they are also used by many Japanese users. There are many plans available from small to large capacity.

Settings can be done multiple times

One of the most common problems with eSIMs is that they do not connect immediately after installation, so many people try to delete and reinstall them. However, once deleted, eSIMs cannot be reinstalled in most cases. On the other hand, physical SIM cards can be set up multiple times because they are not deleted.

Disadvantages of SIM Cards

Requires effort to receive

Since it is physical, it needs to be received in Japan.

Need to manage to avoid losing the SIM card

If there is only one SIM card slot, when setting up a SIM card for use in Japan, you need to remove and manage the SIM card used in your home country.

Advantages Disadvantages
- Wide range of plan options - Effort required to receive
- Settings can be done multiple times - Need to manage to avoid losing the SIM card

Troubles Most Commonly Encountered with eSIM Usage in Japan

The majority of eSIMs available in Japan cannot be reinstalled after being deleted from the device once installed. Deleting eSIM is akin to disposing of a physical SIM cardd. Nonetheless, there is a tendency for many users to attempt reinstalling it after deletion. For those planning to use eSIM in Japan in the future, instead of deleting the eSIM, it's advisable to review the APN settings if communication is not working after installation. Once deleted, you need to buy a new eSIM agan.

For those anxious about eSIM setup, physical SIM cards offer a more reassuring option. As long as the physical SIM card is not discarded, settings can be adjusted as many times as needed.

Please rent a Pocket Wi-Fi, if you are worried about setting it up.

Which is Better: eSIM or SIM Card?

eSIM and SIM cards each have their own characteristics, and it's important to choose based on individual needs. Below is a summary of who each option may be suitable for

Suitable for eSIM

Users of New Devices

Users of new smartphones that support eSIMs will find them convenient, as they can be purchased online anytime, anywhere.

Stays of 30 Days or Less

Many eSIM plans available in Japan are for stays of 30 days or less. Those staying longer will need to purchase a new eSIM after the expiration.

Suitable for SIM Card

Users Emphasizing Data Capacity

SIM cards offer various plans, including those with large data capacities, making them suitable for users with high data usage.

Users of Older Devices

Some smartphones do not support eSIMs, requiring the use of physical SIM cards.

Stays Longer Than 30 Days

For stays longer than 30 days, SIM cards offer a variety of plans. While switching SIM cards may require some effort, a single setup suffices.

The choice between the two depends on individual usage situations and preferences, so consider selecting the option that best fits your needs.

Precautions Before Using eSIM

Before using eSIM in Japan, ensure the following

Confirmation of SIM Lock Removal

Confirm that your current smartphone is unlocked from its carrier. Devices with a SIM lock cannot use eSIM. If necessary, unlock the SIM lock through the carrier's website or store.

Wi-Fi Environment

A Wi-Fi connection is required to download and install eSIM profiles. Find a Wi-Fi-enabled location in advance.

Tethering (HOTSPOT)

Some eSIMs may not support tethering, and some smartphones may not support it either. Before purchasing an eSIM, check if your smartphone supports tethering and if the eSIM allows it.

Lightpocket eSIM supports tethering.

Best eSIM Japan Plans

Select your data plans to enjoy 4G LTE by Local Price

30GB/8 days

Data 30GB
Period 8 days
Calls & SMS No



50GB/16 days

Data 50GB
Period 16 days
Calls & SMS No



50GB/31 days

Data 50GB
Period 31 days
Calls & SMS No



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