While Japan is far behind other developed counties in terms of free WiFi/internet access, things have got a lot better over the last few years. It is now at the point where you really don’t need to take out an expensive roaming wifi plan or rent a Japanese smartphone at the airport. Here are some places to get totally free WiFi:
Convenience stores (コンビニ)
The main convenience stores (7-Eleven and Family Mart are the best) all have free wifi access in English in most of their stores. Just open up your browser in the store, click the English button and follow the instructions. Usually just providing your email address is enough to access the internet.
The main stores to look out for
Train stations (駅)
Many train stations, in particular Metro (Tokyo) stations have free wifi. JR (national rail) stations are not so good, but there are usually convenience stores right outside these. Just open up your browser, and if the station has free wifi you will be redirected to a registration page. Just providing an email address is usually all that’s needed.
Wifi sign for the Tokyo Metro
NAVITIME for Japan Travel
This is a great app that allows you to search for wifi hotspots, while offline. Click the links below:
NTT Free Wifi
Available for tourists only, you need to pick up a card from one of their distribution points before using it. More info here.
Tourist Information Centers (観光インフォメーションセンター)
Tourist Information Centers often have free wifi for tourists only. There are different systems, but it’s usually the case that you need to show your passport, and are then given an access key. The Osaka Tourism Guide also has a free network called Osaka Free Wi-fi.
Main Tourist Spots
Many of the main tourist spots, such as the Tokyo Skytree or the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum have set up free wifi for tourists. Ask at the information desk or to a member of staff. If they don’t speak English, just say “internet” and point at your phone!
Bus stops (バス停)
Yes, this is a strange place to have a wifi access point, but many bus stops in the big cities have free wifi. Open up your browser and try it out!
Some signs to look out for
Cafes and restaurants (カフェ、レストラン)
Many tourists head to a cafe to try to get free wifi, but this can be a very time consuming and frustrating thing to do. Unlike you may be used to, most cafes and restaurants don’t have free wifi, and many have no internet access at all. Ask before heading in or try one of the other options. McDonalds is usually OK.
Most major airports have free internet, so you don’t need to pay any money to access an old PC! Just open up your browser in an airport terminal and give your name and email address, then you are ready to go.
Your hostel or hotel
Pretty much all the places you stay at, even old Japanese guesthouses, will have free internet available. Most have already translated the instructions into English.
If you need to use a proper PC, you can go to a cheap internet cafe.