Japanese mobile phone providers have not been known for their support for non-Japanese speaking customers. However, the last year has seen improvements, with all major carriers now providing English brochures detailing price plans.
Largely as a result of the popularity of the iPhone amongst foreign residents in Japan, Softbank has now added an English page to their website detailing all available price plans.
Their basic phone package is their White plan (¥980 per month) , which gives you free calls to other Softbank users between 1am and 9pm. From 9pm to 1am calls are charged at ¥21 per 30 seconds. Calls to other networks / landlines are ¥21 per 30 seconds 24 hours a day.
Many users upgrade to the Double White plan, which for an additional ¥980 per month gives you a 50% discount on these prices (¥10.5 per 30 seconds).
Whilst you don’t necessarily have to buy a separate data plan (under the white plan data is priced at ¥0.2 per 128bytes), being an iPhone user you’ll be heading for bankruptcy if you don’t. Softbank’s cheapest data package is 12,250 packets for ¥1,029, but if 1 packet is only 128 bytes then 12,250 packets will only give you 1.6mb of monthly downloads. Bearing in mind that the iPhone is all about data (I typically download about 400mb per month), most users choose the unlimited option at ¥5,985 per month.
Prices correct as of January 2009
On top of the (Double) White plan and data charges, you’ll usually be paying for the phone itself (unless you bought it outright when signing up). The amount will depend on the deal you got at the time – mine is subsidised by Softbank (50%) so I’ll be paying about ¥2000 a month for the duration of the two year contract.
Visual voicemail is extra, costing about ¥315 per month.
In total, for someone who doesn’t use the phone much, you could expect to be paying about ¥10,000 a month. A lot of money? Perhaps, but it’s worth it.
English Support for iPhone users in Japan
Telephone support for English speakers http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/support/contact/customer/index.html
Softbank shops with English-speaking staff: http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/shop/index.html