Staying Connected in Japan

Getting a Cell Phone in Japan: SoftBank Price Plans Explained

This article explains SoftBank’s cell phone pricing plans as of February 2019.

There are three major carriers in Japan: SoftBank, NTT Docomo, and au(KDDI).

As discussed in this post, mobile phone price plans in Japan will likely drop in 2019, due to government pressure on the major carriers to simplify and reduce prices.

This article is intended for people who plan to live in Japan for the medium to long-term (at least two years). You cannot sign up for a cell phone plan without a Residence Card or other documentation showing that you live in Japan. You also cannot sign up for a recurring payment plan, like the two-year contracts discussed in this article, unless the period-of-stay on your visa is equal to or longer than the contract period. For a list of documents you’ll need, please see: What documents do I need to get a cell phone contract in Japan?

If you are in Japan for the short-term or would like to use your phone from your home country in Japan, please see this article: How to use your cell phone in Japan (with JP Smart SIM).

For information on setting up a fixed-line internet connection in your home in in Japan, please see: Setting up internet at home in Japan

How does SoftBank compare to other options?

  • SoftBank voice+data pricing plans are very competitive compared to Docomo and au(KDDI).
  • SoftBank introduced new pricing plans in September 2018, including a budget option starting from around ¥3,980 a month (without tax) for people who have low voice and low data needs.
  • If you are a long-term resident of Japan, the least expensive SoftBank voice+data plan is competitive compared to other carriers and to pocket WiFi because with a voice+data plan, you will have a local Japanese phone number plus data (internet access).

Summary of SoftBank Pricing Plans

Prices in this summary do not include tax and assume that you sign-up for a two-year contract that automatically renews. The plans covered below are applicable to iPhones (iPhone 5 or newer models) and 4G smartphones.

The following is a summary of the approximate cost range for some of SoftBank’s voice+data plans, based on Real Estate Japan’s analysis. Please note that these are not the only options available. For official prices, please inquire directly with SoftBank.

  • Pricing for voice+data plans range from approximately ¥3,980 to ¥8,980 per month.
  • Unlimited voice + unlimited data: Approximately ¥8,980 per month.
  • Low voice usage + unlimited data: Approximately ¥7,980 per month.
  • Low voice usage + limited data: Starting from approximately ¥3,980

A few things to be aware of

As is the case with all the carriers, SoftBank’s explanation of its pricing plans is extremely confusing, in both Japanese and English.

SoftBank offers a price simulator for its cell phone plans (in Japanese only), but be aware that the simulator adds on options that you may not need, want or even qualify for, such as in-home fixed-line Internet or a family discount that make the estimated cost of your cell phone plan less expensive that it would actually be without the add-ons.

On the official SoftBank English page, the lower-priced data plan called “Mini Monster” is not offered as an option. Details on this data plan are only available in Japanese.

Be aware that on the official SoftBank site, not all price plans are presented in English. You have to go to the Japanese site for all the options, including the lower-priced data option, called “Mini Monster”. Image: Screenshot of official SoftBank English site.

SoftBank Voice+Data Plan Pricing Chart

We created the following chart based on information available on SoftBank’s official website. Prices do not include consumption tax. You cannot choose a voice plan without also picking a data plan and vice versa.

The pricing for the plans analyzed below does not include the price of the handset. If you plan to pay for your phone in installments, you will have to include that as an additional expense. For example, for a 24-month installment plan for a 32-GB iPhone7, you would make monthly payments of ¥3,660.

For definitions of the various contract options, voice and data plans, please scroll below the chart.

Here’s how to use the chart to estimate the cost of a voice+data plan that is right for you:

  1. Choose from one of the following three options (Blue columns):
    1. Two-year contract with automatic renewal
    2. Two-year contract without automatic renewal
    3. No contract
  2. Choose a Voice Plan (Yellow in the chart)
    1. You are required to pick a Voice Plan. The least expensive option is named “Call Basic Rate”. This costs either ¥1,500, ¥1,800 or ¥4,200 per month depending on the contract or no-contract option you chose in 1. above.
    2. If you want, add on “Partial Flat-Rate Call Option” (Add ¥500 to the Call Basic Rate) OR
    3. “Flat Rate Call Option” (Add ¥1,500 to the Call Basic Rate)
  3. Choose a Data Plan (Green in the chart)
    1. You are required to pick a Data Plan. Choose from two options:
    2. Ultra Giga Monster Plus OR
    3. Mini Monster

Do I have to sign up for a 2-Year Contract? No, you don’t!

It used to be that you had to sign up for a 2-year contract to get a voice/data plan with one of the major carriers.

The good news is that you no longer have to with SoftBank or Docomo. The bad news is that you will pay more for voice/data plans without a 2-year contract.

Also be aware that you will be charged cancellation fees if you cancel outside the designated cancellation window.

SoftBank offers three “contract”/”no-contract” options that will affect the pricing of the specific voice/data plan you choose.

Here are the options:

  • Two-Year Contract
    • This is the best option if you are looking to minimize your monthly voice + data plan cost; and if you plan to be in Japan for at least two years.
    • A 2-year contract is a 2-year subscription that is automatically renewed.
      1. If you cancel outside the contract renewal period (the first two billing months after the contract expires) you will be charged a cancellation fee of ¥9,500.
  • Two-Year Contract (Free Plan)
    • This is the best option if you don’t want to sign a contract that automatically renews; but you will pay a higher monthly fee for the monthly voice/data plan.
    • This is optimal for people who will be in Japan for at least two years and if you want a little flexibility for when you will cancel your contract.
    • For a 2-year contract (free plan), the contract period will be 24 months where a single month is calculated from the service start day to the end of the next billing month.
    • A cancellation fee will not be charged if you cancel after the contract period has passed.
    • If you cancel before the contract expiration date, a contract cancellation fee (¥9,500) will be incurred.
  • No contract
    • This option gives you the most flexibility but the price difference between the Call Basic Rate (the basic required calling plan) is ¥4,200 – ¥1,500 = ¥2,700 per month.

What voice plans does SoftBank offer?

SoftBank offers three voice plans. You cannot choose a voice plan without also picking a data plan and vice versa.

  1. Call Basic Rate
    1. This is the basic calling plan.
    2. It costs either ¥1,500, ¥1,800 or ¥4,200 per month depending on the contract or no-contract option you choose.
    3. What you get: ¥20 per 30-seconds of calling in Japan. Pay as you go.
    4. Calls to a SoftBank handset: Free
    5. Calls to family: Calls within Japan to the same family discount group are free.
    6. Texting: ¥3 per text message. Free to receive text messages.
  2. Call Basic Rate + Partial Call Flat-Rate Option
    1. This is an optional add-on to the Call Basic Rate
    2. It costs ¥500 in addition to the Call Basic Rate.
    3. What you get: Voice calls in Japan up to 5 minutes are free of charge
    4. If you plan on making more than about 12.5 minutes of voice calls month, you will save money by signing up for this option on top of the Call Basic Rate.
  3. Call Basic Rate + Call Flat-Rate Option
    1. This is optional add-on to the Call Basic Rate
    2. It costs ¥1,500 in addition to the Call Basic Rate.
    3. What you get: Unlimited voice calls in Japan
    4. This is recommended for people who plan to make a lot of voice calls in Japan.

What data plans does SoftBank offer?

SoftBank offers two data plans. You cannot choose a data plan without also picking a voice plan and vice versa.

  1. Ultra Giga Monster Plus (ウルトラギガモンスター+)
    1. 50-GB of data a month
    2. Cost: ¥5,980 per month
    3. Plus unlimited video and usage of the following: YouTube, AbemaTV, TVer, GYAO!, Hulu, LINE, Instagram, Facebook. Other eligible services may be added in the future.
    4. If usage exceeds 150GB, transfer speeds (both upstream and downstream) will be limited to 128Kbps for the rest of the billing month. By purchasing additional data, you can use data communication without having your data speed reduced.
    5. Applicable for data usage within Japan.
    6. Other restrictions apply. Please refer to the official SoftBank website.
  2. Mini Monster (ミニモンスター)
    1. Information on this plan is not available in English on the SoftBank website.
    2. This is a plan where you only pay for your actual data usage in a month, based on a step-up model.
    3. You cannot choose your usage tier when you sign up. You will be automatically billed on your actual data usage.
    4. Cost: Between ¥2,480 and ¥6,980
    5. Please refer to the chart below for the Mini Monster pricing tiers:

SoftBank Discounts You Should Know About

These are the basic discounts you should know. Often there are also seasonal campaigns. Please ask directly with SoftBank.

One Year Discount

Get ¥1,000 off your monthly bill for one year. This discount is applied for one year when you subscribe to the Call Basic Rate with a two-year contract (or two-year contract free plan) and if you purchase a phone through SoftBank.

Everybody Family Discount Plans

Each person in your family will get a discount on their monthly bill, depending on the number of people who share a voice/data plan.

  • Two people: ¥500 discount per month
  • Three people: ¥1,500 discount per month
  • Four people: ¥2,000 discount per month

Student Discount

This discount applies to people who are 25-years and under. The current campaign runs until May 31, 2019. This information is not available in English on the SoftBank website site, only in Japanese. Please inquire directly with SoftBank for details.

If you sign up for the two-year contract Call Basic Rate voice plan plus the Ultra Giga Monster data plan in a family of four people, and you are under 25-years old, you will get ¥4,500 off your monthly bill for the three months following the month you sign up.

If you sign up for the two-year contract Call Basic Rate voice plan plus the Mini Monster data plan and use less than 1GB of data a month, and you are under 25-years old, you will get ¥2,980 off your monthly bill for the three months following the month you sign up.

Home Bundle Discount Hikari Set

Get a discount of ¥1,000 from your monthly cell phone bill if you bundle your mobile plan with in-home fixed-line internet from SoftBank.


Editor’s note: We have made every effort to check the accuracy of the information provided in this article based on what is shown on SoftBank’s official site. This information is provided for the convenience of our readers only. For current, official prices please inquire directly with SoftBank.