In this post, we give a brief explanation of setting up a broadband internet connection in your home in Japan, including an overview of English-friendly internet service providers (ISPs) and the process of applying for internet service.
As we’re focused on providing information for people moving to and living in Japan, this article is meant to give basic information about setting up a fixed-line internet connection in your home and does not discuss getting connected through free WiFi hotspots.
If you will be in Japan for less than twelve months or if you do not want to commit to a contract term of one- to two-years, one option would be pocket WiFi, which offers the advantage of fast set-up but slower connection speeds and limited data. If you
There are three main options for getting high-speed (broadband) internet in your home.:
- Fiber optic or Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH). The focus of this article.
- Cable television line (CATV). Connect to the internet via your cable TV line. This option is not as fast as FTTH.
- ADSL. ADSL is high-speed Internet that uses a fixed telephone line. The advantages are quick installation and cost performance, but with slower speed than fiber optic. If you have limited internet needs (checking e-mail and light web surfing) as opposed to heavy data needs like streaming movies, music, and gaming, ADSL may be a better option than fiber optic.
In this article, we focus on fiber optic because it is the fastest and most popular option for home internet connection in Japan.
To start, here are a few useful words related to getting connected.
光 (hikari): Fiber-optic
無線 (musen): Wireless
無線LANルーター以 (Musen ran rūtā): Wireless LAN router
Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH or Fiber Optics): 光ファイバー (Hikari Faiba)
Fiber optics or “Hikari Faiba” is it is called in Japan, is the fastest and most popular option for home internet connection in Japan.
Fiber optic has a maximum download speed of 1Gbps, which is very fast compared to many other countries.
Fiber optic (FTTH) connection is generally available in big metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto; but it is not available everywhere. Also, if the hardware is not already installed in your apartment building, you will need to have permission from the property owner to have a line installed.
“Family/Home” versus “Mansion”
There are two kinds of fiber optic available to residences: “Family/home” and “Mansion” (in Japan, a condominium apartment is referred to as a “mansion”). “Family/home” fiber optic is available to single-family homes and residential buildings with three units or less. “Mansion” fiber optic is available to multi-unit apartment buildings with four units or more.
When you apply for FTTH connection, you also have the option of renting a wireless router or just signing up for internet connection only. If you rent a router, you will of course have to return it to your line provider when you move out. You will also be offered the option of having a phone line bundled with your internet connection, but you will pay more for this.
Depending on the provider and because of economies of scale, the more people in your building who sign up for a particular line provider, the more of a slight monthly discount you may receive. If you have sufficient Japanese, you can ask your neighbors which provider they are using.
“Family/home” plans cost more than “Mansion” fiber optic plans.
For example, NTT East’s “Family/home” plan called “FLET’S HIKARI NEXT Family Giga Line” with a maximum download speed of 1Gps (and no wireless router rental) costs ¥5,400 per month. This does not include the separate charge from your Internet Service Provider (please see the Unbundled section below for more information on this). By comparison, the “FLET’S HIKARI NEXT Mansion Giga Line” available if you live in a four-unit or more apartment building costs ¥3,050 per month.
There is a separate cost for the contract with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The total monthly cost averages between ¥7,000 and ¥9,000, depending on the line provider and ISPs you choose, as well as any add-ons, such as renting a WiFi router.
One-time Set-Up Fee
There is also a one-time set-up cost for fiber optic. The average set-up cost is about ¥6,000 but can be as high as ¥20,000 or more.
How long it takes
It can take from two to four weeks from the time you apply to the time you can actually start using the internet. It is usually faster (about two weeks) if you live in an apartment building and are signing up for “Mansion”-type FTTH.
- Step 1: Application. You can apply online (using the links below in the list of Main Fiber Optic Line Providers) or by phone. You will usually just be asked for your name, address, email and a contact phone number.
- Step 2: Preparation for installation and delivery of documents. After you apply, the line provider will send you a packet of information containing information about your line and account. You will receive a separate packet from your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP).
- Step 3: Installation. The line provider will contact you to tell you whether your building is already wired for fiber optic. If so, you can skip this step and go directly to Step 4. If not, the line provider will make an appointment for a technician to come to your home to install the line. Depending on the tine of year (for example, if you apply at the end of the year or during the moving season, from about February to April), the wait time for a technician will be longer. You will need to be at home for the installation, which usually takes about two hours.
- Step 4: Connection. Connect your router to the wall and set-up your internet connection. Your line provider will send instructions and sometimes a CD-ROM for doing this.
Length of Contract
You will usually be signing a one- to two-year contract when you sign up for fiber optic. You also usually have the option to sign a longer contract (two-and-a-half to five years, but there is not a discount for signing longer term contracts). There is also sometimes a penalty if you cancel the contract in the middle of the term. This is something you should remember to ask when you are signing up.
Unbundled: Hardware and ISP are Separate
In Japan, internet is unbundled, which means that your physical line and hardware are provided by one company and the internet connection is provided by another (the ISP, Internet Service Provider).
The main internet line providers in Japan are: NTT East (which serves eastern Japan, including the greater Tokyo metro region) and NTT West (which serves western Japan, including Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto); au KDDI and Softbank.
There are many ISPs in Japan. Please jump to the section below for a list of English-friendly ISPs.
When you sign up for internet service, you can sign up directly with a line provider then sign up for an ISP separately, or you can sign up with an ISP and they will pass your application to the line provider they are associated with.
Main Fiber Optic Line Provider Companies in Japan
Below are the main fiber optic line providers in Japan:
NTT’s FTTH (Fiber-to-the-Home) service is marketed as FLET’s Hikari, so you may sometimes hear “FLET’s Hikari” used interchangeably with NTT East or West fiber optic.
NTT East (English): NTT East Official Site for Internet Connection Services
NTT West (English): NTT West Official Site for Internet Connection Services
au Hikari (English): au Hikari Official Site for Home Internet Connection
Softbank (English): Softbank Hikari Official site for Home Internet Connection
Level of English Support
The line providers mentioned above all have English-language websites, but the actual level of English support will really depend on the particular customer service rep and technician who comes to your home.
Choosing an Internet Service Provider
If you are not tech savvy and have limited Japanese, it can be much less frustrating to first choose an English-friendly Internet Service Provider (ISP) and proceed with your application through them.
Tokyo Internet Service Providers (ISP)
The ISPs below, serving the greater Tokyo area, all advertise their services in English. Some of the ISPs in the list also offer other options for connectivity besides fiber optic (ADSL or dial-up) and can help you decide the best one for your usage needs.