The first time I visited Japan was in 2018 when I went together with a friend of mine – Ditmar.
It was a hectic summer, as I also visited China a few weeks before and the Netherlands three times (before, between & after those trips – I was living in Denmark back then).
What surprised me is that the Japanese government banned the sale of voice-enabled SIM cards to travelers in 2006 for some reason.
As a result, only data-only SIM cards are sold to visitors like you and me.
Because VoIP (Voice over IP) apps like WhatsApp were already popular back then, it did not bother us that we could not make phone calls.
Since then, a lot has changed – travel eSIMs exist, and they are incredibly popular.
And I love trying them out to see which performs the best in individual countries like Japan.
So I revisited in 2023 and stayed in the Kansai Region (mostly Osaka) and Tokyo (again).
This resulted in me spending more than 480 USD for my Japan SIM card and travel eSIM review series (50 030 JPY (≈ 360 USD) on Japanese SIM cards and 121.50 USD on travel eSIMs to be used in Japan) – yeah… I went all out for you 😎.
In many countries, getting a local SIM card will be the most cost-effective way to stay connected.
But that is not the case in Japan – they are criminally expensive.
Worse, almost all the Japanese SIM cards I tested had speed caps of 2 Mbps, 10 Mbps, or “unrestricted” speed for the first few days (often up to three days) before speeds would drop.
And I am talking about SIM cards that supposedly have no Fair Use Policy (FUP), and promise speeds up to 788 Mbps, or whose FUP I had not hit.
As a result, there is only one Japanese SIM card I recommend – but that one is expensive too.
Travel eSIM providers like Ubigi are way cheaper than Japanese SIM cards.
Even though it is powered by a Japanese mobile operator (NTT Docomo).
Surprisingly, they performed significantly better – even when roaming on the local networks.
This phenomenon is uncommon but happens in countries where mobile operators throttle (prepaid) speeds.
Because the Ubigi eSIM is basically cheaper than any Japanese SIM card available while having a significantly better performance than them, I can already recommend it if your phone supports eSIM.
Throughout this review, you will discover why I think this way, so let's start immediately!
Original publication: 18th of June 2023. Last updated: 16th of August 2023.
Table of Contents
Which Phones are Compatible with Ubigi eSIMs?
Before discussing the Ubigi eSIM, you must know whether your phone can even support Ubigi's eSIMs.
Unlike most travel eSIM providers, Ubigi claims that every eSIM-compatible phone can use its eSIMs.
So that makes things easy 😎.
As of August 2023, the phones shown in the infographic below are compatible with Ubigi eSIMs:
With that out of the way, let's talk more about the Ubigi Japan plans!
How Much Do Ubigi (Best) Asia Plans Cost?
You can get a Ubigi Japan plan for as little as 2.50 USD for 500 GB (1 day) up to 69 USD for 50 GB (30 days).
Note: once you have installed your Ubigi eSIM profile, you do not have to install another one in case you visit a different country (unlike most of its competitors, where you would have to install an eSIM per country, which is convenient!
Japan is one of the few Asian countries (with China, India, South Korea & Taiwan) where country-specific plans are available.
For the others, you need to get the Ubigi (Best) Asia Plans, which cover 14 (Best Asia) or 23 countries (Asia), for 6 USD for 500 MB (1 day) up to 49 USD for 10 GB (30 days).
But because Japan-specific plans are available, stick to them unless you plan on visiting nearby countries – more about Asia plans later.
Below is an overview of how much each Ubigi Japan plan costs:
- Japan 500 MB plan for 1 day, costing 2.50 USD/2.50 EUR/2.50 GBP
- Japan 1 GB plan for 30 days, costing 4 USD/4 EUR/3 GBP
- Japan 3 GB plan for 30 days, costing 8 USD/8 EUR/7 GBP
- Japan 10 GB plan for 30 days, costing 17 USD/17 EUR/16 GBP (price dropped – this is the one I used during this trip)
- Japan 50 GB plan for 30 days, costing 69 USD/69 EUR/60 GBP
Clicking these links will get you to a page to generate a QR code to create an account (on mobile). You cannot buy any Ubigi plan on the front end (only on the back end), although I was promised you could in May 2023 (but it is June 2023 at the time of writing).
You can also get recurring plans for Japan.
In fact, Ubigi has three of them:
- Japan 5 GB/month plan, costing 10 USD/10 EUR/9 GBP
- Japan + United States 5 GB/month plan, costing 12 USD/12 EUR/10 GBP
- Japan 20 GB/month plan, costing 29 USD/29 EUR/25 GBP
Yes, the Japan + United States can be used there too.
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card.
Their fees are MUCH lower than banks and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks).
I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Australian Dollars and Euros, my main currencies, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards.
But you should be aware of the following for the recurring plans.
You need to stay on it for at least three months, meaning you spend at least 30/36/87 USD for the recurring plans.
It is not that Ubigi hides this fact – it is clearly mentioned on the purchase page (on the app).
But I thought I would let you know before buying the Japan 20 GB plan assuming the Japan 10 GB is too little while the Japan 50 GB is too much.
Finally, Ubigi has a long-term plan for Japan, giving you data for a year.
Yes, really – you can get the Japan annual plan for 38 USD, giving you 2 GB a month for 12 months (24 GB in total).
But you will pay this in advance at the time of purchase, so not 3.20 USD/2 GB/month.
Remember when I said there are also (Best) Asia plans that can be used in Japan?
What is the difference between the two plans, anyway?
The Asia plan can be used in
24 23 Asian countries (up to 1 GB (12 USD) unless you buy a recurring plan, then up to 5 GB (29 USD/month)).
Whereas Best Asia can be used in
12 14 East- and Southeast Asian countries only (up to 10 GB (49 USD)).
I will list the countries in a bit, but I do want to give you a price breakdown first:
- Asia (23 countries) 500 MB for 1 day, costing 6 USD/6 EUR/5 GBP
- Asia (23 countries) 1 GB for 30 days, costing 12 USD/12 EUR/10 GBP
- Best Asia (14 countries) 3 GB for 30 days, costing 24 USD/24 EUR/21 GBP
- Best Asia (14 countries) 10 GB for 30 days, costing 49 USD/49 EUR/45 GBP (this is the one I used during this trip)
If you wonder how I used both the 10 GB Japan plan and the 10 GB Best Asia plan, I still had some data left from my Best Asia plan from my visit to Singapore earlier. I eventually exhausted the data allowance for that plan, so I topped my eSIM up with the Japan plan.
Below is a complete overview of countries the Ubigi Best Asia plans work in:
- Hong Kong
- Japan 1
- Singapore 1
- South Korea 1
- Taiwan 1 (new)
- Tajikistan (new)
- Vietnam 1
1 with 5G NR access (in Vietnam, select the Viettel network instead of the Vinaphone (VNPT) network for 5G NR access)
Below is a complete overview of countries the Ubigi Asia plans work in:
- Hong Kong
- Japan 2
- Mongolia 1
- Singapore 2
- South Korea 2
- Sri Lanka
- Taiwan 2
- Tajikistan (new)
- Vietnam 2
1 on 3G only
2 with 5G NR access (in Singapore, select StarHub instead of Simba Singapore for 5G NR access. For Vietnam, select the Viettel instead of Vinaphone (VNPT))
As you can see, the Japan-only plans are of better value if you only stay in Japan.
Those do not have country-specific plans (surprisingly), so I used the Best Asia in those countries.
My Ubigi eSIM in Japan Experience
I used my Ubigi eSIM in Hiroshima, the Kansai region (mostly Osaka, but also Kobe, Kyoto & Nara) & Tokyo Metropolis (mostly Chiyoba City, but also Shinjuku City, Taito City & Yokohama City).
Before we continue, I do want to let you know how travel eSIM providers like Ubigi work.
It is impossible for Ubigi, or any other mobile operator, to operate in every country (and do not trust any company saying otherwise), so they set up roaming agreements.
What Ubigi does, and basically all (actual) mobile operators do, is partner up with a local mobile operator so that their customers can still stay connected when abroad.
In the case of Japan, the Ubigi eSIM uses the NTT Docomo with the help of… NTT Docomo.
I did not mention it yet, but Ubigi is a brand by NTT Docomo, so it makes sense its eSIM uses its network, lol.
The Japanese mobile operators are not in the prepaid business for whatever reason, so I mostly used Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) using the NTT Docomo network through another MVNO called IIJmio.
All Japanese SIM cards I used using IIJmio were mostly/always throttled @ 2 Mbps, 10 Mbps, or would start off normally for the first (few) day(s) before being slowed as well.
I go more in-depth about that in my individual Japanese SIM card reviews, but all the travel eSIMs I used, including Ubigi, were not affected by this nonsense… so that was amazing 🤣.
So while I usually compare my eSIM results with the local mobile operator, it is not something I can do in Japan consistently because all the SIM cards I tried were MVNOs 🥲.
But worry not – I will do my best, mostly because I tried nine travel eSIMs using the networks of the Big Three (NTT Docomo, Softbank & AU by KDDI) with varying results.
When looking at 4G/LTE availability in Japan, the three mobile operators cover practically all of the country, with an availability of at least 99.4%.
Rakuten Mobile exists in Japan too, but tourists cannot get its prepaid SIM cards. Moreover, none of the SIM cards or eSIMs I used were using its network, so I will ignore its results in this analysis.
Japan's 4G/LTE reception is so good that you will unlikely be stuck on 3G at any time.
Unless you did not turn off airplane mode while taking off to send a quick message… I know who you are 😏.
In terms of 5G NR, Ubigi was the only travel eSIM I used with 5G NR access (COMST Japan was the only Japanese SIM card with such access).
In terms of speed, NTT Docomo has the fastest download speed, with a median download speed of 48.86 Mbps, ahead of SoftBank (44.77 Mbps) and AU by KDDI (41.60 Mbps).
But these results are somewhat similar, so you can say they have roughly the same speed.
The same can be said about upload speeds, where SoftBank is leading the pack (9.24 Mbps), followed by NTT Docomo (6.97 Mbps) and AU by KDDI (6.40 Mbps).
I did speed tests with the Speedtest app in three regions throughout Japan.
For reference, I consider an average download speed of 25 Mbps and an average of 10 Mbps upload speed fast enough.
Preferably, download speeds should be 100 Mbps+ on 4G/LTE… but we are not there yet 🗿.
But why these averages?
A download speed of more than 25 Mbps is enough to video stream content @ 4k resolution.
Social media sites that allow for live streaming, like Facebook Live, recommend an upload speed of at least 10 Mbps.
So, that is why – but that does not mean that a download speed of less than 100 Mbps excited me 😏.
But Australia spoiled… everything slower than 300 Mbps is slow now 🤣.
Anyway, you will also see that some of the results are in two shades of red, green, underlined, or in italics.
Underlined results are on 5G NR, while results in italics are on 3G.
The green shows that the result was the fastest on the network at said location.
For example, the Ubigi eSIM being the fastest travel eSIM on the NTT Docomo network in a mall.
While red shows that the result was the slowest on the network among its peers at the location.
Okay, that is enough background information – let's compare the Ubigi eSIM to other travel eSIMs primairly using the NTT Docomo network in Hiroshima, the Kansai region & Tokyo Metropolis.
Ubigi eSIM Speed Test Results in Hiroshima
Hiroshima is mainly known for an incident that happened in 1945.
However, the radiation levels are so low nowadays that they are comparable to other Japanese cities – or most other cites worldwide.
Besides its history, it has much to offer, such as the Hiroshima Castle.
Including this cute variation of the castle.
Hiroshima on its own is worth visiting, although it can be a nice day trip or weekend getaway if you are in the Kansai region (Osaka) already.
While Hiroshima may or may not be among the ten largest cities in Japan (it used to be until the 2010 census – that is when it fell out of it), 5G NR was somehow not available in the city.
Ubigi and COMST Japan, an NTT Docomo Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), both have 5G NR access.
However, that technology was nowhere to be found throughout Hiroshima.
As a result, it was a leveling playing field to compare all the Japanese SIM cards and travel eSIMs I used because they all were on 4G/LTE.
For now, let's see how the Ubigi eSIM performed in Hiroshima:
Poor speeds with the Ubigi eSIM in Hiroshima.
But… how is an average download speed of around 27 Mbps poor?
I compare the median download speed of a local SIM card or travel eSIM with the global median download speed of the month.
I consider the speeds poor if slower by more than 10 Mbps than the global median.
Yes, I have strict requirements over here 😤.
The global median was 42.07 Mbps in April 2023, as per the Speedtest Global Index, and the Ubigi eSIM was slower by more than 10 Mbps (15 Mbps, to be exact).
I understand that I did not get as many results in Hiroshima (seven), making the sample size extremely small.
And that is true – I got more than 30 results in both the Kansai region and Tokyo Metropolis so that more representative analysis can be done.
Unfortunately, Hiroshima was a day trip and was not part of the Kansai region as I initially expected it to be.
So I could not group it with the Kansai region results because… well… it is not part of that region 🗿 (it is part of the Chugoku region instead).
So my apologies – we gotta deal with that I have right now.
While 5G NR is available in Hiroshima, the speeds were not impressive.
I had an average download speed of 27.13 Mbps and a median download speed of 7.13 Mbps with the Ubigi eSIM: it somewhat passed the 4K video streaming test in Hiroshima (minimum of 25 Mbps for both average and median speeds, but I am being generous today 😏).
The same can also be said for the HD live streaming test in Hiroshima – the Ubigi eSIM had an average upload speed of 8 and a median upload speed of 5.56 Mbps, making it fail the HD live streaming test (minimum of 10 Mbps ).
The fastest download speed I got was at Starbucks Hiroshima Omiya (135.13 Mpbs on 4G/LTE).
Of course the fastest result was on 4G/LTE 🙄.
All the other results were below 20 Mbps (except for 20.61 Mbps on 5G NR at Mitika Staton).
14.01 Mbps at 広島城 本丸 番所跡 (a landmark in the park of Hiroshima Castle) was the other impressive result.
But yeah… nothing much to say.
Except for the fact that COMST Japan, the other SIM card on the NTT Docomo network, had significantly better results, but they were all on 4G/LTE instead.
It sometimes do be like that 🤷🏿♂️.
Ubigi eSIM Speed Test Results in the Kansai region (Kobe, Kyoto, Nara & Osaka)
While the term Kansai region may not ring a bell for some readers, it is the second-largest region in Japan (behind the Kanto region, which includes Tokyo Metropolis).
The Kansai region is home to the famous Osaka but also Japan's former capital Kyoto.
And a few others like Kobe (yes – the one from Kobe Beef) and Nara (with the large deer park).
Most tend to stay in Osaka when they are in the Kansai region.
But I would highly recommend visiting one of the cities I mentioned earlier because (1) you are nearby and (2) they are worth the visit!
Osaka and the Kansai region was my first destination during this Japan trip.
Here, I learned that most Japanese SIM cards are slow.
And I could not contribute that to me being in some remote town… because Osaka is Japan's third-largest municipality (behind Tokyo and Yokohama (south of Tokyo)) and it has 5G NR (which I used with Ubigi and COMST Japan).
Because Ubigi has direct access to the NTT Docomo network, because it is its sub-brand, I had a pleasant experience with it.
In fact, it was the best travel eSIM I used in the region.
So, let's see how the Ubigi eSIM performed in the Kansai region:
Super-fast speeds with the Ubigi eSIM in the Kansai region!
The Ubigi eSIM was the best-performing eSIM in the Kansai region (and the second-best when considering eSIMs – the best was COMST Japan).
But that is because both have 5G NR access to the NTT Docomo network, while all the other Japanese SIM cards and travel eSIMs did not (on the SoftBank or AU by KDDI networks).
So if you care about 5G NR, you know which eSIM to get 😏.
Anyway, I had an average download speed of 74.49 Mbps and a median download speed of 32.98 Mbps with the Ubigi eSIM: it passed the 4K video streaming test in the Kansai region (minimum of 25 Mbps).
The same can somewhat be said for the HD live streaming test in the Kansai region – the Ubigi eSIM had an average upload speed of 13.43 and a median upload speed of 8.35 Mbps, making it just pass the HD live streaming test (minimum of 10 Mbps for both average and median speeds, but I am being generous today 😏).
Even with these slow upload speeds, the Ubigi eSIM had the second-fastest average upload speed with any Japanese SIM card and travel eSIM I tested (just behind the Nomad Japan eSIM with 14.03 Mbps).
But average upload speeds are pretty slow in Japan by East Asian standards, so the Ubigi eSIM cannot do much about this.
The fastest download speed I have gotten with the Ubigi eSIM in the Kansai region was at the Gassuido Monument in Osaka (Kita Ward – 531.21 on 5G NR).
That is ridiculously fast! So was the result at Kobe Beef Steak Restaurant Royal Mouriya (487.95 Mbps on 5G NR).
The 5G NR results at Osaka 激安大衆居酒屋 八銭 梅田東通り店 Bar (in the Kita Ward – 419.10 Mbps) and Imamiya Station in Osaka (356.47 Mbps) were impressive too.
But besides these results, the remaining ones on 5G NR were not impressive at all.
Sure, 218.20 Mbps (on 5G NR at Dotonbori) is fast too… but nothing special for 5G NR.
In fact, I would consider that to be kind of slow for 5G NR.
That is because speeds between 100 Mbps and 300 Mbps are great to amazing on 4G/LTE.
So for 5G NR, the standards are significantly higher.
Because the fastest 5G NR result I have gotten so far was slightly over 1131.69 Mbps (1.1 Gbps) with Boost Mobile Australia 😎.
You may think I am complaining about nothing (which I may be, lmao).
But I know some Phone Travel Wiz readers (like myself… but I am the writer ✍🏿) care about getting the fastest speeds – the Ubigi eSIM will not give it to you.
Fortunately, the Japan plans are one of the most affordable ones in the travel eSIM industry, so Ubigi does not have high prices because of 5G NR (in fact, it lowered its Japan prices back in April).
So its eSIMs are worth it 😏.
Anyway, below is an overview of the average download speed I got in each city:
- Kobe: 105.78 Mbps
- Kyoto: 19.54 Mbps
- Nara: 51.33 Mbps
- Osaka: 92.18 Mbps
If you wonder what happened in Kyoto, 5G NR was barely available throughout the city.
But that is not a good excuse because the COSMT Japan SIM card was three times as fast as the Ubigi eSIM – and both were on the NTT Docomo network.
I guess the Ubigi eSIM was unlucky there/that day.
What about upload speeds with the Ubigi eSIM in the Kansai region?
As I mentioned earlier, upload speeds are pretty slow in Japan, so there is little to say.
106.85 Mbps on 5G NR at Imamiya Station in Osaka is one of the fastest upload speeds I have ever gotten (perhaps even the fastest).
69.26 Mbps on 5G NR at Gassuido Monument in Osaka is impressive too.
So yeah, not much more to add.
Ubigi eSIM Speed Test Results in Tokyo Metropolis (Chiyoba, Shinjuku, Taito & Tokohama)
Tokyo, or the Tokyo Metropolis, probably does not need an introduction.
As you probably already imagining a bustling city with bright lights.
Which… it certainly is!
But do know that Tokyo consists of 26 cities (+a few towns and villages).
In fact, Tokyo Metropolis has 39 municipalities under its name.
This is why the heading for this section had Chiyoba, Shinjuku, Taito & Tokohama in parentheses because those are the cities I visited on this trip.
But wherever you go in Tokyo, you will have guaranteed fun 😄.
Let's see how the Ubigi eSIM performed in Tokyo Metropolis:
Super fast speeds with the Ubigi eSIM in Tokyo Metropolis!
The Ubigi eSIM was the best-performing eSIM in Tokyo Metropolis (and the second-best when considering eSIMs – the best was COMST Japan).
Just like in the Kansai region, both have 5G NR access to the NTT Docomo network, while all the others do not.
I had an average download speed of 64.16 Mbps and a median download speed of 27.95 Mbps with the Ubigi eSIM: it passed the 4K video streaming test in Tokyo Metropolis (minimum of 25 Mbps).
The same cannot be said for the HD live streaming test in Tokyo Metropolis – the Ubigi eSIM had an average upload speed of 9.82 and a median upload speed of 7.70 Mbps, making it fail the HD live streaming test (minimum of 10 Mbps).
The Ubigi eSIM had some impressive results in Tokyo Metropolis (but not as remarkable as in the Kansai region).
Only one result was faster than 300 Mbps – that was at Ueno Park in Taito City (332 Mbps on 5G NR).
Three results were faster than 200 Mbps (and all on 5G NR): Akihabara Station (235.44 Mbps), Atré Ueno Mall in Taito City (208.82 Mbps) & Kamonka Ueno Bamboo Garden Restaurant in Taito City (221.65 Mbps).
Then there were only three results faster than 100 Mbps (all on 4G/LTE): Gransta Mall in Chiyoba City (186.32 Mbps), Narita International Airport Terminal 1 Station (113.17 Mbps) & the Baskin Robbins at Yokohama Station (102.68 Mbps).
But at long as the speeds are faster than 25 Mbps, I should not be complaining, right? 😏.
Well, even though the eSIM had a download speed of 9.71 Mbps (on 5G NR) at a McDonald's in Shinjuku City and 4.80 Mbps (on 4G/LTE) at Takashimaya Times Square Mall in the same city, they were faster than the COMST Japan SIM card and Nomad (Truphone-powered) Japan eSIM.
COMST Japan had speeds of 4.52 Mbps and 1.66 Mbps, both on 4G/LTE, respectively.
While Nomad Japan had speeds of 8.78 Mbps and 1.89 Mbps, respectively.
What about upload speeds with the Ubigi eSIM?
Nothing crazy – the fastest result, 32.61 Mbps on 5G NR, was at Ueno Park.
Followed by 30.71 Mbps at the Baskin Robbins at Yokohama Station.
But as average upload speeds ranged from 7.93 Mbps (Holafly Japan eSIM on the AU by KDDI network) to 14.80 Mbps (Japan Wireless eSIM on the aforementioned network), the Ubigi eSIM did fine with its average of 9.82 Mbps.
My Overall Experience with the Ubigi eSIM in Japan – Is It Any Good?
I would recommend the Ubigi eSIM, and it would be one of my top recommendations for anyone wanting to buy a Japanese travel eSIM.
But… installing an Ubigi eSIM is a clumsy process.
Initially, you need to have cellular data enabled (on the Ubigi network).
After signing up, you are supposed to receive a code to confirm your details.
But you cannot submit your request for the code without enabling WiFi again (which the app does not tell you).
And if you are unlucky, the session times out, and you have to redo the registration process again.
Whereas other travel eSIMs have an easy and straightforward registration process.
But once the eSIM is installed, you no longer have to worry about this.
And getting a Ubigi plan, like the Japan plan, is straightforward.
Other Japanese eSIM Reviews (Airalo, Holafly, Japan Wireless, Nomad & SimCorner)
As mentioned earlier, I also tried out (other) eSIMs from Airalo (Moshi Moshi, Asialink & Discover Global), Holafly, Japan Wireless, Nomad (Japan and APAC) & SimCorner.
You should read those reviews too.
>>> Airalo Moshi Moshi eSIM in Japan Review | Airalo Asialink eSIM in Japan Review | Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Japan Review | Holafly Japan eSIM Review | Japan Wireless eSIM Review | Nomad eSIM in Japan eSIM Review | Nomad APAC eSIM in Japan Review | SimCorner Japan eSIM Review <<<
- Check out my eSIM reviews page if you want to read all the other eSIM reviews I have written, including other eSIM providers in Asia.
I also tried out various local Japanese cards: AnyFone Japan, COMST Japan, Mobal, Nippon SIM, Sakura Mobile, Tourist SIM for Japan, Wireless Gate Japan + TrueMove H Asia Travel SIM Card (from Thailand).
If your phone does not support eSIM (but felt like reading this Airalo review in full anyway – awesome) or want to have the best network experience possible, you want to go directly with the local mobile operators instead of roaming on their networks (as you do with travel eSIMs).
So I encourage you to read the Japanese SIM card reviews too.
>>> AnyFone Japan Review | COMST Japan Review | Mobal Review | Nippon SIM Review | Sakura Mobile Review | Tourist SIM for Japan Review | Wireless Gate Japan Review | TrueMove H Asia Travel SIM Card Review <<<
Check out my reviews page if you want to read all the other reviews I have written, including other Asian SIM cards.
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