Cell Phones (携帯電話)

These are indispensable! There are several companies providing cell phones in Fukui prefecture: Softbank, AU, Docomo, and Willcom. Most JETs opt for SOFTBANK due to their choices in bilingual phones, easy text services between users, and cheaper plans for between service users (ex. the White Plan). Some ALTs opt for AU or DOCOMO due to their slightly superior coverage.

Cell phones are easier to obtain than regular landlines. This is largely due to the simple application process, which only requires you to have your passport, bankbook and hanko handy at the store, whereupon the cellphone of your choice is immediately available for use. Depending on which store it is, a document certifying that your foreigner’s registration card is currently being processed (for non-holders of foreigner’s registration cards) will often suffice as proof of identification.

The entire process takes about an hour from the time you decide on your phone, to the explanation/selection of the price plan, and then finally to completion . There is a growing population that no longer have regular landlines due to just this reason alone.

In addition to specialty phone outlets, cell phones can also be purchased at designated branches in department and electrical appliance stores. Methods of payment differ between mobile phone companies. Some of these include payment by credit card and automatic deduction from the customer’s bank account (which is why your bankbook is needed at the time of purchase). Ask your nearest JET about what package to get. There may be special deals. You will also have to choose between domestic and 3G networks. 3G has the advantage of being used internationally.

This process can be complicated so ask a Japanese speaker to accompany you. One thing to also note, if you do not want to sign a 1-2 year contract for a cellphone, you can opt to get a prepaid cellphone instead.

Here are links to the English websites for the cellphone companies:
Softbank – http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/
au – http://www.au.kddi.com/english/
Docomo – http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/
Willcom – http://www.willcom-inc.com/en/index.html

Recent Changes

Many Fukui JETs who have gotten cell phones since 2007 have said that they were required to have a credit card (or debit card with a CC symbol) and their bill was paid from these accounts. They were not able to use their Fukui bank accounts for payment. If you have a credit card, bring it with you for this purpose. Also, it pays to get your phone from a centrally located store in a bigger city — the smaller branches tend to enforce lots of wonky rules that us city folks have never come across. Lastly, if you are married and want to get a family plan, you’ll need a copy of marriage certificate. It’s okay if it’s in English.

If you sign up for a cell phone before you receive your bank book, you may use your credit card as previously stated. However, make sure to have your supervisor (or Japanese-speaking person who is kind enough to help you out) to ask for a special form. It will allow you to change the payment option later on, from your credit card to direct withdrawal from your Fukui bank account. All you have to do is fill out your bank information and send it.