Foreign tourists visiting Japan are often frustrated at the lack of free Wi-Fi spots available in the country. Not only does this prevent them from accessing maps, information and recommendations about Japan whilst they are travelling but they are also unable to ‘share’ their experiences with friends and family on SNS. This is annoying to visitors, but also a major loss for promotion of Japan in general. After all, imagine how many millions in free advertising have been thwarted by the inability to say “I am in Shibuya!” to everyone back home via Instagram.
How does it work?
It’s actually quite simple, which surprised us given the number of really complicated wifi spots in Tokyo that never seem to work anyway. Keep in mind, this is purely for visitors to Japan.
1- Pick up a free Wi-Fi-card from one of the official distribution points by showing your passport and tourist visa at Narita Airport, Akihabara in Tokyo or at major cities in Eastern Japan.
2- The Wifi ID and log-in password are printed on the card so just enter this information when accessing an NTT East Wifi-signal (0000FLETS-PORTAL). There are already more than 17,000 NTT East Wi-Fi spots around Japan (as of January 2013) supported by a network of fiber optic cables, guaranteeing fast and stable access (according to them of course).
3- Once logged in you can make use of the free Wi-fi spots for 14 days. Ideal for your short stay in Japan!
According to JNTO the process is perfect for first-time visitors to Japan as there are no application forms, you don’t need to send any emails to begin- all you need is your Wi-Fi supporting device.
Where can I access the free Wi-Fi?
The number of NTT East’s free Wi-Fi access points are increasing and for the moment you can find them at major sightseeing accross in Tokyo including Akihabara, Asakusa, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Ueno and Roppongi.
So far they the free Wi-Fi spots are limited to specific shops and restaurants in those areas (as pictured above), but I think it’s safe to say that this will be taken up rather quickly around the country.
Increasing Visitor Numbers to Japan?
Information and instructions about this free Wi-Fi service is provided in English, Korean and Chinese highlighting the importance NTT East places on reaching out to Asian tourists who form the majority of visitors to Japan.
Asian Tourists in Japan. Image via AFP/Kazuhiro Nogi/Getty Images.
A greater number of free Wi-Fi spots and more variety of Wi-Fi services catered specifically to tourists in Japan is certainly overdue, and is in direct response to one of the biggest annoyances to people who make the trip here. That, and it’s kind of embarrassing that the country perceived to be the most high-tech doesn’t even have wi-fi available in most places.
What we’re really curious about is the business model of this approach. Who is paying for all of this? The government? Are the shops involved paying for the hardware? Short term it gets people connected, but how sustainable is this? We’d love to see business owners really understanding the necessity of catering to these kinds of needs for tourists because it will open their eyes to the laundry list of tasks ahead. Great to see this progress though.