If you can't imagine travelling in Japan without access to the internet, and you want to know if a Ninja pocket WiFi router is the best way for you to stay connected in Japan, then read on...
Ninja Pocket WiFi Highlights / 7 Reasons To Rent:
Review: Ninja Pocket WiFi
by Rob Dyer
What Is A 'Pocket' WiFi Router?
A rental service for people coming to Japan for WiFi routers to connect to the internet. These can be used anywhere around Japan, often on a fixed daily rate basis.
The name comes from the fact that these routers are small and pocketable.
They only give you access to the internet so cannot help with regular phone calls - unless those calls are made over the internet using a messaging service or similar dedicated apps. I typically use a WiFi router to make calls via Skype and LINE.
Pocket WiFi isn't the only way to get connected to the internet while in Japan. Another popular option is buying a Japan SIM card that you insert into your phone instead of carrying a portable WiFi.
Major Benefit - Connecting Multiple Devices
A major benefit of pocket WiFi routers is the ability to connect multiple devices all at the same time to a single router. This enables couples, friends and families travelling together to all use a single router at the same time.
And it isn't just smartphones that can connect. Most devices that use an internet connection, including phones, laptops, tablets and games consoles can all connect using a pocket WiFi router.
I usually travel with my wife and we often have two phones and two laptops simultaneously connected via a single router. Having said that, we always rent two routers so that we each have connectivity independently of each other.
Meaning if we are off doing our own things, or even if we are out together but temporarily separated, for example browing in a large, multi-floored store, we can always keep in touch.
Why Ninja Pocket WiFi?
Ninja WiFi is one of the leading players in the WiFi rental sector in Japan. They have over 14 million customers worldwide. Their service uses the Softbank network - one of Japan's largest. The network is extensive, even working on small, remote islands.
They have English-speaking staff and customer support and their routers can be ordered in advance and either be collected from one of their service desks at major airports, or can be delivered to your accommodation.
It is a subsidary of a Japanese company called Vision Inc., that has a number of service brands in the telecommunications sector. One of those, Global WiFi is a rental service for WiFi routers that can be used in more than 200 countries and regions around the world.
Ninja Pocket WiFi is a WiFi router rental service specifically for people coming to Japan. Sometimes you may see the logo for sister company Global WiFi on Ninja WiFi products (as in the photos in this review).
That's nothing to be concerned about. You'll be getting the Ninja WiFi service if buying through the Ninja WiFi brand.
Free Replacement Service
They offer a free replacement service should your router malfunction for any reason. They will post your replacement to where you are staying free of charge and provide you with a pre-paid envelope to return the faulty router.
Can't You Just Use Free WiFi in Japan?
You can, but honestly it isn't a great experience.
Many first-time visitors to Japan are surprised to find that free, or at least even just easy-access WiFi is still far from universal in Japan.
Public internet access used to be terrible but has improved in recent years (and continues to do so). Free WiFi is generally available in all major cities - albeit often in ‘patches’ rather than blanket, city-wide coverage.
You’ll also often need to register to use it and, when you do, the performance can be slow and unreliable and is usually very time-limited. Then there's the big question of is it even safe to use free WiFi in Japan (or in any country for that matter)? The short answer is no, it isn't.
All of which can still be at least frustrating, or more likely a real pain. Unless you rarely need to connect to the internet, it's still not a viable practical option.
Your Ninja Pocket WiFi - What's Included?
Your WiFi router comes in a zip-up pouch, which contains 4 items:
Tucked into the outside of the wallet, you'll get some basic information about returning the router after your rental period. There's also details on the airport that have service desk, and where those service desks are located.
VIDEO: Ninja Pocket WiFi Router Guide & Walk-Through
Rates & Plans
Ninja WiFi offer just two types of router and plan. Unlimited Plan and 1GB Per Day Plan. They're pretty much the same in terms of data speeds, the differences are in the amount of data you can use per day.
The following table sets out the differences and similarities.
1GB per day
Up to 187.5 Mbps 4G LTE
Up to 187.5 Mbps 4G LTE
Up to 37.5Mbps 4G LTE
Up to 37.5Mbps 4G LTE
About 117(W) x 62(H) x 13.9(D) mm
About 109.9(W) x 65.1(H) x 15.5(D) mm
* Exceeding 10GB in a day can result in a loss of speed and possibly a temporary loss of connection.
**After you reach the 1GB data limit, the speed will drop down significantly (to 128 kbps), but the device itself will still work for small tasks like texting (mail, SNS ). The speed will restart itself on 00:00 local time.
How To Use
The 16-page instruction manual has lots of detail on all aspects of using the pocket WiFi. Including information for iPhone/iPad and Android phone and Windows and Mac users. I recommend reading through it to ensure you know exactly how to use the service.
To use a router, simply switch it on and it will automatically connect to the Softbank network. Where the faster 4G LTE network is available the router will automatically connect to it. If LTE isn't available, it will connect to the standard 4G network. If neither 4G LTE or 4G signal is available then it will connect to 3G.
Switch on whichever device (phone, laptop, tablet, games console) you want to connect to the internet and it will detect the router's signal. Each router has a unique SSID number and connection password. These are printed on each router.
Choose the SSID for your router on your device and enter the password on the router to connect your device to the pocket WiFi.
Charging the router takes between 4 - 6 hours and will vary depending on if you are charging via the mains or via a powerbank battery.
The Unlimited plan provides up to 9 hours of continuous internet usage, and allows up to 5 devices to connect to the internet at the same time.
How To Order
It's simple. There's 3 steps to ordering and using the service:
Ordering is Simple
Registrations by application form accepted up to one day prior to your desired pickup date. Payments processed by credit card.
Pick-up or Delivery
Decide upon the duration of your rental. It can be anything from 1 - 60 days.
Choose between pickup at the airport, delivery or service counter in Shinjuku*, Tokyo.
Confirm your flight details, chosen pick-up and return locations and dates.
Returning the Router
You can choose between return at the airport service counter or return box, or by post. Your rental period ends when you return the router.
If returning at the service desk at the airport, be sure to return it to the correct desginated counter.
Ordering via Ninja WiFi or Voyagin
I recommend ordering your Ninja pocket WiFi either directly through the Ninja WiFi website or via our Travel Partner Rakuten Travel Experiences.
On their own website, Ninja WiFi offers a choice of two data plans at different prices. RTE only offers Ninja WiFi's fastest, Unlimited data plan. You simply choose the duration.
If you prefer, you can order directly via the Ninja WiFi website HERE.
Or order via Rakuten travel Experiences as they are usually cheaper than hiring on the day or via the official site. Order your Ninja WiFi router here.
Pick-up and Delivery
If you using an airport that isn't partnered with Ninja WiFi, you can choose to pick up and return their device via a postal service. A form for the return of all routers (by cash on delivery) is enclosed in the box.
Wherever you are staying, hotel, office, your rental home, or a friend’s home, your pocket router will be delivered to your location in Japan on your chosen date and time.
Note: There is an additional cost of postage of 550 JPY if using delivery by post.
Ninja WiFi has counters at eleven major airports in Japan. You can pick up your WiFi router at a counter upon your arrival, and return it when you leave Japan.
If you arrive at or leave Japan from an airport not in this list, then you should choose hotel delivery or another option for pick-up/return.
Returning Your Pack
Obviously, you should make sure you put all the items included back in the pack before you return it. If there is anything missing from the pack when you return it you maybe charged the overdue fee.
Of course, any discount vouchers or other promotional leaflets do not have to be returned. However, the instruction manual and other documentation must be included in the return.
It's also crucial you return the pack before you pass through the departure gate at the airport.
It is possible to return your pack by dropping it off at a convenience store. In which case, Ninja WiFi provides a very handy pre-printed message, written in Japanese, in their pack that you simply show to the counter staff so they know what you are asking and what to do with the package.
The instruction manual that comes with every router includes detailed location maps and contact details for the major airports that have a Ninja WiFi service counter.
Note: There is an additional cost of postage of 550 JPY if using return by post.
Do Not Make This Mistake!
After you have passed through the luggage and custom check, you are not allowed to go back to the lobby, where the Ninja WiFi service counter is located.
It sometimes happens that people go through to the departure gate only to then realize they forgot to return the router first.
If this does happen you are advised to contact the Customer Support Centre immediately if you entered the departure gate with the WiFi rental pack and router.
You'll most likely have to post it back at your own expense. That will include both the overdue fee and the cost of the return postage from your home country. So do all you can to avoid making this mistake!
A nice touch of added value that Ninja WiFi offer is their routers come with a booklet with discount vouchers that can be used for shopping.
This include major, well-known brands and stores including AEON, Tokyu Hands, Kintetsu Department Store, Matsumoto Kiyoshi (a popular drug store chain) and Don Quijote.
What's particularly good is that these are sometimes tailored for use in region-specific stores.
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My Ninja Pocket WiFi Experience
I've used Ninja-WiFi multiple times down the years whilst travelling throughout Japan. Their service is rock solid and reliable.
I mentioned the discount vouchers that are included in their packs. On my most recent trip, I was flying into Kansai International Airport in Osaka and spending time in nearby Kobe. (I picked up our two routers at Ninja WiFi's groundfloor counter in the airport lobby.)
The voucher booklet we had was for 10% discounts for selected store in Harborland in Kobe. Ninja WiFi obviously did this based on the information I gave them as to my arrival airport. I know Harbourland and the Mosaic shopping center Umie well, so these vouchers were handy.
I like the extra service touches like the shopping discount vouchers. I also find it reassuring to know I'm using the services of a big and well-established Japanese company.
I don't really know what else to say about them. They're just rock-solid. They always work. Very rarely do I have any connection problems.
The only thing you might spot at times is sometimes the settings on the routers are such that if you haven't connected to it for a while then it kind of goes into a sort of 'sleep mode' and you temporarily drop connection with your device.
It doesn't switch off and the signal is still there, but your phone might drop the router connection. In which case all I tend to do is just give the router a quick shake, or just tap the screen, to get it back in service and suddenly your devices will find it again and reconnect.
So that's the Ninja Pocket WiFi router. Basically I can completely recommend them. I simply cannot travel in Japan without a WiFi router, so I recommend renting them.
They're great value.
How To Get Great Deals and Discounts on Ninja WiFi
The Real Japan has teamed up with Rakuten Travel Experiences (RTE) who offer great deals and discounts on Ninja WiFi's fastest router service.
Founded in 2011 as Voyagin, RTE is a Japanese travel tours and activities online booking platform headquartered in Tokyo, and an Official Partner of Ninja WiFi.
Or order via Rakuten Travel Experiences as they are usually cheaper than hiring on the day or via the official site. Order your Ninja WiFi router here.
Ninja WiFi Website
Order Ninja WiFi via Rakuten Travel Experiences
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