Love it or hate it, the internet has become something of a necessity for life in the 21st century. This holds true in Japan, especially if you are a foreigner working here as part of the JET Program.
First and foremost, you will need the internet for communication. A lot of JET information is sent via email, and Facebook groups are perhaps the most effective way of organizing all kinds of events and gatherings. LINE, which utterly dominates communication in Japan, transmits messages and calls via the internet (which is why doing those things is free). Furthermore, a steady – and personal – internet connection would probably be preferable when you need to make hours-long Skype calls with your loved ones back home.
Second, having internet access in Japan is remarkably convenient. Online shopping in Japan is (reportedly) very simple. Tutorials on how to use odd-looking Japanese appliances and tools are readily available. Materials for learning Japanese language can be easily accessed. Basically, the solution to any problem associated with living in Japan is right at your fingertips.
Third, the internet in Japan is – or at least, can be – fast. The most popular kind of connection in Japan is fiber optic, or hikari, which boasts download and upload speeds of up to 200 Mbps (with some offering even 1 Gbps, although I find that to be quite extreme). My current connection averages 50 Mbps for both, which is pretty darn nice. Standard broadband options are available too, but do not expect them to be as fast as hikari – even if the prices might be quite similar.
Now, of course, you can survive without internet. But I hope I have convinced you that your life in Japan will be significantly enriched by having it.
Anyway, when it comes to getting internet in Japan as a foreigner, there are a few methods. Perhaps the most popular method (at least, for JET Program participants) is to use BBapply, which is basically a service that provides a list of internet providers available to you, as well as what plans you can get. The service is free, and despite how dodgy the website looks, it is entirely trustworthy. Most JETs use BBapply to get internet, and most JETs are more than satisfied with their experience.
Another possible option (which I admittedly know little about) is getting internet bundled with your cell phone deal from a major provider (Softbank, NTT, au, etc). This usually results in a reduction in your monthly internet and cell phone bills. If you are planning on getting a new phone and living in Japan for two years or more, this may be a great option for you.
However, I did neither of these things. This is because I already had a phone, and more importantly, did not have (and was not interested in creating) a credit card. As it turns out, many internet and cell phone service providers require – or at least strongly prefer – that you have a credit card (a foreign one will suffice). This included the sole hikari service provider that BBapply recommended to me, leaving me with only two choices: find another hikari service provider, or sign up for the worse yet more expensive Yahoo ADSL broadband service. I opted for the former.
I eventually decided on signing with OCN (which is owned by NTT Communications) as my provider. Unlike many of the other hikari providers, they allow me to pay my internet bill with cash via any convenience store. Also, they do not force you to sign up for a minimum time period (although you can save money if you commit to a two-year contract). Additionally, they provide English-language customer service, which is rather convenient and rare. Their prices are competitive, and the internet they provide for those prices is great. All in all, OCN is a good bet if you are looking into Japanese ISPs.
It is worth repeatedly stressing that every situation is different. OCN simply happened to be the provider that best suited my needs and wants. It is very possible that the best provider for you will be another one. The only way for you to find out is by doing your own research! To that end, I hope this post serves as a convenient starting point, and nothing more. If you have information that you want to share, please leave a comment or something.
Until next time, take care!