Many apartments targeted at the expat community already come with one or several landlines built into the apartment. But for those who do not have one, your real estate agent can help you with the entire application process or you can approach Japan Telecom (NTT) directly: NTT East http://www.ntt-east.co.jp/.
Applying for a landline is a relatively straightforward process. You will need to show proof of residence (Alien Registration Card), but that’s generally the extent of identification required for application. The charge for the contract and the installation will run approximately US$400. Some opt to “buy” an existing landline from someone leaving Japan to avoid the fees associated with purchasing a new line from NTT. This site describes the process for transferring a landline: http://www.ntt-east.co.jp/.
To apply for a new landline you can e-mail NTT at email@example.com, call them toll-free at 0120-460-815, or drop by any NTT East branch office. While installation can generally be arranged over the phone, NTT recommends visiting a branch office as this typically expedites the application process. The time it will take for installation depends on whether your building already has the appropriate wiring or if it needs to be installed, necessitating a visit by an NTT technician. Typically, though, installation happens quickly once the application process is complete and after payment has been made.
International calling in Japan is relatively cheap with the large providers like NTT and KDDI (http://www.kddi.com/english/index.html), although some prefer to use calling cards like those sold by Brastel (http://www.brastel.com), or broadband service with international dialing from companies like Yahoo Broadband (http://bbpromo.yahoo.co.jp/).
Getting a mobile phone in Japan is even simpler. Mobile phone operators include:
- NTT DoCoMo (http://www.nttdocomo.com/)
- Softbank Mobile (http://mb.softbank.jp/en/)
- KDDI’s AU brand (http://www.au.kddi.com/english/index.html).
Signing-up for a mobile phone will require you to walk into the many branded shops that dot the city (or some of the smaller cell phone stores that operate in many of Tokyo’s busiest districts) with your passport and alien registration card. Most of the staff at each store speaks some amount of English and the total process for acquiring a new phone shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete.
Most phones do have a cost associated with them (the cost varies depending on make and model), although some older phones or those involved in a campaign are given away free if you enter into a contract with the operator. The majority of phones sold are “post-paid”, and typically require a Japanese bank account (most utility bills are paid via wire transfer at a convenience store) or a credit card for direct debit. All of the operators do provide prepaid service as well. Prepaid services requires you to pay cash up front for a certain amount of talk time versus the standard agreement where payment is made on a monthly basis dependent upon contract terms and/or total talk time. Costs for phone subscription plans generally range from $50/month to greater than $150/month depending on services required and usage fees.