Phone cards in Japan

Apr 27th, 2004, 06:27 PM
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Phone cards in Japan

Does anyone know of a phone card available in Japan that provides cheap overseas calls (to Australia and China in particular)? And if so, where you'd buy it, particularly in Kyoto?

Here in Australia I buy a Chi-Tel card that offers absurdly cheap international calls, like AU$0.04 (US$0.03) per minute. The call quality isn't up to normal telco standards but it's acceptable, and at that price I can certainly live with it. However, Chi-Tel doesn't seem to do business in Japan.

[As a matter of interest, I belatedly discovered that Japan doesn't use the GSM standard for mobile (cell) phones - is their system the same as the US?]

Neil_Oz is offline  
Apr 27th, 2004, 09:36 PM
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Cheap phone cards...maybe Brastel? I've never used it, but seen it advertised. There are lots of cheap phone services offered in the English language newspapers...many are callback services. The only way you'd get such a cheap rate as you have now is broadband phone...we use it for internet and phone, and pay about one yen a minute to the states. Of course, you've got to live here and have a phone to get that rate.

Try doing a google search for japan discount phone and you'll come up with lots of options you can explore and see if one is right for your needs.

GSM cell phones are JUST now becoming available...but you can't use them in Japan. Japan uses a system that isn't GSM and isn't's CDMA or some version of it. All I know is that I can't use my current Japanese cell phone anywhere else in the world. It is possible for me to upgrade now to a phone that I could use almost anywhere, however. It's the phone that has the capability, Japan didn't change the system. I have, however, heard that Japan is adding the GSM system to it's network...true? I don't know.
KimJapan is offline  
Apr 28th, 2004, 05:29 AM
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Basically there are two kinds of telephone cards. One, the thin magnetic one, is for domestic calls only. You need an IC (smart) card. There are various kinds available, and a trip to a convenience store will give you a choice. Also you can get a card from a dispenser next to the phone you can use in. There is a bewildering array of payphone types by several companies and a card can be used in some but not all the phones.
US cell phones won't work in Japan, and they don't have GSM (and none planned). They do have expanding 3G networks (W-CDMA). As a visitor your only chance is to get a pay-as-you-talk phone (pre-pay keitai) available from convenience stores (ID required). For example, Vodafone Enjorno has a handset from 5,000 yen and top-up card at 3k and 5k yen. Inland call charge 60 yen a min, and international from around 100 yen/min.
Alec is online now  
Apr 28th, 2004, 09:42 AM
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Just to make this clear, North America and most of the rest of the world (but not, as noted, Japan) are on GSM. But the frequency used in North America is different from that in the UK, China, etc. 'Tri-band' phones will work in both areas.

I've actually purchased a phone card from a 7-11 in Kyoto in the past, using an electronic kiosk inside the store. It had English menus, and the result was a sheet of paper printed out behind the counter and handed over to me when I paid. I don't remember the brand, but it would surprise me if you couldn't buy this in advance on-line if you looked around--try 7-11 Japan websites perhaps. The point being that it's the account number and password which count, and whether they're on a card, a piece of paper, or tattooed onto a shaved rodent makes no difference. In this case the print-out came out largely in Japanese, but the access number, account number, and password were clear enough.

7-11 and corner stores have a choice of card options. It's not tough to find one, and one the pleasures of Japan is that expressions such as 'phone card' and 'Australia' are widely understood. I've temporarily forgotten what 'China' is in Japanese, but someone else here will know. 'Chugoku?' Chu-something, anyway.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
Apr 28th, 2004, 12:35 PM
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Many thanks to all for your very helpful replies.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Apr 30th, 2004, 10:03 AM
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>Just to make this clear, North America and most >of the rest of the world (but not, as noted, Japan) >are on GSM

This is totally false. Much more of North America is CDMA which is used by market leader Verizon Wireless as well as Sprint. GSM is used by T-Mobile, Cingular and is starting to be rolled out by AT&T. Nextel uses a totally different system from CDMA and GSM.
Kenstee is offline  

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