How to Get a SIM Card With Japanese Phone Number & SMS as Non-Resident

When purchasing concert/event tickets in Japan, you sometimes (not always!) need your own Japanese mobile number that can receive SMS and/or calls. Usually this is needed to register and verify an account on Japanese ticket agents such as Ticket Pia, e+, Rakuten or Lawson. The phone number might also be needed when downloading digital tickets to your mobile phone.

However, most SIM card providers that service non-residents of Japan only offer data-only SIM cards. If you don’t have a resident visa, there is only one provider (to our best knowledge) that offers voice-/SMS-activated SIM (and eSIM) cards to tourists and other short-term visitors: Mobal

Note that it is not possible to use such SIM cards outside Japan to receive the OTP verification SMS. They simply don’t connect to mobile networks outside Japan. In other words, you need to wait until you are in Japan to be able to use it. Unfortunately, there is no easy AND legal way to go around this. Still, it might be useful to register accounts on all ticket agency websites with it if you are planning to return to Japan for concerts in the future!

If you want to know more about when you will need such a SIM card, and what to look out for (e.g. should you buy a SIM card that expires or go for a contract you can easily cancel anytime?).

Why You Need a Japanese Mobile Phone Number

There are a few scenarios where you will need a proper Japanese phone number for getting concert tickets.

1. Account registration and verification

To prevent people creating multiple accounts under their name, a lot of ticketing sites (e.g. Lawson Tickets, eplus, Ticket Pia) and digital ticket apps require you to link your account to a unique Japanese cell phone number.

In the process, you typically need to receive SMS, or listen to an automatic voice-call to your phone (“robocall” that delivers a recorded message such as a validation code). In that case, you need a SIM card that is voice-enabled (data-only cards can usually not receive SMS, though there are exceptions).

2. Ticket purchase or lottery application

If you already have a verified account, you usually don’t need to receive any SMS again when applying or booking tickets. However, we have heard of rare (!) cases where re-verification was necessary. If you don’t have the same original phone number anymore, that could be a problem.

3. Receiving digital tickets

To receive digital tickets (bought by yourself, a friend or also a reseller), you might need a specific app such as MOALA, tixeebox, etc. (which one depends on the ticket agency the ticket was booked on). While some of those apps can be downloaded on phones with foreign phone number, some apps are either country-restricted or require phone/SMS verification. If country-restricted, the app store/play store only shows an error message such as “This item is not available in your country” without easy option to switch countries (even if you are physically in Japan, but your phone has a non-Japanese phone number SIM).

4. Maintaining verified accounts/apps

Easy to forget, but SMS verification codes might also be sent when you try to reset your password (who doesn’t sometimes). When ticket agencies update their apps or switch to another app, this might also make it necessary to authenticate again.

Why You Might NOT Need a Japanese Phone Number or SIM Card

Keep in mind that the Japanese phone number issues only arise when using the sites and apps intended for Japanese/residents of Japan. Ticket agencies also run ticket sites and ticket purchase pages for foreign visitors these days. Those are usually accessible in English (and possibly other languages) and can be registered on with foreign phone numbers.

Still, the problem is that only a very small number of tickets/events are listed on those internationally-available sites. Also, most resale tickets are bought through the Japanese sites and might thus only be downloadable on a Japan-only ticket app.

Which eSIM or SIM Card to Purchase for Concert Ticket Purchases

There are countless SIM card companies out there, but we know only of one company that offers SIM (or eSIM) cards which can be purchased by non-residents and come with a real Japanese phone number you can use for registering on various ticket sites and apps.

The company is called Mobal, and has been around for quite a while. Their voice-enabled SIM cards use the Softbank network, so you get a regular phone number that is indistinguishable from any other Japanese cell phone (note that IP phones and 050 numbers will not work).

But before you go to their website, you need to keep in mind a few important things:

The data-only SIM cards will not be sufficient; you need to select one of the “Voice+Text+Data” SIMs.

  1. Your phone absolutely needs to be SIM lock free/unlocked before you can use any Japanese SIM card.

  1. Depending on the ticket agency and app, you might need the phone number even after creating and verifying the account with it. We recommend keeping it active at least until you have the tickets in hand. That could mean that if the concert is more than 8 days ahead, you should not just buy the shortest duration (8 days) unless you are 100% sure there won’t be any further SMS/call verification for downloading or displaying the tickets. Keep in mind that unexpected things tend to happen at the worst possible time, e.g. a new app version that requires you to re-connect to your phone number via SMS code, etc.

  1. If for some reason you want to keep your Japanese phone number indefinitely, that is also possible. The cheapest Mobal long-term plan costs JPY 1,650 (or around US$ 12) per month. This will enable you to keep the same phone number for as long as you don’t cancel the subscription. You can usually continue using your ticket agency accounts without re-authentication, but you might need access to the same registered number at some point, e.g. for receiving tickets, registering some future app they require, resetting your password if you forgot it, etc. However, note point no. 4 which is…

  1. You cannot use the SIM card outside of Japan, so even if you have it shipped to your home country, you will not be able to use it for registering accounts because you can’t activate it nor receive SMS/calls to your Japanese number without being connected to the Softbank network (which is only available in Japan). In other words, “roaming” is not possible with Mobal SIM cards. You can use it from the moment you land in Japan.

What about other SIM card providers?

Hanacell is said to offer voice+data SIMs, and they are actually part of the same company as Mobal. It’s another brand of theirs, which offers SIM cards to Japanese nationals who live abroad rather than foreign tourists and short-time visitors.

We have also found Sakura Mobile to offer SIM cards with phone number, but unfortunately, they only sell them to residents (you need to provide documents to prove you are one). The same applies to offers like IIJmio or b-mobile. Regular mobile phone companies such as Softbank, NTT DoCoMo, au, etc. offer both plans for residents and non-residents. The problem is that their non-resident SIMs are data only, so you can’t receive SMS or calls. If you are a resident, you can of course get a normal cell phone contract with a regular phone number.

Do you have a question or suggestion about this article? Have you found another SIM card option than Mobal? Please let us know!

Learn more about Japanese Ticketing in our “5 Basics” article, or check our calendar for upcoming concerts in Japan!

Image credit: MIKI Yoshihito, under CC license

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