Friday, December 28, 2012

Lack of Free Wi-Fi Service

The Japanese cell phone system is different from the rest of the world. The cell phones systems used in the United States are compatible with others all over the world, with the exception of Japan. This is a huge headache to anyone who travels to Japan.

Foreign visitors have two choices; either buy a pre-paid minutes cell phone or rent a cell phone at a Japanese airport. I decided to buy a pre-paid cell phone, because I visit there at least once a year. By doing this, I have saved some money over the years, and at least kept the same number every time I visited Japan.

You would think that even if the cell phone system is different, I could use a smart phone to browse the Internet, check emails, and talk by Skype if I could pick up a Wi-Fi signal. But free Wi-Fi is hard to come by in Japan. The only true free Wi-Fi I found in Japan was at the airport in 2012.

Starbucks in Japan claims "free Wi-Fi spot", but their Wi-Fi connections are only available for the customers of a particular cell phone company. Surprisingly, McDonald's, coffee shops, and other places don't offer free Wi-Fi at all. I saw the smart phone I brought from the United States was picking up numerous signals wherever I went, but found they were all password protected.

If you stay in a hotel, you are provided complementary Wi-Fi connection as long as you are within range, but are out of luck once you wonder further away. I was staying at an apartment where there is no Internet connection. In order to get connected to the Internet, I had to ask the next door neighbor for Wi-Fi access. Graciously, the neighbor gave me his password.

I've been dreaming of the day I could use my phone in Japan, and pick up free Wi-Fi signals, but it doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon.

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