MOBILE INTERNET 

Osaka Tourist Guide now provides FREE WI-FI for Osaka's visitors

If you're travelling to Japan and would like to make use of your smartphone/tablet for handy things like google maps, trip advisor reviews etc., the high cost of data roaming has probably put you off.  WiFi access is typically only available on a subscription basis, free WiFi is not too common, but Osaka Tourist Guide now provides FREE WI-FI for Osaka's visitors. .

MiFi 

It's now possible to rent a mobile data hotspot that you can 'tether' your device to via WiFi and use all the data related features you'd normally use at home without being charged an arm and a leg for it (there may be other vendors offering similar services in other countries)

You order online no less than 3 days before you travel - choose the number of days you'd like to rent for and pay a single fee up front by credit card once availabilty of your device is confirmed.  You can then either pick it up from one of the designated airports on arrival (Tokyo Narita/Haneda) or you can have it delivered to your hotel anywhere in Japan on a specified date.  The package comes with everything you need to get going (device, charger, instructions) and a pre-paid envelope for when you need to return it..  now here's the good bit.. :)

 ..unlimited data is included in that single flat fee!   Thats right, no stupidly low per-meg/gig rate.. sure, you dont want to try and stream HD movies over it, but for most use cases its great not having to worry about how much data your smartphone is eating while it grabs your emails/facebook updates/Google maps info/weather reports!  The same companies also rent sim cards that you can use in your phone directly (if compatible), but renting a 'MiFi' works out much cheaper and if you're travelling with companions they can tether to it too.. finally coverage seems to be pretty good (used succesfully in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka/Hiroshima/Miyajima as well during transit by Shinkazen bullet train) and speeds aren't bad either (there are '3G upto 7.2mbps' and slightly more expensive '4G upto 42mbps' options to choose from).

The main downside is that you have to carry and charge up a second device (you should get several hours usage out of a single charge) but the MiFi itself is no bigger one of the than a smaller smartphones on the market.. additionally,  your own smartphone's charge should go further as its WiFi connection to the MiFi consumes less battery than when its own 3G data connection is normally in constant use (which it wont be).

The following vendors offer this rental service from the UK currently:-

http://www.globaladvancedcomm.com/poc... - 8 days rental of the 4G unit came to 8500yen total (about £55 at the current exchange rate, although this price was due to a time limited special offer). Normal price 11500 yen for 8 days. 

http://www.JapanWifiBuddy.com -  8 days rental of 4G unit came out to 8148yen total, excellent coverage and service. 

also:

Japan Mobile Rental

http://www.rentafonejapan.com/Mobile-...

http://www.jcrcorp.com/mobile/mobile_... 

(Though prices may vary)

Data SIMs  

You can also buy a prepaid SIM with a data plan on its own and pop it in a phone, your own MiFi unit, dongle, tablet, etc. 

http://www.so-net.ne.jp/prepaid/en/  available at selected airports and shops

http://service.ocn.ne.jp/mobile/one/v...   delivered

http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/inde... offer a 1Gb plan for 3980yen including shipping to your hotel.   This is the slowest product on the market.

 

Notes 

*** Any *normal* calls you make or recieve will still be charged at your regular roaming rate so try to avoid if you wish to avoid high phone bills (Although the rented MiFi connection should be fast/good enough to make Skype calls if required)

*** Ensure that your smart phones own mobile data connection remains off as its not needed

*** Android device users with any 'widgets' on their homescreens that require a data connection to update may utilise the data connection more frequently than iOS devices such as ipod/iphone/ipad 

 HOTEL INTERNET

 Be warned that if you have a hotel that offers an internet facility (paid or free/inclusive) you may not always get WiFi access which is the only option for those of you travelling with tablets/smartphones.  Many hotels only offer access via wired ethernet (not supported on tablets or smartphones), but this can be solved if you purchase a mobile travel router in advance :)

Typically costing from 15gbp, buy one in advance of your trip then in the event of only having a wired connection in your room, simply plug it into the connection and connect your devices wirelessly to the travel router instead.

GOOGLE MAPS

If for whatever reason you aren't able to get a mobile data connection whilst you're travelling but you want to use Google Maps to help you navigate around, there is a new feature introduced by Google recently that allows you to "pre-cache" and save map data so you can still navigate when off line.  You will need a data connection initially, so either do it at home before you travel or make use of your hotel internet connection/starbucks etc.

Start Google Maps and go to settings -> Labs.. there should be an option to enable Pre-Caching.  Return to the main map and search for the location you'd like to save map information on.  Press on the screen in the centre of the area of interest, a pop-up balloon should appear with the address and from there you should be able to press on it to get the option to save the area (upto 10miles radius)

- Currently tested and working on the latest update of Google Maps (April 2012 v6.6.0)