Nifty Technology

posted Jun 27, 2020, 9:03 PM by Lorna Shapiro

A surprising way in which Japan is different from North America is that wifi is not as common in stores, restaurants, public areas as it is here. Two years ago, almost no hotels I stayed at had wifi. This time most, but not all, of the hotels did. However, the only other place I could reliably find wifi was Starbucks.

A question I faced when I decided to travel to Japan was how I could reach the friends I was travelling with when we were apart. Had wifi been common, it would have been a simple thing for me to nip into a public space, get my phone on their wifi, and send a text message. But finding a place with wifi could be challenging. Also, what if my friends wanted to contact me and I wasn’t in a place with wifi? So I started looking into renting a phone or a new sim card for my phone and found that the cost was higher than I wanted to pay.

Happily, Naoko, in whose company I was travelling to Japan, had another idea and it was perfect. In Japan, it’s called “pocket wifi”. It looks like this:

Turn on this wee device that you’ve changed overnight, put it in your purse or pocket, and carry it with you during the day. It provides wifi access for you wherever you are, and it costs me less than $10/day rental and no additional usage charge. It allowed me to send and receive wifi texts at any time, in any place throughout my travels, as well as allowing me to use the browser, mail, and map applications on my phone or iPad. I had never heard of pocket wifi, even though the English on the device tells me it didn’t likely originate in Japan.