SMS verification became a mandatory step on all major ticketing playguides in Japan around the end of 2017. While the initiative was introduced with good intentions (to curb ticket scalping), it also effectively prevented people living outside of Japan from applying for tickets.
This guide aims to outline a process in which foreigners are able to procure a Japanese SIM card and complete SMS verification for platforms that require it.
NOTE: As of 2018/07/27 or earlier, b-mobile discontinued their Okawari SIM card plans which this guide used. Their current offerings may work for these methods, but as it has not been tested by anyone I know, I cannot guarantee anything. If you are willing to give it a try, please do report the results to me at @southro_p (DMs are open).
2019/01/23 update: I've been informed that the b-mobile 190pad SIM works fine, so that's an option. If not, I'm sure there are other options around too. If you have found a working option, feel free to DM me on Twitter and let me know, and I will add it to the article.
IMPORTANT NOTE: As of 2019/08/29, b-mobile has strengthened their ID verification procedure for the 190Pad SIM. New SIMs purchased after this point require you to make a call from a Japanese phone number to a dedicated number to activate the SIM after you receive it. Those who are unable to make that phone call have the option of contacting their help desk to ask for manual activation, but that comes with an activation cost of 2,381 yen before tax (2,619 yen including tax), and is only payable via credit card. If the activation procedure is not completed within 20 days of the SIM card being shipped, then the application is automatically void, service is cancelled, and the up-front application cost is forfeit. You can find b-mobile's announcement of this change here (in Japanese obviously).
Unfortunately, this change makes it significantly for people living overseas to obtain a SIM now. I wish I had a solution, but unfortunately, I don't have one. However, if you are able to somehow get your hands on an SMS capable SIM, the rest of this guide is still applicable to you.
Ver 1.4.2 (2019/10/29 10:45) — Add note about new ID verification procedure.
Ver 1.4.1 (2019/01/23 17:34) — Add note about new b-mobile SIM working.
Ver 1.4.0 (2018/11/27 02:40) — Add disclaimer regarding SIM card discontinuation.
Ver 1.3.1 (2018/06/29 12:25) — Added links to jump to relevant sections in changelog.
Ver 1.3.0 (2018/06/29 12:15) — Added L-Tike verification.
Ver 1.2.0 (2018/01/17 17:30) — Added detailed instructions on using LINE Out.
Ver 1.1.1 (2018/01/17 16:50) — Update note on LINE Out Free (for Pia).
Ver 1.1.0 (2018/01/17 13:30) — Add Pia verification.
Ver 1.0.0 — Initial version with e+ and LINE verification.
Before we start, an explanation of why this is necessary is in order. Due to large amounts of phone scams in the past, Japanese mobile providers no longer sell prepaid SIM cards capable of sending/receiving SMS or making phone calls; only prepaid cards with mobile data. This forces people who want SMS or calling capability to register their details with the provider and pay a monthly fee for these services.
For this guide, we are using a MVNO provider called b-mobile. Unlike most providers, they do not require you to submit Japan-issued identification documents if you are only buying a SIM with SMS capabilities, which means foreigners can buy them. You can even receive SMS messages while roaming (i.e. not in Japan). Call capable SIM cards still require Japanese identification.
The cheapest plan you can get with b-mobile that has SMS is called the Okawari SIM, and is a ¥680 (including tax) per month rolling contract. It comes with 1GB data per month, and making calls and sending SMS messages are Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG).
Getting the SIM
Now, there are three ways you can purchase this SIM.
- From a shop in Japan such as Yodobashi Camera or Bic Camera in person.
- From an online reseller such as Amazon.co.jp.
- Directly from the b-mobile website.
The first option obviously requires you to be in Japan already, but it has the least waiting time. If you're already in Japan and want to get it sorted right away, this is the way to go.
The second option makes receiving the package easier, because Amazon can send it to most places in the world, or you can even have it delivered to a convenience store in Japan if your hotel doesn't accept deliveries.
Both of these two options will require you to register the SIM card on the b-mobile website, as well as your personal details and a payment method. Note that depending on where you bought the SIM card from, there might also be an activation fee. On Amazon, that fee should be included in the price. If you bought it from Yodobashi Camera/Bic Camera, the intial price of the SIM card will be lower, but then you have to pay the difference when registering. The fee should be around ¥3,240 in total.
Once you complete the registration, you will then have to call a designated phone number from a Japanese phone to activate the SIM card, which means you need access to a Japanese phone, or a friend with one.
The third option will save you the hassle of having to do this activation process. The downside is that b-mobile will only deliver within Japan, so if you want to receive it overseas, you will need a proxy.
Your main goal is probably this, so let's just cut right to the chase. For users that are registering a new account, you will be prompted for a phone number when you register. For people with an existing account, you can register a phone number here.
Once you register your number, press the button below the field to have the SMS sent, and then enter the code you receive in the field below that.
If you're reading this, then you probably like your anime LINE stickers. By verifying your newfound Japanese phone number with LINE, your account becomes a Japanese region account, allowing you to painlessly access Japanese region-locked stickers. To do this, you simply go to the Settings screen, press Account, and then enter your phone number. If you granted LINE permission to read your SMS messages, then the code will be automatically parsed and the process completed. If not, you will need to manually enter the code to compelete it.
It just so happens, once you verify your LINE acccount with a Japanese phone number, you are able to make use of the LINE Out VoIP service to activate your Pia account. LINE Out will set the caller ID of your outgoing call to your registered phone number, so you can just enter that in your Pia profile.
Note: LINE Out Free should work for this step. For more detailed instructions on how to do this, scroll a bit further down. If you already use LINE Out normally, you can also call using that. Pia automatically rejects the call once they receive it, so it will not cost you any credits.
Click image for bigger version
Using LINE Out (Free)
To use LINE Out (Free), you need to first access the Calls screen. This can be done by either going to
Settings > Calls and then changing the
Calls/News tab selection setting, or by going to
Settings > LINE Out and adding a shortcut to your Home screen.
After that, you can open the Calls screen, press the dialpad icon, and then dial your number and call. If you're using LINE Out Free, you will be shown an ad or two. Just watch or dismiss it. If the ad takes too long, the validity of the number Pia assigned to you might expire, so be careful about that!
On June 28, 2018, L-Tike announced that they will start requiring phone number verification from newly registered users immediately, and existing users will need to verify a phone number by late August to continue using the service. That can be done here. The process for L-Tike is a simple SMS verification like e+.