Public Wi-Fi access slowly increasing in Japan


Japanese public transportation operators are broadening wireless Internet access services at train stations and on airplanes in line with widespread use of smartphones and in response to strong requests from foreign tourists.

Japan Airlines began to offer an onboard Internet access service via Wi-Fi wireless connections in July 2012 on some of its international flights. A satellite communications system made the service available except during takeoff and landing.

To meet growing demand, JAL plans to expand the service to domestic flights in July. All Nippon Airways launched a similar service for its international flights in March.

Railway operators are offering Wi-Fi connections targeting foreign tourists. West Japan Railway Co. will broaden its service to a total of 26 stations and related facilities in western Japan on Thursday.

East Japan Railway Co. has installed Wi-Fi service equipment at 18 stations mainly in central Tokyo.

They are responding to calls from foreigners after a survey by the Japan Tourism Agency in 2011 showed that some 24 pct of visitors to Japan, or the largest group of respondents, cited the lack of Wi-Fi and other free Internet access services as what they found the most inconvenient during their stay in Japan.

Noting that Wi-Fi services are more widely available abroad, an official that the agency believes Japan can attract more foreign tourists if free Internet connections allow them to post information about tourist spots on social networking service sites.

The agency is discussing ways to promote Internet access services further in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

  • JTCommentor

    Where sensible (i.e. probably not on planes) these services must also be free (or bundled with tickets). E.g. when travelling on a Shinkansen for 3 hours you will be without internet unless you signed up beforehand and paid a fee (probably before you even knew about this). That doesnt count as internet access. Why not include JR wide wifi access (for stations and trains) with the JR Rail pass?

  • JTCommentor

    Also – make it a little easier to get onto the cell network. While easier than 5 years ago, it is still frustrating for many foreigners trying to use one of the smaller company data cards and get really substandard internet and complicated setup proceedure (e.g. if you buy a card when already in Japan from a store, you need a Japanese cell phone to activate it.)

    Or keep it hard to maintain the magical mysterious aura of Japan.