The country code for Japan is 81. Regional area codes vary from two to four digits (and always begin with a '0'); the total number of digits for landline numbers will always be 10, and 11 for mobile and IP phone numbers.
Mobile phone numbers start with 090, 080 or 070; IP phone numbers with 050; and toll-free numbers with 0120, 0070, 0077, 0088 and 0800.
When dialling Japan from abroad, dial the country code (81), drop the initial '0' and then dial the rest of the number.
Japan still has many public phones – a crucial lifeline when disasters wipe out the mobile network. Ordinary public phones are green; those that allow you to call abroad are grey and are usually marked ‘International & Domestic Card/Coin Phone’. Public phones are most commonly located around train stations.
Local calls cost ¥10 per minute; note that you won't get change on a ¥100 coin. The minimum charge for international calls is ¥100, which buys you a fraction of a minute – good for a quick check-in but not economical for much more. Dial 001 010 (KDDI), 0061 010 (SoftBank Telecom) or 0033 010 (NTT), followed by the country code, area code and local number. There’s very little difference in the rates from the different providers; all offer better rates at night. Reverse-charge (collect) international calls can be made by dialling 0051.
Japan operates on the 3G and 4G (LTE) networks. Prepaid data-only SIM cards (for unlocked smartphones only) are widely available at the airport or electronics stores.
Prepaid data-only SIM cards for unlocked smartphones are widely available and can be purchased at kiosks in the arrival halls at Narita, Haneda, Kansai and New Chitose airports, and also from dedicated desks at major electronics retailers like Bic Camera and Yodobashi Camera. You can reserve ahead online or purchase on arrival.
Two safe bets are the Japan Travel SIM (https://t.iijmio.jp/en) and Japan Welcome SIM (https://wow-j.com/en/sim_wifi). Getting the SIM to work may require some fiddling with settings, so make sure you've got a connection before you leave the counter. Staff usually speak some English.
Currently only Mobal (www.mobal.com) offers SIMs that give you an actual phone number from which to make and receive calls; they offer English-language support and can ship to your accommodation. Otherwise, the variety is huge, and which provider to go with depends on the length of your stay and how much data you need.
Many mid- to high-end hotels in cities around Japan offer complementary Handy phones, which you can use free of charge for data and calls. For a list of properties that provide this service, see www.handy.travel.