WiFi In Tokyo

In a move likely to unsettle even the most avid readers of this site, I’m gonna break a record and boldly post my second entry in a month featuring somewhat, gasp, useful stuff…

This is not gonna become a habit: I swear I’ll be back to incoherent, immature, egotistic rants soon enough.

During my painful, NTT-induced, crossing of the cyber-wilderness, I had to find alternate ways of connecting to the mothership for daily instructions: wifi sounded like a good option. So, I asked around what were the best/cheapest/most convenient hotspots to download wireless broadband porn in Tokyo. I got a few pointers from friends as well as some very useful suggestions from the nice folks on the JapanBloggers mailing list…

Here is a short summary of my modest experience with the whole WiFi thing in Tokyo, hoping that can be of use to some people.

This is by no mean an extensive list of hotspots, not even close actually; more like general comments on the different wifi options available in the city (but if you have any cool spots to recommend, by all means, post a note)…

War-driving is a nice concept and all… definitely appealing to my inner-geek and my outer-cheapskate… BUT, it’s just not really convenient to walk around crowded Shinjuku streets, navigating with a 15 inch half-opened laptop in one hand and a reception antennae in the other hand… and as for walking the residential neighbourhoods, more likely to host some unprotected wifi home-network: I think I do get stopped often enough when just riding my bike home, I dare not imagine of what would happen if the cops were alerted to some weird gaijin roaming around while waving heavy pieces of electronic equipment (they’d probably unleash the SDF or Godzilla on me). Not to mention you then have to sit on the ground in tokyo’s winter and typing your emails with mitts on might take out a lot off the euphoria of not paying for it.

Paying hotspot aggregator, such as Yahoo BB, Docomo etc. do not sound overly expensive and give quite a nice coverage (most Doutors and McDs are covered by Yahoo BB)… but I guess they are really afraid to clog their bandwidth, because no amount of goodwill, tenacity and patience will be enough to get you an account within that lifetime. I thought the whole idea was for people on the go to get an easy connection, and therefore, that it made sense to offer fast and seamless account creation. Obviously, this point-of-view is not shared by the people at Yahoo BB:

– First, there’s no way you’ll get an account (like a rechargeable card or whatnot) by just walking in a Doutor and asking for it: that’d be just too ridiculously easy. Actually, ask the guys at the counter how you are supposed to get one, and you’ll get the same look as if you had just ordered a triple-cheeseburger with extra salad… it took about three guys to finally get an answer along the line of: go to yahoo’s website.

– Then, you manage to get an internet connection and, instead of doing essential stuff like checking and responding to emails, you spend about 5 hours trying to navigate through Yahoo BB’s idea of a website. Their concept is that, if you are still there after half-a-day, they might be able to pitch you a dozen services in replacement of the one you were originally trying to purchase. Let’s just say that, even though there is supposedly an option to get a WiFi subscription without going for the whole crappy ISP package, I have yet to find it.

Actually, going by some people’s account, setting-up Yahoo broadband altogether requires an incredible level of determination: “See, Yahoo’s so filthy rich we don’t need your damn money, ok? Beside, we sent all the sales people and the webmaster on the street, dressed in sailor suits, to give away free yahoo cellphone keychain: they’ll take care of your order as soon as they come back.”

Since nobody would take my money, that left me with Free Hotspots: there are a few…

Only problem with most free hotspot located in trendy bars and cafés is that, while they are useful to get a quick glimpse at your mails, if you start setting-up your mobile cubicle and get into a 5-hour mail writing session, you might end getting a few sideway glances from the personel who do not fancy their place turning into a lair of salaryman geekitude…

Nonetheless, one really cool place to go drink a beer while accessing the net, is Good Day Café in Omotesando, which is equipped with an outdoor patio, a nice selection of import beers and decent food. I can already foresee a few super-casual-friday work afternoons spent there this summer…

Café La Voie, in Shinjuku (inside Kadoya hotel, near South Exit) is also a rather good spot with tasty pastries and complete drink-menu, though slightly expensive for any prolonged session.

In the end, Manga/Internet Cafés turned out to be the no-brainer solution when in need of easy, quick and cheap connection for extensive periods of time…

Maboo Café (sporting a logo suspiciously close to Yahoo’s), a corner away from Café La Voie in Shinjuku will get you the usual combo: free soft drinks plus private connection booth, for about 300 yen/h. You can supposedly use your own laptop, but you ought to bring a pair of scissors in order to discreetly free-up the extra length of ethernet cable, rolled and tied behing the desk with these iritating plastic thingies, and plug your laptop rather than attempt to use their poor excuse of a wifi network.

To recap: if you are in need of a net connection in Tokyo, I’d recommend going first for free hotspots (even if you don’t mind paying), and consider internet cafés (usually they are mixed-in with “Manga kissaten” places and serve more as porn repositories than roadwarrior headquarters, but they do the job) if you need a more steady connection without having to worry about hogging out a seat in a coffeeshop all afternoon long.

A few links and recommendations (most from the JapanBloggers forum: thanks guys!):

  • A list of internet cafés in Tokyo
  • Hotspot locator
  • MapFan also has a convenient hotspot-indicator feature (in Japanese).
  • Did not have a chance to try myself, but somebody recommended Linux Café in Akihabara, which is actually a Pronto with Hotspot and power. Come 5pm they turn into more of a bar.
  • Also according to a fellow blogger: Tully’s in Akasaka has free net access (maybe others?).

    Definitely mail me if you got any good suggestions that deserves a special mention…

  • 3 comments

    1. http://www.hotspot.ne.jp

      You can by daypass for 500yen in most mini stop, and they have a rather large amount of hotspots throughout japan.

      If you have an address where you can recieve snail mail, you can sign up for free usage of these hotspots for 1500yen/month.

      Right now I’m writing from a MiniStop in Roppongi using a day pass, seems to work.

    2. It is so funny to observe the way evolution crawls: only a part U wrote here about wi-fi hotspots in Tokyo at the summer of 2005 – are now introduced in my city Kiev – capital of Ukraine.

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