Although Japan is renowned for having some of the best customer service on the planet, for various reasons, including language and cultural hurdles, it isn't known as the most tourist-friendly destination.
Some of those hurdles also extend into the tech arena, namely, Wi-Fi. Although sidling up to a café in Europe or North America and grabbing a bit of free Wi-Fi for your mobile device is common, finding such wireless access in tech-centric Japan's major cities remains notoriously difficult. But that's about to change.
A new program launched by NTT (Japan's largest telecom), is designed to serve foreign tourists on the hunt for Wi-Fi. For those who haven't traveled to Japan, the program might seem behind the times, but for anyone familiar with attempting to find Wi-Fi in Japan, this is huge news. (YouTube is littered with video commentary from frustrated travelers marveling at the lack of Wi-Fi access in such a technologically advanced country as Japan.)
Now, when a traveler arrives at a Japanese airport, they can present their passport and register for a Wi-Fi card that offers free Wi-Fi coverage via 45,000 hot spots in the eastern Japan area including Tokyo, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Yokohama, Nagano, Nikko, Kusatsu, Tohoku, Hokkaido and Fukushima.
Additionally, a traveler outside of the country preparing to visit Japan can download the iOS or Android version of the NAVITIME for Japan Travel app and obtain an ID and password beforehand. The app also offers an augmented reality mode that shows you a Street View-style image of the location where an available Wi-Fi hotspot is located.
However, the access only lasts for 14 days (or 336 hours), just enough to get you used to the free access, but not long enough to be truly useful for anyone planning an extended stay in Japan.
According to the Nikkei, the program is also being directed by the Japanese government, which plans to use the initiative to get more buildings in the country to offer Wi-Fi access.
The trial program, which began earlier this year, will last until September 2014.
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