Visiting Japan always seems to bring up phone issues for me. I've got a crappy old 2G network phone at the moment which cost me $35 which is fine because I rarely use it. I go through about $10 credit every couple of months because I mostly communicate via email.
If I had a smart phone, I'd have no problems going to Japan because the international roaming charges on my phone aren't so bad and I only really need a phone to avoid hassles when meeting up with friends. That will probably just be a few text messages or no big deal. But I don't have a smart phone so I'm finding my options are:
* Buy a smart phone - which would be okay but there are no decent unlocked ones in the $100 price range anywhere at the moment. I would never pay $600 or more for a phone. I could get a decentish Samsung one but they have been playing radio ads here that say women are too stupid to understand technology and that really gives me the shits.
* Hire a phone. I thought it was at least $10 a day to hire a phone but you can get one from Softbank for 250 yen a day (old style) or 300 yen a day (smart phone). That would be totally sweet except that they preauthorise $400 on your credit card and every time I've lived in Japan I've got a fuckton of wack charges on my bill that make it way outside the amount I expected it to be. Plus the call/email charges aren't much cheaper than I'd get with the roaming plan with my carrier here.
Also it would cost around $100 so I'd be better off buying a phone here and having it when I get back.
* Don't take a phone and rely on using wifi with my tablet and pay phones. I think most train stations still have pay phones. I've signed up for wifi with Starbucks plus I think McDonalds and 7-11 have wifi so I should be okay even in smaller cities. From the looks of things, the wifi situation in Japan has improved a heap since I was last there.
I'm leaning towards the last option because I'm a cheapskate and really I'm only meeting with a few friends.
We get a keitai and a portable wifi with our apartment in Tokyo (love Air BnB) and most places I'm staying have Wifi so I think I'll cope. I mean people did before phones were invented.
If you know any other options, I'd love to know. I tried asking on facebook in case anyone had an old smartphone they weren't using but got no response.