WiFi, Laundry, & Luggage Storage
WiFi & Phone Data
Japan offers free WiFi at some public and commercial locations, including convenience stores, cafes, book stores, airports, and train stations. Depending on where you are from, Japan’s public WiFi availability may seem to lag behind many developed nations. However, if you are not heavily dependent on having constant connectivity to the internet, getting WiFi at just one to several spots per day on the pilgrimage may be sufficient.
In recent years, several public transportation services and convenience stores have discontinued their free WiFi services, such as Seven-Eleven and Family Mart. As of Oct 2022, notable chains that offer free WiFi are: Lawson, Starbucks, Joyfull, Komeda, and Coco’s Restaurant.
Some public WiFi services require users to register or submit a form with at least an email address, and may limit your session to a certain period of time or a certain amount of times per day. Here is an app for travelers to find and more easily connect to public WiFi during their travels.
SIM Cards & Pocket WiFi
Unlike other countries, getting phone service in Japan as a foreigner – especially while on a tourist visa – is no easy task. Since the “Act for the Prevention of Illegal Mobile Phone Use” was enacted in 2006, any person who purchases a SIM card with voice calling must have a permanent residential address in Japan. Foreigners must provide an “alien registration” to purchase it, meaning you won’t be able to get one with just a tourist visa – except for a few companies that were recently exempted. However, these options can get pricey very quickly…
At airport service counters in Tokyo (Narita/Haneda), Nagoya, or Osaka (Kansai), Softbank and AnyFone sell a prepaid SIM cards with data and voice . However, this option can be expensive – one can end up spending more than $200 USD by the end of their pilgrimage, even if they only make calls when necessary. Also be aware that Japan has atypical bands and mobile networks that may be incompatible with your phone.
Since Japan’s SIM card legislation does not apply to data services or data-only SIM cards, the more economical approach to making calls during your pilgrimage is to get data service. You can do this by (1) purchasing a data-only SIM, or (2) renting a portable pocket WiFi. While either of these can be bought at locations all around Japan, we recommend you take care of this before you embark on your pilgrimage.
If you intend to use a data SIM, make sure your smartphone is unlocked from your carrier, or else it won’t be able to read and use any other SIM card. Because most places of lodging in Shikoku accept phone reservations only, if you opt for a data-only SIM, you’ll also need to plan to use apps like Skype that offer cheap VOIP calling to international phone numbers.
A portable pocket WiFi is a device about the size of an older iPhone. It can be carried around and used as a mobile WiFi hotspot. Pocket WiFis tend to have no limits on data usage, so you won’t have to worry about using up your data.
How to Get a Data-Only SIM Card in Japan
- Order a prepaid SIM card online and have it delivered to you either before you leave, have it delivered to your hotel, or collect it once you arrive at the airport
- Purchase a data SIM at the airport when you arrive. Narita, Osaka, and Kansai International Airports sell them at various vending machines
- Buy a SIM in Japan at AEON, Yodobashi electronic stores, BIC Camera, and several other retailers. Almost all foreigner-friendly SIM cards are hosted on the NTT DoCoMo network network
- Buy a SIM from an MVNO either at in-person retailers, on the b-mobile website, or at Amazon.co.jp. Cards purchased online can be delivered to hotels, post offices at major airports, or any other Japanese address in 2–4 days
For a list of other options, visit this Wikia page.
Where to Get a Pocket WiFi in Japan
Walking and bicycle pilgrims can usually get by with only 3 or 4 changes of clothing, since laundromats are plentiful in cities and many lodgings have washing machines. Locations with laundry services can be filtered on our interactive map, and the locations of laundromats can be found in the official Shikoku guidebook.
Many minshuku provide washers for free, but otherwise they will provide coin-operated laundry machines. A washer typically costs ¥100-200 per load, and a dryer costs around ¥100 for 30 minutes. Read more about laundry services at Shikoku’s lodgings.
If you find yourself without access to a washing machine on the road and are in a pinch, you can always hand-wash your clothes in the sink of a public restroom. It is best to try to do this in a place where it is not unbecoming, like a michi no eki.
Washing your clothes in streams and rivers should be avoided. First, detergent is not environmentally friendly without water filtering. Shikoku also has no shortage of water leeches, water roaches, and snakes that thrive around slippery rocks and freshwater vegetation.
Many minshuku and ryokan lack a dryer. For this reason, it is wise to bring along clothing that dries quickly. Jeans are not recommended.
If there is a heater or air conditioning in your lodging’s room, you can bathe early and dry your clothing next to it overnight. Just don’t drape your clothing over a heater, as this can be a fire hazard.
Restrooms / Toilets
While toilets are plentiful in Shikoku, be aware that many are squat toilets. Men should know that urinals are also often in plain view of the public.
Even as a woman (it’s harder to just turn nature into my personal urinal), there were only two occasions where I had to bother someone to use their restroom. Once was a clinic, and another was a resident’s home. Public facilities like parks, roadside stations, and government buildings will almost always have restrooms that are open to the public.
One thing I was surprised by during my walking pilgrimage (and I’m not alone in this) was that my need to use the bathroom in general declined. Walking outside all day will cause you to lose a lot of fluids through sweat and will supercharge your metabolism, especially if you go during cooler seasons. Even when constantly drinking water, you’ll likely find you’ll need to use the restroom less often than on a normal day outside of the pilgrimage.
Bathing and Staying Clean
If you are sleeping outdoors or at campsites during your pilgrimage, it can be difficult to stay clean. I met a Japanese pilgrim who enjoyed bathing in rivers and streams every now and then, and other times would use wet wipes to clean himself. Once, during a particularly remote stretch of the pilgrimage, I took a “bird bath” by washing myself with bar soap from the sink in a public restroom since there was a drain on the ground.
After a long day of walking, nothing beats the ultimate Japanese experience: enjoying a long, relaxing soak at an onsen (hot spring) or sento (public bath). These typically only cost about ¥400-¥800 and are a unique way to immerse yourself in a traditional slice of Japanese life. Even if staying at a hotel, minshuku or ryokan, we still recommend that you check out a few of the famous bathhouses in Shikoku. You can search our interactive map for locations.
Long-term Baggage Storage and Lockers
If you are traveling from overseas to do the pilgrimage, you might need to store some luggage before you embark with just the essentials. Similarly, many pilgrims like to travel throughout Japan or visit Mount Kōya after completing their journey, and so they need to store larger bags for a couple months while walking.
A pilgrim has several options for this, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.
Airport Luggage Services
Luggage storage services can be found at most international airports. If you are doing the pilgrimage on foot or by bicycle, you might need to store your luggage for longer than is allowed. Narita International Airport, for example, limits baggage size and weight to 1 cubic meter and 30kg, and will only allow storage of up to 30 days. Different airports have different restrictions on weight, size, and the duration of storage. See the table below for more info.
Coin lockers can be found at most airports or in the alleyways of large cities. They come in small, medium, and large.
The time that you can keep things in a locker depends on where the locker is located; for example, Narita International Airport allows a maximum duration of only 8 days. JR (Japan Railway) train stations only allow up to 3 days, with prices ranging from ¥300 to ¥500 per day.
Lockers can be quite pricey long-term; even if the duration of storage is not limited, spending ¥300-¥500 a day will cost you about ¥13,500-¥22,500, excluding surcharges for extended term storage. Prices listed for the coin lockers are tax included, and charges for the next day begin at midnight each day. Read the policies carefully, as prices will generally go up after a few days.
|Airport/ Station||Baggage Storage Services Per Day||Coin Lockers Per Day|
|Narita International Airport||¥310-820 max. 30 days||¥300-500 max. 8 days|
|Osaka International Airport||N/A||¥300-500 extra charges after 5 days|
|Kansai International Airport||N/A||¥300-600 max. 10 days|
|Shin-Osaka Station||¥410 ¥820 after 5 days||¥300-500|
|JR Osaka Station||¥400-500||¥300-500|
|JR Kyoto Station||¥420 ¥840 after 5 days max 15 days||¥300-500|
Leaving Luggage at a Place of Lodging
Some lodgings near Temple 1 allow walking and bicycle pilgrims to leave luggage on the first day of their journey and collect it once they return. They may charge a fee for this, and you will almost certainly need a reservation ahead of time to arrange the service. Of course, it will also require the pilgrim to spend their first night at this lodging.
Shipping Luggage After Your Pilgrimage
Depending on your storage choice, consider that it may be more economical to simply have someone ship your bags from your home country to wherever you’ll stay in Japan after you’ve finished your pilgrimage.
- Narita International Airport Baggage Storage
- Osaka International Airport Baggage Storage Services
- Osaka International Airport Coin Lockers
- Kansai International Airport Baggage Storage
- Osaka Station Baggage Storage Services
- JR Osaka Station (Google-translated)
- Coin Lockers at JR Stations
- JR Kyoto Station Baggage Storage Services (Japanese)