NTT is the default service provider in most areas. If you are renting an apartment and your phone line is already activated when you move in, you probably have an NTT line. You can still change your service if you want, however.
In Japan, it is possible to choose separate providers for local and international calls. While you will have to juggle two phone bills if you go this route, it does offer some flexibility in calling rates.
The best resource for service providers is MYLINE, which allows you to select your phone service online.
Getting a phone line in Japan
In addition to choosing a carrier, you will need to check if you have access to a phone line. In many cases, you will inherit the line used by your property´s previous tenant. Your landlord will be able to tell you if this is the case. If it is not, you may have to pay for a new line, or rather, a “phone line bond.” This payment gives you access to a phone line.
Fortunately, it is possible to buy used bonds through the classifieds sections in most Japanese newspapers. These bonds are significantly cheaper. Both new and used phone line bonds can be re-sold before you leave Japan, so you stand to make most of your money back regardless of how much you pay.
Note that a phone line bond is not the same as a physical phone line. If you do not have a phone line outlet installed in your home, you will need to pay for that in addition to the bond. Most rental properties will already have a physical phone line installed. New bonds from NTT usually cost around 80,000 yen, which includes the cost of installation.
Calling rates in Japan
Calling rates vary from company to company, but they are almost always calculated based on three-minute intervals. 9 yen for three minutes is a fairly average price.
Rates are also calculated for different times of day, so calling in the evening is cheaper than during the day. The cheapest rates of all are available between 23:00 and 8:00. Naturally, international calls are more expensive – they can run over 50 yen for three minutes during daytime hours.
Internet-based phone services offer cheaper international rates than landlines. Certain internet companies (such as ASAHI Net) offer phone and internet service packages that reduce international calls to as little as 8 yen per three minutes.
Paying your phone bill
You can pay your phone bill just like any other Japanese utility bill, either automatically through your bank account or in person at any bank, convenience store, or post office.