With its neon-lit streets, love of robots and fast internet speeds, Japan is a fantastic destination for tech lovers. Getting the online services you need might take a bit of work, though, so we’ve looked into the best VPN for use in Japan.
Once you’ve arrived in the land of the rising sun and got yourself a new apartment with tatami mats and an automatic rice cooker, you’ll want to get online and check out the blistering internet speeds. But you may find you can’t access your Netflix account, you can’t play games with your friends and your favorite websites keep defaulting to Japanese.
There’s only one thing for it: you’ll have to get a VPN so you can access the services you know and love. Here’s a look at our top VPN services for users in Japan. For a broader look, be sure and read our best VPN buyer’s guide, too.
Best VPN for Japan 2018
What Makes a VPN the Best for Japan?
There are many reasons to use a VPN if you’re thinking of staying in Japan for any length of time. You might think the world’s gadget mecca would be technological heaven but there are a few things you’ll need to watch out for in order to stay happy online.
Gamers, whose needs we’ve discussed before, will discover the frustration of buying their favorite game on launch day only to find themselves walled off from friends back home when they try multiplayer. This is common in Japan, with developers often preferring to keep their gaming ecosystems cut off from the outside world.
Many games are also region-locked when it comes to buying online, you’ll find a surprising amount of content missing from stores if you access them from Japan. You’ll also see higher prices on a lot of titles as publishers try to protect their console games from cheaper PC competition.
Another downside of living in Japan is that the country has its own versions of many streaming services, which, for example, can leave you locked out of your favorite Netflix shows (check out our best VPN for Netflix article for more on this). Most services are available in Japan but choice tends to be limited, certainly when compared to their U.S. counterparts.
A surprising number of websites will also default to Japanese and not all of them allow you to switch languages easily. You might also get prices shown in yen and while most online stores will allow you to change the language and currency, this isn’t always the case. For consistent surfing in your own language, a VPN can help keep your surfing experience closer to what you’re used to at home.
Security and privacy are also common reasons to use a VPN. Japan doesn’t censor the internet the way some countries do — China for example — but you will often run into geoblocked content. Though Japan is a generally liberal country, it has fallen down the pecking order in recent years for things like journalistic freedom, so privacy may rightly be a concern for you.
So which VPN service should you pick for your travels in Japan? We’ve tested a range of options so that you don’t have to. While we like all of these services, each has its pros and cons, too, so take a look at what we think of them and pick the one that best matches your needs. Our top choice, due to its streaming and gaming capabilities, is NordVPN, so let’s start there.
Best VPN for Japan: NordVPN
Always a favorite at Cloudwards, you can read more about NordVPN here in our dedicated NordVPN review.
NordVPN has a great record when it comes to streaming services. You’re unlikely to have any trouble connecting to Netflix with it, so it’s a great choice for those wanting access to overseas streaming libraries. It offers great security with its free malware blocking software keeping you as safe as possible during use.
Privacy-wise, it boasts a range of features including Onion Over VPN and an automatic killswitch. It has a strict “no logs” policy keeping your activity private at all times. DNS leak protection and its double VPN system are both great ways to stay discrete.
Customer service is another strong point with live chat reps available to solve most problems. As well as that, there is a large knowledgebase for you to look up issues yourself. Its email response time isn’t the best but with the chat available you don’t have to wait for help.
NordVPN’s specialty servers are perfect for online gaming from Japan with dedicated IP servers allowing you to achieve faster speeds. With 33 servers in Japan and anti-DDoS, P2P and Double VPN available, you have a range of options available.
NordVPN offers a range of pricing options depending on how long you sign up for. The $99 for three-years package looks good to us.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN also scores highly for its easy to use client application, making setup and use a breeze. If you run into connection issues here you won’t be wondering if it’s your own fault for setting it up wrong.
Overall then NordVPN comes out on top with its streaming, gaming and customer service putting it in front of the competition. Users in Japan looking for gaming and streaming access need look no further and it is also a great general-purpose VPN.
- Great for gaming
- Easy to use
- Excellent customer service
- Not the fastest
- Mobile application not perfect
ExpressVPN is another Cloudwards favorite. Check out our review here for a more detailed look.
With a good reputation when it comes to streaming reliability, ExpressVPN holds up particularly well when connecting to servers in distant parts of the world, which makes it a great choice for Japanese users. As well as being the fastest VPN generally, speeds in Japan are excellent, with downloads hitting 31.95 Mbps in our tests, making it another good option for gamers.
Feature-wise ExpressVPN is available for all major operating systems, though it doesn’t have a client for Linux and requires setup via the command line. That isn’t the easiest way to do things, but Linux users are more likely to be familiar with that kind of thing than the rest of us.
The easy to use Windows client makes it clear when you are connected and runs when your PC boots, which is useful for those of us prone to forget to switch our VPNs on. It has a smart server feature, although this doesn’t always pick the best option so you may want to change the setting manually. ExpressVPN also includes browser extensions, allowing you to control it easily while surfing.
Cost wise, the 30-day money-back offer is great if you’re unsure whether to dip your toe in the water. It isn’t the cheapest service, however, with the monthly plan coming in at $8.32 / month if you sign up for the year.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
With customer service, ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat with good response times. Email inquiries are handled in an hour or two. It has a large knowledgebase, though it isn’t always as clear as it could be.
Security is top quality, though not the easiest to configure. In our testing, it passed everything we threw at it, including tests for DNS leaks. No logs are kept, meaning your privacy is also respected.
So overall this is another great option, but not quite up to NordVPN’s standards of service or ease of use.
- Easy to use
- 3 simultaneous connections
- Slow switch time
Another high profile choice, PIA has a great reputation for speed and privacy. Let’s take a look, and see if it’s any good for users in Japan. As far as features go, PIA isn’t the best but does have very fast server switching times as it connects to your second server before disconnecting from the first.
PIA is a major and very public player in the fight for net neutrality and is one of the best options for users concerned about their privacy, keeping no logs of any kind. Save from payment details it requires almost no user information to access the server. It passed our tests for DNS leaks and uses the OpenVPN protocol. Other protocols are available, but access needs to be requested.
Security wise PIA defaults to 128-bit encryption. This can be increased to 256-bits, but there will be a speed hit if you choose this option. The advantage of 128-bit encryption is the fast speeds you get with PIA. Our PIA review showed hugely impressive times, particularly in Japan.
With all that speed it should be good for streaming, but alas, though fast when it works it does get blocked. During our testing, iPlayer and Hulu both blocked us and we had issues with Amazon Prime video, too.
Other Reasons We Like PIA
Using PIA is simple, the options screens are basic which makes it easy to use, but you might find it doesn’t have the options you’d get in other services. It is available for all major OSes and is the only service to offer a full Linux client, so if you’re a Linux user PIA is the best option available unless you really enjoy using the command line. It is a great option for people with multiple devices, as it allows five simultaneous connections.
At a very attractive $6.95 / month, PIA is a cheap option for commitment-phobes, but those prepared to go in for the long haul will pay just $2.31 / month with a two-year subscription.
Customer service isn’t bad, but with no live chat and a limited knowledgebase, you’ll often have to wait for an email response if you have an issue. Though this can take a few hours the quality of response was good in our experience. Overall then the price and speed are plus points but difficulty connecting to services and other minor grumbles see it below our top two picks in third place.
- Easy & fast server switching
- Mediocre server network
- Can’t access most streaming services
- Can be a pain to use
AirVPN was created by enthusiasts in 2010 and that shows in its commitment to quality and attention to detail. It is great when it comes to privacy and security, but is it a good choice for Japanese VPN users?
As mentioned, privacy is its strong suit and in addition to keeping no logs of any kind, it doesn’t keep a database of account data. The only information taken from users is an email address. Users can pay via bitcoin if they want to stay anonymous. Shared servers mean that no IP address is associated with any particular user adding another layer of privacy.
Its security is top notch, with 256-bit AES-CBC and 4096-bit RSA key encryption. The key generation system it uses means that even if one session is compromised, the rest will remain safe.
The only protocol AirVPN supports is OpenVPN, tunneled via SSL or SSH which helps avoid deep-packet inspection attempts to spot VPN use. Dynamic port forwarding also keeps VPN traffic looking indistinguishable from regular traffic. These people are serious about their business and that has to be good for you.
As well as offering a minimum of 4Mbit/s upload and download AirVPN allows users to access lots of information about its servers so you can ensure the one you’re connected to isn’t too busy. We didn’t find any issue with service connection in our testing either. Its open source software is available for desktop platforms and it can be configured manually for mobile.
Other Reasons We Like AirVPN
AirVPN’s hardcore approach extends to its customer service which is likely a downside for users that don’t want too much technical detail. Its website is full of information, but short on easy guidance. Support is based on a forum and ticket system. Ticket response is quick, but only during European office hours so Japanese users will need to wait until late afternoon if they need help.
Price wise you can try it for three days for just $1.19, with a one year plan coming in at a very good value $5.35 / month.
AirVPN scores well on security and privacy so is a good choice if these are your priorities but we have marked it down for customer service and it comes in at fourth place.
- No logs
- Shared IP addresses
- Support for OpenVPN only
- Outdated website & GUI
- Not meant for tech illiterates
- Not enough servers
VyprVPN is a strong, reasonably priced service with great options for security and privacy, but does have a few minor problems. One area where VyprVPN scores well is in ease of use. Despite looking a little dated the interface is clear and simple and shouldn’t give you any problems.
It doesn’t have the best streaming capability. Our tests showed it was able to connect to Netflix U.S. but couldn’t access services in the UK and Europe, so Europeans might want to look elsewhere. Ping values are also high so VyprVPN should not be the first choice for gamers.
Customer service, unfortunately, falls a little short of Japan’s high standards. It has a good knowledgebase, though information can be hard to find. We didn’t get on too well with the live chat in our review, though the email support wasn’t too bad. That said there are better options if support is a priority for you.
Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN
Security features are excellent and include a sophisticated killswitch. It also includes a free encrypted messaging app, which you may not need in Japan, but can come in useful if you want to speak freely with contacts in less open countries elsewhere in Asia.
Like most services on our list it keeps no logs allowing you to keep your browsing private. With its P2P-friendly services, it is also one of the best choices for torrenting. A down point privacy wise is that you will need to enter your name and postcode when signing up.
At $60 / year it isn’t the cheapest service and the premium packages are pricier still. You’ll also require a credit card, Alipay or PayPal if you want to sign up, so VyprVPN is not an option for bitcoin fans. You can though take advantage of a three-day free trial if you want to check it out.
Despite being generally solid VyprVPN isn’t the best for either streaming or customer service, so finds itself rounding off our list in fifth place.
- Free 3-day trial
- Gets into Netflix U.S.
- Bit slow
- No refund policy
- Network disappoints
So there you have it, our favorite choices for Japanese VPN users. There are some great options if you’re into gaming or streaming and also services that offer top quality privacy and security.
Our top choice, NordVPN is a great option, but it isn’t the only good VPN for users in Japan. For those that want to keep looking or have other needs, be sure and check out our best VPN guide for more buying advice.
Thanks for reading, and please let us know what you think of our selections in the comments below. If you have experience of using these or other service providers in Japan, please do tell us, we’d love to hear about it.