Best VPN for Japan

Japan is home to some of the most beautiful places, with temples everywhere and the icon Mt Fuji. Plus, it’s the birthplace of sushi, sumo wrestling and crazy vending machines. It’s a world leader in innovation and technology and there’s no doubt you’ll be online while you’re there. Using one of our best VPNs for Japan will help to protect you.

It’s smart to use a virtual private network, no matter where you are in the world. Many countries exercise censorship to varying degrees, with one of the worst being China. A VPN will help you bypass that, as well as keep you protected from online dangers and monitoring.

It will also help you circumvent geoblocks, so you’ll be able to access your favorite shows and other content, even if it’s restricted to a certain country. Some websites default to Japanese, too, and you may find it difficult to switch languages. A VPN will help you keep your browsing experience familiar.

Censorship in Japan

Censorship isn’t a major problem in Japan. Social media, YouTube and blogs are free to use, as well as a local video-sharing website called Niconico Doga and the Japanese chat app, LINE. Article 21 of Japan’s constitution forbids censorship, but in 2018, the government instructed internet service providers to block websites associated with manga piracy.

At least three websites were targeted, including Mangamura, AniTube! and MioMio. For an ISP to block a particular website, though, it must monitor its customers’ online activity to see if they are accessing the website. In other words, it would be invading the privacy of its users, which would be a violation of the law.

An NTT customer, who is also a lawyer, took legal action against the provider and demanded that it stop blocking websites immediately. He argued that in order to block websites, it would need to spy on users’ internet usage, which conflicted with the Telecommunications Business Act and the constitutional ban on censorship and privacy violation.

Since the public debate, the government announced it will introduce legislation in 2019 that will allow it to block websites. Currently, the law only allows it to block websites hosting images of child sexual abuse. ISPs voluntarily filter those and offer users a filter to protect youths.

Because of the 2001 Provider Liability Limitation Act, ISPs adhere to guidelines that govern takedown requests to protect themselves from liability. Requests can involve illegal or objectionable content, privacy violations, copyright infringement and defamation. The public can report content to the Internet Hotline Center, which received almost 600,000 reports in 2017.

Article 175 of the penal code prohibits the sale or distribution of obscene material. It’s old legislation but it still applies online. That said, obscene is not defined and that has led to concerns that it could be used against artistic expression or LGBT rights.

Freedom of Speech in Japan

Article 21 of the constitution also protects freedom of speech and other forms of expression. In general, those rights are upheld, but there are issues regarding hate speech toward people of other origins, particularly South Korean and Chinese communities. Some cities have taken action by enacting local ordinances on hate speech.

For example, Osaka passed one that authorized the public to reveal groups that spread hate speech against a particular racial or ethnic group. That led to at least two online videos being removed by request in 2017.

Online news can also be manipulated. For instance, the Tokyo Electric Power Company withheld data about pollution after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. Government officials were said to have put pressure on what content was released in order to control public discourse.

Though freedom of speech is not severely affected, there are laws and issues that affect it.

Surveillance and Privacy in Japan

Privacy is protected by Article 13 of the constitution and the secrecy of communication is protected by telecommunications laws. That said, there have been concerns about increased surveillance.

A wiretap law enacted in 2000 allows law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance under a court order for criminal investigations that involve drugs, human trafficking, firearms and organized murders. It was expanded in 2016 to include theft, fraud and images of child sexual abuse.

The Justice Ministry reported that 10,957 cell phone conversations were tapped in 2017, resulting in 61 arrests. Those found to be planning to commit serious crimes to fund terrorism can be arrested, but they have to be under surveillance to find that out. A conspiracy law that allows for more government surveillance was enacted in 2017.

Authorities have been accused of abusing surveillance powers, too. In 1997, the government was ordered to pay a senior member of the Japanese Communist Party 4 million yen ($35,500) for illegally wiretapping his home. Japan’s military conducted illegal surveillance on ordinary citizens between 2003 and 2004, as well.

Leaked documents in 2013 showed that the mass surveillance system, XKEYSCORE, was supplied to the Japanese by U.S. intelligence agents. It can monitor almost everything a user does on the internet.

Requests for user data are common, with the messaging app LINE reporting that the majority of requests it received in 2018 came from Japanese law enforcement. Google and Facebook also reported requests, but they don’t comply unless there is a warrant or other legal reason.

Some mobile carriers require customers to provide ID to subscribe. Internet cafes require users to provide ID, as well as their names and addresses. Those details, and users’ usage logs, can be requested by police if there is suspicion of illegal activity. To protect minors, online dating services have to register with the policy and verify their customers’ ages with ID.

Online Dangers in Japan

Downloading copyrighted material is illegal in Japan, as it is in many countries, including Germany. Punishment varies, with uploaders receiving up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 10 million yen ($91,000). Those who download even a single pirated file can face up to two years in jail or a fine of up to 2 million yen ($18,000).

Five people were arrested after uploading pages of manga to websites before they were officially published. Two were sentenced to 18 months in prison, along with a three-year suspension and a fine of 500,000 yen ($4,500). A VPN will help keep you anonymous.

Public WiFi is on the rise, but using it can put you at risk of cybercrime. The connections are often unsecure, giving hackers and viruses a free pass if you don’t protect yourself. Plus, in 2015, over 1 million Japanese citizens had their personal information leaked after hackers obtained it from Japan’s pension system illegally.

Best VPN for Japan 2019

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What Makes a VPN the Best for Japan

For the most part, VPNs have the same sort of features, but some are better than others when you look deeper. For Japan, you want to choose one that has good security because that will protect you from surveillance and cyberattacks.

It’s also a good idea to get a VPN with a killswitch, especially if your activities are of a risky nature. If the provider your choose includes, you won’t need to worry about the VPN failing because the killswitch will automatically disconnect you from the internet. That means your data will be kept private.

You should make sure the provider has a strict no-logs policy, as well. That basically means it won’t keep a record of your activities, so if the authorities were to ask for it, there would be nothing to give them.

Another important feature is its server network. The more servers a provider has, the better your chances of finding a suitable one will be. You’ll need it to have some in Japan, too, if you want to access content restricted to that country.

Let’s say you’re traveling and you want to watch a local TV channel online or Netflix Japan. You’ll need a Japanese server to gain access. The same goes for other versions of Netflix. For example, you’d need a U.S. server for U.S. Netflix. Our best VPN for Netflix guide has a list of those up to the task.

You’ll want to choose one that has fast speeds and no bandwidth caps. That is especially important if you want to stream or download. Nobody likes staring at a loading screen and slow speeds will give you just that. Plus, hitting the cap on limited bandwidth will cause the VPN to stop working.

Other factors to consider are ease of use, compatible devices, how many devices can be connected at once, quality of customer service and price.

Best VPN for Japan: NordVPN

NordVPN is our winner for Japan. It’s a great provider that often gets mentioned in our articles. It has some of the best security around, with the option to use it’s double-hop encryption for even more protection. There’s a killswitch, too, and your privacy is honored with a no-logs policy.

It has thousands of servers around the world, including 83 in Japan, giving you an excellent chance of finding a suitable one. Its speeds are good, but they can slow down over long distances. There is no limit to bandwidth and it can switch servers quickly.

It’s a good choice if you want to stream because it has no trouble getting into most services, including Netflix. It’s also our best VPN for torrenting. Read our full NordVPN review for more details.

Other Reasons We Like NordVPN

Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and they are easy to set up and use. You can connect up to six devices at the same time.

NordVPN has a handy knowledgebase that should help you with most common issues. Failing that, there’s live chat and email support. Use live chat for the fastest response, but the staff are helpful either way.

NordVPN is a good value for the money with its affordable monthly plan, but you can save by signing up for a longer period. There’s a 30-day refund window if you’re worried you won’t like it.


Pros:

  • Large server network
  • Works with Netflix
  • Inexpensive multi-year plans

Cons:

  • Inconsistent speed across network
Starts from $ 299 per month
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ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is another good choice because it’s one of the best VPN providers around. It only missed our top spot because of the amount of servers NordVPN has. The two are comparable, though, as you can read in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN article.

It has excellent security by default and you can increase it. There’s also a killswitch and it doesn’t keep a log of your online activities. Its server network covers over 90 countries, with three servers in Tokyo.

You shouldn’t have a problem with speed because it’s the fastest VPN on the market, though its server switch time is slow. There are no bandwidth caps. ExpressVPN came first in our best VPN for streaming piece, so it’s a great choice if that’s what you want to do. Our ExpressVPN review has more information on the provider.

Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN

It can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It’s an excellent choice if you don’t have experience with VPNs because it’s easy to use. Almost everything is done for you out of the box. You just have to make sure you connect to a suitable server. Up to three devices can be connected simultaneously.

The customer service is good and available 24/7 via live chat and email. The response time is slower than its rivals’, but it’s not too bad and the staff are helpful. There’s also a large knowledgebase.

A downside to ExpressVPN is that it’s one of the most expensive VPN services. That said, with the quality of service you get, it’s worth the money. Plus, you can save by opting for a longer subscription. If you’re wary of committing straight away, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee, giving you plenty of time to make sure you’re happy with it.


Pros:

  • Large server network
  • Fast
  • Accesses all streaming platforms

Cons:

  • Expensive
Starts from $ 666 per month
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CyberGhost

You could use CyberGhost for Japan, as well. It has great security to protect you and there’s a killswitch included. It won’t keep a log of your online activity either.

There are servers in more than 60 countries, with 32 being in Japan, so you should have no trouble finding a suitable one.

It has good speeds, but they aren’t as good as our top choices and, like NordVPN’s, they can slow down over long distances. There is unlimited bandwidth, though, and it can get into most streaming services. Read more on the provider in our CyberGhost review.

Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost

There are clients for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The interface has been updated, so it is better than it used to be. It still may take getting used to, though. Up to seven devices can be connected simultaneously, earning it second place in our best VPN for multiple devices piece. That said, seven is the installation limit, too.

If you need help, you can turn to the extensive knowledgebase, which should be enough for minor issues. Live chat and email are also available 24/7 if you need further assistance.

CyberGhost has an affordable monthly price, but you’d be better off signing up for a longer term because you’ll save money. You can use the free seven-day trial to see if you like it. If you’re still not sure after that, there’s a money-back guarantee to fall back on, but the length varies depending on the plan you choose. Short plans get 14 days and the longer ones get 45.


Pros:

  • Gets into Netflix
  • 7 simultaneous connections
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • No killswitch controls
Starts from $ 275 per month
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Private Internet Access

Our fourth choice is Private Internet Access which is a good service that lacks some of the features its rivals have. It has good security, but is set to 128-bit encryption by default. You can increase it manually to the more secure 256-bit encryption, but doing so will slow down your connection.

The service provides a killswitch and it doesn’t keep a record of your activity. Be sure to read our PIA review for a better look at the company.

PIA has more than 3,000 servers, but they only cover 33 countries. There are 18 in Japan, though, so you’ll be able to find one that suits your needs. A strong point for PIA is its speed, but that’s mostly because of the lighter encryption it uses. Once you increase the encryption, the VPN will slow down. Its speeds are still okay, though.

You can switch servers fast and do so without having to disconnect from the one you’re using. You’ll also benefit from unlimited bandwidth. One thing to note about PIA, though, is that it’s not great at getting into streaming services other than U.S. Netflix, so if that’s on your to-do list, you’d be better off with one of our other selections.

Other Reasons We Like PIA

You can install PIA on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The clients are easy to use and it’s the only VPN with a full Linux client, which is why we named it the best VPN for Linux. You can connect up to five devices at a time, too.

If you run into problems, there’s a decent knowledgebase online that should help you fix small issues. You can contact customer support 24/7 for more assistance, but don’t let the chat button fool you. Clicking it will only let you send PIA an email. The help is thorough, though, even if it is slower than its rivals.

The monthly price isn’t bad and you get a decent service, but you’d still spend less by signing up for a longer term. There’s a seven-day money-back guarantee, too, so you’ve got enough time to make sure you’re happy.


Pros:

  • Easy, quick server switching
  • Fast speeds
  • Gets into U.S. Netflix

Cons:

  • Mediocre server network
  • Doesn’t get into most streaming services
  • Can be a pain to use
Starts from $ 349 per month
Save 65 %

HideMyAss

Our last pick is HideMyAss. It isn’t a bad choice, but it isn’t as good as our other selections, either. It has good security that’s set at AES 256-bit encryption by default. A killswitch is included, as well.

Though it claims to have a good privacy policy, the fine print is troubling. It keeps some usage logs. For example, it will store logs of when you connected and disconnected for 30 days and it may log more than that if requested to by authorities.

It has over 900 servers. That’s nowhere near as many as our other picks, but they cover a huge 190 countries. There are six in Japan, too, which is the main reason it made our list. Its speeds are good enough for most activities and there are no bandwidth limits. HideMyAss can also get into most streaming services.

Other Reasons We Like HideMyAss

You can use HideMyAss’s user-friendly clients on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and you can have up to five connections at the same time.

If you need help, there’s a good knowledgebase, which should be enough to fix small problems. Live chat is fast, but it can take a member of the staff a while to respond if you use the email option. You can read more about that in our HideMyAss review.

Its monthly price is expensive compared to others, but there is a seven-day trial you can take advantage of. Just make sure to cancel during the trial period because you’ll be billed for a 12-month subscription if you don’t. You’ll still be able to use the full seven days even if you do cancel. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, too, in case you forget.


Pros:

  • Killswitch
  • Over 900 servers
  • Gets into streaming services

Cons:

  • No choice of encryption protocols
  • Logs information
Starts from $ 499 per month

Final Thoughts

We hope we’ve helped you understand why you should use a VPN in Japan and which features you need to get the best experience. You need good security to protect you and it’s a good idea to look for a VPN with a killswitch and no-logs policy.  Plus, you’ll want servers in Japan and the ability to get into streaming services.

NordVPN is our top choice because it has excellent security, a killswitch and it doesn’t keep a log of your activity. Plus, it has 83 servers in Japan and it’s great at getting into streaming services. There’s a 30-day refund period, so you can make sure you like it.

If you have experience using a VPN in Japan, leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear about it. Thank you for reading.

Starts from $ 299 per month
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One thought on “Best VPN for Japan 2019: Land of the Rising Wiretap”

  1. Great list. Tried almost all of it and I think I have to agree with your first positions. If talking mainly about VPN services that work in Japan I can also share that NordVPN worked for me while traveling around Asia. I’d like to add that if you have any problems connecting – their support can help you immediately. Well, for me they were very friendly.

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