Check out our growing community of students
learning Japanese @ Japanese Lessons | Japanese Music MP3 Site | Japanese Interpreter

Phone Calls in Japan

Form of Payment

The majority of pay phones in Japan take coins and "Telephone Cards" Telephone cards can be purchased in almost all convenience stores, train station shops and many times the cards are also sold in a vending machine inside or near the telephone. The cards are sold 500 yen and 1000 yen units. A 500 yen card has 50 units. One unit is worth 10 yen of talk time. The 1000 yen card has 105 units. You get 5 bonus points with the 1000 yen card. To use the card, insert it into the card slot and simply place your call. The amount of current remaining units on the card is displayed on the phone. If your phone card has become empty during a phone call the phone will beep to let you know and then you have the option of inserting another phone card or coins. At the end of your phone call the phone card will always be returned, even if it is empty. The phone will also stamp a hole along a unit chart on top of the phone card to let you know approximately how many units are left. The hole will be stamped close to the number that best represents the remaining units.
Telephone Card
Telephone cards in units of 50
or 105 can be bought in many stores.
Telephone Card
Many people collect telephone cards,
much like postal stamps are collected.

Japanese Pay Phone
The typical Japanese public phone is green or gray or violet in color.

Warning! Don't buy that card.

Never buy a telephone card from someone off of the street! No matter what they say! If you are caught using on of these cards you could be arrested. The phone cards purchased off of the street are old phone cards with a new magnetic strip. They are sold at a super low price and may seem irresistible, but they are illegal to use, so don't even think of buying them!

Where is the coin slot?

Some phones, such as phones on the bullet train, only take telephone cards. If this is the case there is almost always a card vending machine nearby.

Only designated Pay Phones will allow calls to other countries. This will be indicated by a mark on the phone and normally calling instructions. Normally to place a call you can use coins or a telephone card, however due to the phony phone cards many coins will only let you call outside of the country with  coins. Credit cards are accepted in many of the newer phones in the metropolitan areas. Normally train stations and Airports are your best bet.

International calls

The three major international calling companies are ITJ, IDJ and KDD . To place a call, pick up the receiver and insert payment. You will NOT here a dial tone until a coin or phone card has been inserted. Then dial the access number for ITJ 0041 IDJ 0061 or KDD 001 and then dial the country code. The country code for America is 1. Then dial the area code and local number. KDD is probably the most expensive.   Recently, due to the increase in illegal phone cards, many of the international phones will not let you use a telephone card to pay for the call. If this is the case, you must use coins. 

If you have an MCI, ATT, SPRINT card etc. you will need to contact the company that issued the card for instructions on usage while in Japan.

Glossary of Terms


tereka The short name that many Japanese use when referring to a telephone cards.


kokusai denwa An international phone call.


koushuu denwa A public phone.
©2004-2011 YesJapan Corporation