Freedom House awarded Japan a 2019 Internet Freedom Score of 73/100 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free), marking the third straight year that internet freedom declined in the island country.
The 2001 Provider Liability Limitation Act allows ISPs to deal with take-down requests in the case of defamation, privacy violations and copyright infringement. Only those directly affected by the situations above can report the content for removal.
Torrenting is illegal in Japan. Japanese authorities have been cracking down on file sharing sites in recent years. In February 2016, Japanese police arrested 44 people in a nationwide piracy crackdown.
Access to popular social networks – such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many others – is completely unrestricted in Japan.
In 2017, a conspiracy law came into effect, which allows police to seek permission to wiretap electronic communications for a wider variety of reasons.
Netflix is available in Japan, as is a Japanese version of Hulu. However, the content on those services as well as others is different than that found in other countries.
Luckily, Japanese residents and visitors need not worry about any of the above, thanks to the availability of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). A VPN protects your online activities from observation by prying eyes, while also opening access to content that might normally be geo-blocked to users in the island nation.
In this article, I’ll be offering up information about the 5 best VPNs for use from inside of Japan, and which will also provide access to content from inside Japan when you’re outside of the country.
How to Use a VPN From Inside Japan
Using a VPN inside Japan requires only a few easy steps:
- Subscribe to a VPN provider. (My favorite provider is ExpressVPN.)
- Install the provider’s app(s) on your favorite connected device(s).
- Log into the VPN service.
- Select a VPN server located outside of Japan to access geo-blocked content, or connect to a server inside of Japan if you simply desire to protect your online activities or if you’re located outside of Japan and are looking to access content restricted to Japan.
- Enjoy your newfound internet freedom!
Best VPNs for Use in Japan
Extensive testing has revealed the top 5 VPN providers for use inside of Japan. The TL;DR version is as follows:
- ExpressVPN: This venerable VPN provider offers the best protection and enhancement for your Japanese internet connection. ExpressVPN provides top-notch encryption, fast download speeds, excellent global server coverage and comprehensive app support.
- NordVPN: This provider deserves a close look from users who are in the market for a high level of VPN protection at a low price. That low annual price belies the provider’s strong encryption, excellent service and top-notch customer support.
- CyberGhost: Rookie device or VPN users are strongly advised to investigate the easy-to-use yet powerful VPN services that CyberGhost offers. The provider’s easy-to-use apps offer access to a comprehensive global server network that provides quick access to streaming- and file sharing-optimized servers.
- PrivateVPN: While it’s true this provider’s global server coverage is a bit thin, its fast connection speeds and optimal online protection via a proprietary “Stealth VPN” feature help make up for any lack in the global server coverage category.
- Surfshark: This provider offers a small but quickly-growing global server network that delivers access to numerous countries around the globe. The provider’s fast download speeds are also a plus, as is its unlimited simultaneous connections allowance.
When I ranked the providers on this list, I considered the following factors:
- Global server network (includes servers in Japan)
- Security and privacy features
- Connection speeds
- App support
- Customer support
Note: While this article concentrates on using a VPN inside Japan to protect your online activities and to access geo-blocked content, it also covers using the service to access content from inside Japan while you are outside of the country. Due to that, I have only included VPN providers that have servers stationed inside of Japan.
Here is my list of the 5 best VPNs for use inside of Japan.
ExpressVPN is the absolute best choice for protecting and enhancing your online activities both inside Japan and while traveling internationally.
The provider’s global server network is one of the best in the business and is made up of 3,000+ servers located in Japan and 93 other countries around the world.
No worries on the online anonymity end of things thanks to the provider’s military-level encryption, a kill switch, and IPv6 and DNS leak protection. A split-tunneling option allows you to specify which apps use the ExpressVPN encrypted tunnel.
Privacy after the fact is also well tended to thanks to the provider’s no-logs-ever server policy and a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
ExpressVPN’s connection speeds are second to none, coming in as fastest of them all in my most recent round of download speed tests. Movie fans will appreciate the provider’s 4K- and HD-capable connections, as will gamers and file sharing fans. No data caps to worry about with this provider.
App support is another arena where ExpressVPN beats many of its competitors. The provider’s app selection includes offerings for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available.
Router features protect all of your connected devices. Up to 5 devices can connect simultaneously on the same account.
Customer support is always available, with 24/7 live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket tracking system and a searchable support library.
- Comprehensive global server coverage
- 4K- and gaming-capable download speeds
- Reliable access to content in Japan and other countries
- Excellent privacy and security safeguarding
- Apps for all popular devices
- More expensive than many competitors
BEST VPN FOR JAPAN:ExpressVPN is my #1 VPN choice for use both inside and outside of Japan. The provider delivers reliable, well-protected connections to content around the globe. It offers more than enough connection speeds for any online activity you can think of. A 30-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
The budget-price option in this roundup, NordVPN offers champagne service at a beer-bottle price.
While NordVPN’s global server count isn’t the largest on this list, it’s good enough for 3rd place. A server count of 5,500+ located in Japan and 57 other countries offers better-than-average access to content around the globe.
Privacy is also never a worry due to the provider’s no-server-logs policy and a cryptocurrency option for subscriptions.
The provider’s connection speeds trail the other providers this time around, but I cannot call their speeds slow. NordVPN can easily handle HD streaming, online gaming and file sharing. Plus, there are never any data caps imposed on your usage.
App support includes offerings for the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available, as is extensive router compatibility. Up to 6 devices can connect to the service simultaneously.
Customer support is always available, made up of around-the-clock live support chat, email support and a searchable knowledge base.
- Servers in Japan and 57 other countries
- Good app support
- Low-priced annual subscription prices
- Comprehensive privacy and online security
- Slowest connections in this roundup
BEST BUDGET VPN OPTION:NordVPN is the best bet for budget-minded users looking for reliable VPN service that doesn’t break the bank. The provider’s services compare well with more expensive providers, but for a lower annual asking price. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
First-time VPN users or users without much computer experience are advised to consider CyberGhost thanks to its easy-to-use yet powerful app selection.
CyberGhost’s global server network is one of the best around, with 5,800+ servers located in 89 countries, including Japan. The provider’s server network includes streaming- and file sharing-optimized servers in numerous locations around the globe.
“Easy to use” doesn’t mean the provider lacks optimal online security or privacy protections. In addition to military-level encryption, IPv6 and DNS leak prevention, and a kill switch, CyberGhost also offers ad and tracker blocking and the ability to force websites to serve up HTTPS versions of their pages when available.
Privacy protections include a no-server-logs-ever policy, as well as a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
Streaming fans will appreciate this provider’s HD- and 4K-capable download speeds. Gamers and users who download and share large files will also appreciate the provider’s fast connections. Plus, there are never any data caps to get in the way of the fun.
All of CyberGhost’s apps are easy to use, and they are available for all of the popular device platforms I can think of, including the Amazon Fire, Android, Android TV, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are available.
Router protection is also available. Up to 7 devices can connect to the service simultaneously.
24/7 customer support is made up of always-available live support chat, email support, a trouble ticket system and a searchable support database.
- Wide-ranging global server coverage
- Fast download speeds
- Easy-to-use apps
- Specialty servers
- Advanced users might miss some options
BEST BEGINNER VPN OPTION:Rookie VPN users and computer users with little online experience will appreciate this easy-to-use provider’s excellent protection, which doesn’t make things complicated. The CyberGhost server network includes streaming- and downloading-optimized server selections. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
Admittedly, PrivateVPN comes up short in a few service categories, but makes up for it in others.
One of the categories where PrivateVPN is lacking is global server coverage. The provider has a sparse 150+ servers stationed in 60 countries around the globe (Japan included). It should be noted, though, that the provider’s servers do a reliable job of providing access to blocked content.
Those servers offer government-level connection encryption, as well as IPv6 and DNS leak protection to keep your connections protected. It also offers proprietary “Stealth VPN” protection, which hides your VPN activity by disguising it as normal browser activity.
Privacy protection consists of an industry-standard no-server-logs-ever policy, as well as a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
PrivateVPN’s download speeds are more than up to handling HD streaming, large file sharing and online gaming. There are no data caps, ever.
App support is another one of those “lacking” categories, as apps for only the big 4 platforms (Android, iOS, macOS and Windows) are available. (The service can be used with Linux with a bit of manual configuration.)
No browser extensions are available, but router features are. Up to 6 devices can connect simultaneously.
A non-searchable FAQ page, email support and what is claimed to be 24/7 live chat support are available. (I’ve visited the site plenty of times when the chat icon was red, indicating chat isn’t available.)
- Reliable access to geo-blocked content
- Stealth VPN protection
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers need a bump
- App support requires improvement
EXTRA VPN PROTECTION:PrivateVPN provides reliable, well-protected access to geo-blocked content via its somewhat-limited server network. Users who are looking for a bit more of an edge online security-wise will appreciate the provider’s “Stealth VPN” feature. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
Surfshark makes this list due to its quickly-expanding global server network, as well as its unusual concurrent connections policy.
While Surfshark’s global server network is smaller than all but one competitor on this list of 5, it is growing quickly. The provider’s current count is 1,000+ servers stationed in 61+ countries, including Japan. That server count is double what it was last year.
Surfshark connections are well protected thanks to government-grade encryption, as well as a kill switch, and DNS and IPv6 leak prevention. The provider’s “Multi-Hop” option routes your connection through twin VPN servers to add anonymity to your online actions.
Privacy is not an issue when you use Surfshark, as the provider follows a strict no-server-logs policy and accepts Bitcoin for subscription payments.
The provider’s connections easily handle HD video streaming, deliver fast downloads of large files, and are more than up to online gaming.
The provider offers apps for most popular device platforms, including the Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows and Amazon Fire device platforms. Chrome and Firefox browser extensions are also available, as is router compatibility.
Users who have need of providing protection for large groups of users will appreciate the provider’s unlimited simultaneous connections policy.
Around-the-clock support has you covered thanks to 24/7 support chat, a contact form and a support knowledge base.
- “Multi-Hop” online protection for extra anonymity
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Speedy downloads
- Global server coverage is lacking but improving
- Monthly subscription option is expensive
BEST FOR LARGE GROUPS OF USERS:Surfshark’s unlimited concurrent connection policy, along with its “Multi-Hop” VPN protection, offer excellent online protection for large groups of users. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
Won’t a Free VPN Work in Japan?
I’m not going to say that you can’t find a free VPN provider that will work inside Japan. However, I will say that chances are good that you won’t be satisfied with the experience.
Free VPNs are just downright inconvenient. First off, when you attempt to connect to a freebie provider, you may be forced to bide your time waiting in a queue with other free users, waiting to get the green light to connect to a server.
Then, when you are given the high sign, you may find that you’re either automatically connected to a server, or that your choice of servers is severely limited.
Once you connect, there’s a good chance you’ll see your connection speeds suffer heavily. Many VPNs will throttle free users’ connection speeds to preserve most of the bandwidth for paid users. Plus, daily or monthly data caps are also common with free VPN accounts.
Privacy isn’t guaranteed when you connect to a freebie VPN provider. Even a “free” VPN service has to make money to keep their servers humming. Many providers of this ilk will track their users’ online travels, save all of that info in a big ol’ file and then sell it to the highest bidder.
Other free VPNs will inject unwanted advertisements and tracking cookies into your browsing sessions. (And those tracking cookies will continue to track your online travels, even when you’re not connected to the VPN’s servers.)
Maybe it’s just me, but none of this sounds like a good idea. Do yourself a favor and lay out a few bucks per month for a quality VPN provider – you’ll be glad you did.
What Can I Do With A VPN?
A Virtual Private Network offers numerous ways to both protect and enhance your daily online activities.
Concerning protection, a VPN encrypts your internet connection, which prevents your online activities from being monitored by nosy third parties.
These Nosy Nellies can include your Internet Service Provider (ISP) so they can sell your usage info, bad guys looking to steal your info, and the government simply because they’re the government and want to know everything.
One great side effect of blocking your ISP from monitoring your online antics is that it can’t throttle or block your internet connection because you’re sharing files via P2P or streaming video from an “unapproved” source.
Encrypted connections also come in handy when you’re using an unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspot, like those found in coffee shops, hotels or other public areas. If you’re using a public hotspot, all of your online activities are open to being monitored. This includes your online banking, online shopping, bill-paying and other sensitive online activities.
As for enhancing your online activities, a VPN can also temporarily assign a new IP address to your connected device, making it appear to be in a different area of the world.
By doing this, it “spoofs” your physical location, fooling online services, like streamers Netflix and Hulu, or gaming servers and other online services, into allowing you to access content that might normally be blocked to users in your area.
Japanese citizens and visitors to the island country should investigate the benefits of a Virtual Private Network subscription.
My top choice, ExpressVPN, offers well-protected, speedy connections, a wide-ranging global server network that offers access to geo-blocked content, and top-notch multi-platform app support. Help is always available thanks to 24/7 customer support.
For more information or to purchase a subscription, visit the ExpressVPN website.