I bought my cell phone awhile ago, but I thought I should tell a little about what cell phones are like here. There are three major companies that offer cell phone service: Soft Bank (which is what I have), Docomo, and AU. In order to get a cell phone in Japan, even a prepaid one, you have to have some sort of resident identification (in my case, my alien registration card or approved application). A visa or passport is not sufficient enough. In Japan, there is no texting. All “texts” are done via email. I got a Yahoo! Japan and Softbank email address with my phone that I can use to email any address, and I can check my email through any computer with internet. I never had a cell phone in the states, so I’m not sure how prices compare here. The plan I have provides unlimited free calling and email to anyone else in the network, except for late hours. The charges for out-of-network or late calls are cheap, and emailing is even cheaper. Although, email charges are based on file-size, and it adds up quick if you go over so many characters. The basic email “package” includes some limited internet access as well.
The cost of a cell phone itself in Japan is not cheap, at all. Forget about being able to get a nice phone for cheap with the signing of a contract (unless it's two years or more). Phones here are full price. I bought the second cheapest phone from a Soft Bank located in a Yamada electronics store. There are more Soft Bank stores in Nagasaki than Starbucks in any American city. Walk a few feet…Bam! Soft Bank. Here’s what my phone has/came with: about 200mb of internal storage capacity, two 2 mega pixel cameras (one on each side), a barcode reader, bluetooth and infrared support, a microSD slot, internet, TV (which I’m not buying), and I don’t know what else. The software it came with includes unit converters, a Japanese->English/English->Japanese dictionary, a couple games, an e-book, vocal recognition software, calendar, world clock, calculator, etc. Oh, and it came with Gundam emoticons. I don’t know how this compares to U.S. cell phone tech, but remember this is the crappy budget phone. The phone itself is chrome, which I really like, but it makes it a total fingerprint magnet. It came with a USB cable that I use to charge the phone through my laptop. The phone allows different types of text input, as far as auto-words and stuff go. Japanese text is entered similar to English. There is one button for each set of hiragana, and a menu pops up at the bottom allowing the user to choose kanji.
This is completely unrelated, but…
Japanese colors, as descriptors, are far more abstract and vague than in English. Traffic lights in Japan are, as in America, red; yellow; and green. Japanese traffic stops when the light is red (aka) and goes when it is blue (ao). Although, an American would definitely refer to the color of the light as being green. Green does exist in the Japanese language; the word for it is midori. I have no idea, then, what makes something green, but Japanese color descriptors cover a wide range. My homestay brother insists that my tan khakis are a shade of white and not brown.