Although internet censorship and government surveillance are not major issues in Japan, neither are they entirely non-existent, particularly in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Even more worrying for internet users in Japan is the government’s draconian attitude to copyright infringement, which can result in jail sentences simply for watching copyrighted material online.

We will examine these issues in some detail at the end of this article, but will for now note that a Japanese VPN is a highly effective way of both evading censorship, and hiding your identity from copyright enforcement bodies. Of course, VPN is also useful for non Japan specific purposes such as protecting your internet connection while using public WiFi hotspots, accessing geo-restricted services such as the US version of Netflix and music streaming service Pandora, and for protection against spying by the likes of the NSA.

Which VPN server?

For most purposes we would recommend that users in Japan choose a provider who offers servers in Hong Kong, as Hong Kong is the closest place to Japan that has a truly free internet, does not require VPNs to keep logs, and is fairly immune to DMCA takedown notices and other anti-piracy measures. If you also fancy watching a spot of US Netflix etc. then make sure the provider also has West Coast servers in order to get the best possible download speeds (i.e. minimum lag when streaming).


Best Japanese VPN Summary

Rank Provider Starting Price Grade Link

1

logo $6.49/mo

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2

$10.50/mo

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3

ExpressVPN logo $8.32/mo

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4

logo $11.52/mo

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5

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo

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Winner

IP Vanish

4,95/5

Japanese VPN/>

  • PROS
  • Good VPN client
  • Great network speeds
  • No connection logs (in theory)
  • Up to 2 simultaneous connections
  • CONS
  • Not much

This US based company uses strong 256-bit OpenVPN encryption, is very fast, and has servers in Hong Kong, West Coast US and Japan. You can connect up to 2 devices at once, one using OpenVPN, and another using L2TP or PPTP.

The company has a content delivery business as well which means they have great networking knowledge and run their own networks across the world. Maybe because of this they can offer some of the lowest prices around for a Japan VPN, especially a premium VPN connection.

Try out the best Japanese VPN today!

» Visit IPVanish

Seven-day money back guarantee

2nd place

BolehVPN

4,85/5

BolehVPN

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Fast
  • Great OSX and Windows software
  • P2P: yes
  • 2 simultaneous connections
  • HK server uses shared IPs
  • CONS
  • 128-bit Blowfish OpenVPN encryption could be stronger

Based somewhere off the coast of Malaysia, BolehVPN has an excellent (if somewhat complex) Windows and OS X VPN client, keeps no logs, and is happy to let you BitTorrent download. It maintains a fully routed VPN server in Hong Kong that uses shared IPs so individual identification of individuals with behavior on the internet is all but impossible, and has ‘surf and stream’ servers in Los Angeles and San Jose, so it covers pretty all the bases a user in Japan might want.

» Visit BolehVPN


3rd place

ExpressVPN

4,7/5

Japan VPN

  • PROS
  • Fast speed
  • Servers in 78 countries
  • iOS and Android apps
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • CONS
  • Pricing is a bit high (though worth the extra cost)
  • P2P:no
  • US based

ExpressVPN is a large company with a big international presence, including of course servers in Hong Kong and West Coat USA (Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and San Jose). Its service is fast, it has apps for iOS and Android, and it offers a 30 day no quibbles money back guarantee.

ExpressVPN promises to keep no connection logs, but unfortunately does not permit P2P downloading using its servers. It is also a little pricey, but does offer a pretty fully featured service. All in all, a solid choice for those looking for a Japan VPN!

» Visit ExpressVPN


4th place

Hide My Ass

4,65/5

  • PROS
  • Great VPN client makes changing servers very easy
  • Lots of other freebies on-site to help maintain anonymity on the internet
  • No usage logs (in theory)
  • 160-bit to 256-bit OpenVPN encryption
  • P2P: yes
  • Up to 2 simultaneous connections
  • CONS
  • As a history of collaboration with the authorities

HMA is one of the biggest VPN providers in the world, and offers a very fully featured service, with servers in Hong Kong, Japan, and many in the US. OpenVPN encryption is pretty good at 160-bit to 256-bits, and HMA is happy for you to P2P download. The Windows and OSX software is also excellent and features a VPN kill switch. HMA claims to keep no usage logs and to delete connection logs after one week, but as this contravenes UK law (where HMA is based) and the company has a history of cooperating with UK authorities, we are somewhat wary of this claim. Still, this is unlikely to be an issue if you are in Japan, so HMA remains a good choice if you’re looking for a Japanese VPN.

» Visit HideMyAss


5th place

VyprVPN

4,55/5

  • PROS
  • Fast
  • 160-bit and 256-bit OpenVPN encryption (Pro only)
  • Android app
  • iOS app
  • 7 day money back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • CONS
  • None

Run by global internet consortium Golden Frog, VyprVPN is also a great choice for users in the market for a Japanese VPN as it has servers in Hong Kong, LA, and even Japan itself (although we are not sure how useful this is if you actually are in Japan), keeps no usage logs (although it does keep some connection logs), and allows P2P downloading. Encryption is rock-solid at 160-bit to 256-bit OpenVPN, and the fact that you can connect up to 2 devices at once (or 3 for the premier package) is good. Note that these comments only refer to the slightly pricey (our only real criticism) Pro plan, and that the PPTP only basic version should be avoided.

» Visit VyprVPN


VPN related issues in Japan

Censorship and surveillance

Japan is one of the freest countries in the world when it comes to internet censorship and freedom of speech. However, following the disastrous Fukushima nuclear accident it was reported that several YouTube videos containing comments or pictures unfavorable to TEPCO (the operator of the Fukushima plant) and the Japanese government were removed within several hours of being posted.

Many might deem such action in the face of a national disaster perfectly justified, but the tightening up of legislation since, most notably The Computer Network Monitoring Law aimed primarily at removing negative reports regarding Fukushima radiation levels, but which also allows the police to monitor the internet without restriction, has been sharply criticised for its potential for abuse when it comes to matters of freedom of speech.

Back in 2008 the government was making noises that suggested it might introduce an internet filtering system as early as 2010, but nothing seems to have come of this so far.

Copyright enforcement

While censorship and surveillance might be light in Japan, copyright enforcement is anything but. Japan has always been a staunch supporter of the much hated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and indeed was the first county to climb on board, and it hosted the Act’s signing ceremony in Tokyo. Last year (2012) it passed harsh new legislation that criminalised downloading and simply viewing copyrighted material, which can now result in jail sentences of up to two years and fines of up to two million yen (approx. $20,000), while those convicted of uploading copyrighted material can expect to face jail sentences of up to ten years.

In order to enforce copyright restrictions, the musician’s rights body Recording Industry Association of Japan has attempted to pressure ISPs into installing monitoring systems that would allow them to catch copyright infringers.

If all this sounds bad, things are looking to get worse with Japan’s upcoming signing of the Transatlantic Trade Agreement (TTP), which will dramatically increase the power of international copyright enforcement bodies (for example by imposing statutory penalties for infringement even if there’s no proof of actual harm), and destroy traditional Japanese legal principles such as shinkokuzai, which requires a formal complaint from the victim before a crime can be prosecuted.


Best Japan VPN Summary

Rank Provider Starting Price Grade Link

1

logo $6.49/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

2

$10.50/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

3

ExpressVPN_Logo $8.32/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

4

logo $11.52/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

5

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo

Read Review >
Visit Site >

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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7 responses to “5 Best VPNs in Japan

  1. I am also going to be living in Japan for 2 years. I would like to be able to have a flashed router so I can connect my PS4 and multiple other devices at the same time for netflix, etc. Which service would work best in this case? Is there a reason Private Internet Access did not make the list? Do you have a router you would recommend?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Jason

      Unfortunately this list is fairly outdated but PIA or any of the listed provider par HMA would be a good choice to use for general purposes.
      If you want 100% privacy I recommend our logless list, if you just want streaming then a SmartDNS is easier to set-up across different devices but provides no protection.
      With regards to routers, have a look at our DD-WRT list here or alternative our whole routers section here.

      Peter

  2. Hello Pete,

    I may be spending a year in Japan for an internship, however, I am quite worried about this new legislation they passed in 2012, criminalizing downloads.

    Although I buy what I believe is worth it (I own over 220 PC games), I also torrent the things I believe are not worth their price. My downloads are not limited to just torrenting though.

    My questions are:
    1. Would you say any of these VPNs are effective enough so I can continue my regular activities? If so, which ones? Just the top 2?

    2. Furthermore, I am aware of Japan’s shinkokuzai, however, I am not entire clear on how that works. Does this basically mean that even if I download things, it’s fine as long as I’m not reported by the creator of those things (Who’ll probably never know)?

    Last, but not least, I believe you’ve made a mistake. For VyprVPN, you’ve written “P2P:no” but below that you mention that it allows P2P. Which is it?

    1. Hi Sam

      As Doug wrote and researched the information for this unfortunately I am not fully aware of the legalities in Japan.
      Ah sorry for that mistake P2P is allowed by VyprVPN – I’ll correct the article.
      From what you’ve said I’d definitely recommend BolehVPN as we’re just updating both our logless and torrenting/filesharing lists and it features in both of them.

      Peter

    2. Hi Sam,

      Of this list I would choose BolehVPN for your needs (IronSocket, which we had not reviewed at the time of writing this article, is also a good choice). And yes, using one of these providers should allow you to carry on torrenting safely, although do ensure that you use some form of kill switch to prevent downloading when not connected to the VPN (see bestvpncom.wpengine.com/blog/5142/5-ways-to-protect-yourself-when-your-vpn-connection-fails/). As regards shinkokuzai, I am hardly an expert at Japanese law, but yes, as I understand it, that is the jist of it.

  3. Hi Pete,

    I live in Japan and currently own 2 routers, Aterm WG600HP and a NETGEAR JWNR2000.

    I need to set up a VPN on my router in order to let my Roku Stick overcome the geography restrictions and allow access to Netflix and others. How can I make a VPN work in one of my routers? Any providers who can do that? Any other options? Best regards Luke

    1. Hi Luke

      If you only want access to Netflix and other streaming services and do not mind lack of security you can actually use SmartDNS (Link to 5 Best SmartDNS) and we also have a Roku list.
      The routers you have are very low spec/ old/specific and slow so I’m not sure how it (by ‘it’ I mean the Netgear as the Aterm is a no go, so is the Netgear if it’s V1) would fair with handling a connection (I get around 60% drop on my internet speeds and I have a fairly new router) but if you have the time worth a try – but please be aware flashing your router can brick it so do so at your own will. I’ve found this guide that outlines both DD-WRT and Tomato install. From experience Tomato is slightly better for VPN and also easier to set-up. With regards to DD-WRT you’ll need to install a mini version which I think contains PPTP and L2TP connection and same for Tomato but the DD-WRT openvpn_small also contains OpenVPN as the name suggests.
      With regards to which providers support it – most do but check their set-up guides first or we also have a list for it. Browse our Big Routers Guide to find out more all round details about everything.
      Alternatively I’d recommend looking at Sabai who has VPN optimised routers with great support and best throughput speeds or FlashRouters who provides pre-flashed DD-WRT/Tomato routers.
      Peter

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