Millions of tourists visit Japan every year, and one of the biggest attractions is the nation’s sheer technological advancement. This should make it a paradise for tech-minded people, right? Wrong.
Ninety-two percent of the Japanese population is connected to the internet, and every single one of them is being monitored closely. The Japanese government has greatly enhanced its powers of surveillance in recent years in an effort to crack down on copyright infringement, but also to combat the rise of “harmful rumors” since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Most worryingly, the government has also been working with the National Security Agency, which involves co-operation with the similarly invasive US.
Furthermore, many streaming services are geo-blocked in Japan, and many Japanese developers prefer to keep their content reserved for Japanese IP addresses only. Whether you’re a tourist visiting Japan or a local traveling abroad, then, you’ll need to take certain measures to access certain content.
That’s where virtual private networks (VPN) come in. VPN pings your IP address to different servers, which convinces any watchful eyes that you’re in a totally different country. The added advantage is that a connection to the right server can grant you access to geo-restricted content.
What should you be looking for, though? To help, we’ve created a handy best VPN for Japan list. In our research, we looked for these qualities:
- strong security and privacy;
- combination of price and features;
- and a location outside the 5/9/14 eyes surveillance group of countries.
Best VPNs for Japan
- Location: Panama
- Pricing: starts at $2.99/month
- Features: military-grade security, huge server list, geo-unblocking, efficient support
NordVPN is possibly the most robust VPN you’re likely to come across. Its ability to crack the Great Firewall of China should be a clear indication that this VPN’s reputation is highly deserved.
As it’s located in Panama, NordVPN does not have to comply with any data retention laws. Not that it would have any data to retain, really, because the VPN employs a strict no-logging policy. This means that, even if it suddenly wanted to, NordVPN would not be able to disclose any identifiable information that could land you in any trouble.
It also has the biggest fleet of servers on the market: over 5,200 in 62 countries, to be precise. Besides the added level of security this brings, NordVPN’s massive server list basically allows you to access geo-restricted content from just about anywhere. This is perfect for catching up on your favorite shows while visiting Japan or accessing the nation’s famously insular content while abroad.
All this and more will cost you only $2.99 per month for a three-year plan. This is great pricing for a VPN with such an array of features, security, and registry in a location outside of the Fourteen Eyes alliance. It’s also highly worthwhile if you plan on using VPN on iOS because, unlike many other services, NordVPN features a kill switch for this platform.
Read our full NordVPN review
- Location: British Virgin Islands
- Pricing: starts at $8.32/month
- Features: great security, accessibility, geo-unblocking, torrenting credentials
ExpressVPN is another one of the internet’s finest VPN services and has enjoyed an enviable reputation since it opened shop. Although it falls short of Nord’s status as the best VPN for Japan due to relatively steep pricing, ExpressVPN remains a worthy contender all the same.
Like NordVPN, furthermore, this VPN uses industry standard AES-256-CBC encryption, which is so powerful that all the computers in the world couldn’t crack it by the end of time. Its location on the British Virgin Islands also means its security levels are not compromised by data retention laws. Its DNS is also highly protected, and its zero-logging policy should ensure you receive the best protection from Japanese surveillance techniques as well as the NSA.
However, it’s the second most expensive VPN included here (by a cent), and every service we’ve included runs 256-bit encryption too. Is the price worth it? The answer depends on your budget, of course, but the advantages of split tunneling, browser extensions, and the ability to unblock any streaming platform may very well seem worth the plunge.
Read our full ExpressVPN review
- Location: Seychelles
- Pricing: starts at $8.33/month
- Features: great security, server list, torrenting, download speeds, efficient support
Astrill VPN is another one of the more expensive security options, but as with ExpressVPN, we believe Astrill’s customers are paying for what they get. Indeed, what they’re getting is powerful encryption and the ability to bypass censorship anywhere.
Better yet, Astrill VPN is registered in Seychelles, another country free from data retention laws, ensuring maximum privacy. This is certainly an essential qualification for judging the best VPN for Japan.
While it doesn’t quite match ExpressVPN or NordVPN in terms of geo-unblocking—though it unblocks Netflix in UHD quite easily—Astrill VPN stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of its torrenting capabilities. This is because torrenting is actually factored into the VPN’s functionality with its dedicated P2P VPN servers. So long as you’re mindful of copyright, this feature makes Astrill perfect for gamers eager to access Japan’s geo-restricted content.
If the price weren’t steep enough, though, there’s also a VIP option, which is an added $10 per month; this grants the user access to much faster download speeds. The basic package is speedy enough in its own right, so this is only really a consideration for hardcore gamers. Still, though, it’s nice to know the option is there in case you desire it!
Read our full AstrillVPN review
- Location: Switzerland
- Pricing: starts at $3.75/month
- Features: great security, server list, geo-unblocking, torrenting, download speeds
If your main interest in VPN is accessing geo-restricted content, look no further than Golden Frog’s VyprVPN. Located in Switzerland—well away from the prying eyes of the Eyes alliances—this VPN is dedicated to unlocking streaming services with ease. It also features Golden Frog’s custom-made Chameleon protocol, which actively prevents pesky bandwidth throttling.
This essentially means that, as well as gaining access to the best streaming platforms, VyprVPN is great software to use if you’re into torrenting. It also comes equipped with OpenVPN, which is arguably the most reliable desktop protocols currently available. As well as this, it features AES-256-bit encryption, meaning that it’s just as secure as our top choices of the best VPN for Japan.
Starting at five dollars per month, VyprVPN is a decidedly mid-range VPN, which is reflected in its capability to appeal to fans of torrenting and streaming. Of course, the Chameleon protocol also makes it great for hardcore gamers, which was one of the things we were looking for in a Japan-friendly VPN. Gaming, of course, takes up a lot of bandwidth, which puts added pressure on your ISP and causes it to limit your download speeds. With VyprVPN, you can always rest assured that your connectivity is never interfered with and remains powerful enough to play all your favorite online games.
Read our full VyprVPN review
- Location: British Virgin Islands
- Pricing: starts at $3.49/month (or $1.99 from affiliates)
- Features: great security, geo-unblocking, torrent support, download speeds
Surfshark is a smart little VPN that, despite starting not even a year ago, already has lots of servers and is great for unlocking geo-restricted software.
Surfshark doesn’t ask a great deal for its services. Indeed, if you shop around its affiliates, it’s possible to get this VPN for less than two dollars per month. This really isn’t a bad asking price for something that’s quickly climbing the lists of best VPN.
While this may not quite be the best VPN for Japan, then, it’s certainly a decent budget-friendly option for those who want streaming accessibility combined with Astrill-worthy download speeds. Located in the British Virgin Islands and running on an updated encryption cipher, furthermore, this may just be the VPN of the future.
Read our full Surfshark VPN review
- Location: Sweden
- Pricing: starts at $3.82/month
- Features: great speeds, security, geo-unblocking, torrent support
The worrying thing about PrivateVPN is that it’s registered in Sweden, a Fourteen Eyes country. The less worrying thing about PrivateVPN, however, is that it has a strict, reliable no-logging policy. This means that, should the Fourteen Eyes alliance get their hands on your activity logs, they’ll have nothing to look at.
From there, PrivateVPN does nothing other than impress. It’s a ‘lightning speed’ VPN that runs on minimal servers, choosing instead to purchase internet capacity straight from the IP transit provider. This is extremely forward thinking, and it makes for one of the best VPN for Japan for sure.
Not only do these lightning speeds make it a great VPN for torrenting, but it’s also great for unlocking geo-restricted content—not only Netflix but also the notoriously difficult BBC iPlayer too. In the end, this would be higher up if it weren’t registered in Sweden, but even still, this is a worthy alternative to our higher picks.
Read our full PrivateVPN review
- Location: Canada
- Pricing: starts at $1.00/month
- Features: great security, leak protection, geo-unblocking, port forwarding, malware and ad blocking
Yes, we’re breaking one of our rules again. Windscribe is located in Canada, which is a Five Eyes country, the alliance Japan notoriously collaborates with. Alas, after making several log requests to the Windscribe servers, authorities have received nothing due to “lack of relevant information.”
Furthermore, Windscribe also features DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection, which means that it’s possibly the safest, if not the best VPN for Japan. Depending on what you need a VPN for, this ultra-secure leak protection could be right up your alley. If you’re after download speeds, though, look elsewhere.
Yet, once again Windscribe bounces back from this flaw. Average speeds it may have, but it also features double hopping and time zone spoofing, as well as the ability to unlock the majority of geo-restricted Netflix servers. So long as you’re not put off by its Canadian registry, then, Windscribe may very well be a great alternative for all your cybersecurity needs.
Read our full Windscribe VPN review
And the best VPN for Japan is…
After evaluating all the best options, we’ve concluded that NordVPN is the best VPN for Japan. It’s registered outside of the 5/9/14 Eyes group, it’s great for unblocking geo-restricted content, and more than anything else, it’s affordable. Simply put, it’s the ultimate tool for maintaining your data privacy in Japan.
Overall, it’s the most affordable VPN we could recommend. If you’re still not convinced but need to use a non-Eyes VPN, we recommend ExpressVPN, Astrill, Surfshark, and VyprVPN. If it’s features you’re most concerned with, check out Astrill or PrivateVPN for torrenting, or VyprVPN for streaming services.
If you’re in Japan, which of these VPNs have you used before? Did we miss any great VPN for Japan? Let us know in the comments below.