#Asia Ahead of Tokyo Olympics travel boom, startup wants to give tourists ‘free’ SIM cards


Photo credit: Dmitri Popov / Unsplash.

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2020: President Trump could be out of a job, and Japan will likely wow the world all over again as it hosts the Tokyo Olympics.

Japan’s 26 million visitors in 2016 will inflate to an anticipated 40 million in 2020 – and the nation’s startups sense an opportunity.

All those tourists will be doing a lot of ‘Gramming and Facebooking, so Fumiko Kato created a mobile SIM service called WAmazing that allows foreign travellers to register before they arrive, saving hassle once their trip starts.

Then, upon landing, you seek out the WAmazing vending machine at selected airports.

WAmazing free SIM card for Japan

Photo credit: WAmazing.

The QR code you received upon registration can now be scanned by the vending machine. Then out pops a box that contains your Japan SIM.

WAmazing free SIM card for Japan

Photo credit: WAmazing.

The startup is also taking advantage of Japan’s terrible wifi situation. It has been bad for years, with visitors mostly locked out of free wifi because of sign-up pages in Japanese that demand a local phone number. When I was in Japan last year, I tried some horribly convoluted system promising free wifi – the Travel Japan Wifi app – that involved following a 15-step instruction booklet and installing a “profile” on my iPhone. Then the bloody thing never worked. So I got a pocket wifi thingy I had to carry around all week.

A SIM that you jam into your phone seems simpler.

WAmazing free SIM card for Japan

CEO Fumiko Kato. Photo credit: WAmazing.

Kato’s startup gives away the WAmazing SIM card plus 500MB of data for free, banking on most tourists opting to pay to upgrade to 1GB or beyond. You can’t ‘Gram many bowls of ramen with just 500MB, after all. Plus, that free allotment is only available for 15 days.

For now, the team is focusing on people coming in from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The startup is also offering hotel reservations within its app, which SIM users need to download before they arrive in Japan, giving it an extra way to make money. The app also provides an Uber-esque feature for travelers to hail a taxi, but that seems less useful when Uber’s own app already does that.

To help the business grow, WAmazing has raised US$9.2 million in a mix of investments and loans, it announced today. The cash is from Beenos, SBI Investment, Sony Innovation Fund, and an assortment of other backers.

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