It’s no secret that Japan is tough on copyright infringement, and a lot of region-restricted content is unavailable when you’re browsing with a Japanese IP. If you want to avoid headaches, you definitely need a VPN if you live there or are planning on traveling there.

Sure, it’s a technologically advanced nation by all standards, and home to some of the world’s most popular inventions like the lithium-ion battery and PlayStation, but not everything is so bright in the Land of the Rising Sun. Streaming or downloading copyrighted material is a criminal offense that can land you a two-year jail sentence or a hefty fine. Or both.

Top that off with the wealth of blocked content you can’t access from Japan, including streaming services like Netflix, or Hulu, and suddenly surfing the web with a Japanese IP gets quite limiting. A VPN lets you get around these roadblocks and watch US TV shows and movies, download Steam early-access games AND unblock sports streams and other region-blocked services.

There is another rather major reason why you are well advised to protect your digital footprint when browsing from in Japan: after the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Japanese authorities tightened the grip on the freedom of speech to cap the spread of news about radiation levels, and unfavorable comments and videos. The 2012 Computer Network Monitoring Law, also known as the Harmful Rumors Law, allows the Japanese authorities to monitor the Internet without restrictions.

Oh right, and let’s not forget about security. Free public Wi-Fi hotspots are available nearly everywhere in Japan. Although such broad availability is extremely convenient, it is also a fast track to having your device hijacked and your banking credentials stolen. Again, a reliable VPN is the easy solution.

Choosing the right VPN

Today, VPNs top the list of personal security products. But since there are so many providers – and way too many rip-offs – choosing the right one can seem intimidating. My top seven picks of VPNs for Japan include the best-of-breed providers with lightning fast speeds, transparent privacy policies, strong encryption, and servers all over the world. Let’s look at each one of them closely.

Chances are your ISP is watching your online activity in hopes of catching you red-handed downloading a pirated movie. That’s why I haven’t included any free VPNs in this list because they just can’t guarantee the reliable protection you need to navigate below the radar or access streaming services from Japan.

So, using a VPN in Japan not only allows you to spoof from Japan to the US to watch Netflix but also the other way around – you can spoof into Japan and access Japanese websites that might be censored in Japan.

At the end of the day, subscribing to a VPN doesn’t make you a copyright offender or a political dissident. It just means you value your online privacy and freedom of choice. I’ve included the VPN providers that are at the top of their game on my list, so I’m sure you can find the perfect one for your browsing needs.


1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of my top picks for its excellent quality and a longstanding reputation of a reliable zero-logs provider with AES-256 encryption and OpenVPN on board. Based off of the British Virgin Islands, it’s exempt from the mass surveillance of the 14 Eyes. ExpressVPN is fairly immune to anti-piracy laws, too, and its stealth servers across 94 countries provide you with great speeds for gaming and streaming.

ExpressVPN offers sleek and easy-to-use clients for the majority of popular platforms complete with advanced features like a kill switch, a DNS leak protection, and auto-connect. Top that off with an excellent customer service available 24/7, and you can enjoy the app’s most advanced features even if you lack a technical background. On a side note, you can only use three devices per subscription, which might seem somewhat limiting if you constantly switch between multiple devices.

Even though ExpressVPN is not the cheapest service out there, you can still get a good deal in a $99.95 yearly plan. They also offer a $60-worth bi-annual subscription and a monthly plan that will set you off $13 per month. All subscriptions come with unlimited bandwidth and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • User-friendly UI
  • Great privacy, solid encryption, OpenVPN
  • Fast speeds for gaming, streaming, P2P torrenting
  • Unblocks streaming services
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Advanced features like kill switch, geospoofing
  • Numerous servers across the world
  • Anonymity, accepts Bitcoin
  • Great support
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Supports all popular platforms

Cons:

  • No ad blocking
  • Allows only 3 devices per user
  • Logs non-identifiable metadata
  • Expensive

2. IPVanish

IPVanish is based in the US, which has its pros and cons. On the one hand, servers in 60+ countries grant you lightning fast speeds, which are ideal for gaming and unblocking the streaming services like Netflix, while the unlimited bandwidth lets you torrent to your heart’s content. On the other hand, the US data retention laws apply.

IPVanish offers a fully-featured and intuitive software, which supports many platforms and comes complete with DPI protection, anonymous surfing, 256-bit AES encryption and a zero-logs policy. Plus, you can run up to five simultaneous connections on different devices per account.

IPVanish’ three plans come with a standard 7-day money-back guarantee and will set you off $10 per month, $27 per three months, or $78 for a yearly subscription.

Pros:

  • Great speeds
  • Zero-logs policy
  • User-friendly interface
  • Allows up to 5 simultaneous connections
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Robust Encryption, OpenVPN, Deep Packet Inspection protection
  • Great support
  • Accepts Bitcoin

Cons:

  • US-based
  • Only 7-day money-back guarantee, which is not a con per se but might seem limiting if you need more time to make up your mind

3. NordVPN

NordVPN is at the top of its game with 830+ server locations across 57 countries, which means you get blazing fast speeds for streaming, gaming, and unlimited torrenting. They’re also rock-solid on privacy, with headquarters in pro-privacy Panama, unique double-encryption technology, extra features like VPN into Tor, and the zero-logs policy.

With an extensive feature set, NordVPN client is surprisingly easy to get the hang of. Add in the support for a wide range of platforms, and up to six simultaneous connections per account and you get a highly flexible solution for all your VPN needs. You can customize the kill switch behavior and switch the servers to fine-tune the speed/performance to your needs. They even sorted their servers based on the two most requested features – Ultra-fast and Ultra-secure.

This provider manages its own DNS servers, which speaks volumes of their reliability. NordVPN might not be cheap but it certainly is worth the money, and you can always count on the 30-day money-back guarantee. With the monthly plan starting at $12/mo, a yearly subscription cuts that by half and comes at $70 only. The 6-month plan is justly positioned in the middle at $42 billed every six months.

Pros:

  • Allows up to six simultaneous connections
  • Supports P2P
  • Wide range of servers, easy switching
  • Great speeds
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Extensive feature set
  • Strong encryption technology
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Does not limit bandwidth

Cons:

  • Does not block ads or trackers
  • Expensive

4. HideMyAss!

HideMyAss is run by AVG Technologies, a security software company based in the Czech Republic. But the VPN is based in the UK, so draconian surveillance laws apply.

HideMyAss makes switching servers easy with the intuitive interface and a huge network of servers in more than 190 countries. So, with HideMyAss you get the access to a huge range of VPN server locations including some exotic places like Papua New Guinea, or the Falkland Islands.

Other than that, HMA is rather light on features and allows only two simultaneous connections. Unfortunately, the provider has a track record of keeping user logs and handing them over to law enforcement. Legal torrenting is allowed, but you won’t be able to download copyrighted material.

HideMyAss is fairly affordable, with prepaid plans coming in at $10 in the monthly subscription, $40 in bi-annual and $60 in the annual plan. Keep an eye open for the summer sale, which cuts 56% off of all the plans. Note, however, that the 30-day money-back guarantee comes with restrictions. For example, you can’t exceed 10GB of bandwidth to be eligible for a refund. The guarantee doesn’t cover purchases made via iTunes or Google Play either.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Granular control over Location Mode in the desktop client
  • Good mobile app
  • Amusing design, easy-to-use interface
  • Supports OpenVPN
  • Good performance
  • Helpful support
  • No IP leaks

Cons:

  • Sluggish speeds, but with patience finding a fast server is possible
  • Logs your IP
  • Did not unblock Netflix nor BBC iPlayer in my tests, but your experience may differ
  • UK-based, so the Five Eyes surveillance applies
  • Only two simultaneous connections allowed
  • Sub-standard encryption protocols
  • Restrictions to 30-day money-back guarantee apply
  • No P2P (only legal torrenting is allowed)

5. VyprVPN

VyprVPN is the property of Switzerland-based Golden Frog, a huge Internet company that manages its own infrastructure, including an impressive network of 700 servers across 70 locations. That means you get lightning fast speeds, superb reliability, top-notch 24/7 customer care, and a fully-featured, intuitive client. So, switching servers, gaming, streaming or unblocking sites like Netflix or BBC iPlayer works seamlessly. Top that off with the robust encryption and proprietary Chameleon technology, and you can bypass censorship blocks with ease.

VyprVPN does a great job of protecting your traffic and identity from ISPs or hackers monitoring public Wi-Fi hotspots. Although they do ask you to respect copyright laws, they don’t cap your bandwidth or block P2P torrenting.

They offer a three-day trial for free, but no refund on any of its plans. Three days is more than enough to make up your mind, if you ask me, but this does make it a little harder to commit to a long-term plan. VyprVPN combined privacy, speed, and performance, and offers excellent value for the price. Both the Basic and the Premium plans can be billed monthly or annually, with hefty discounts for longer-term subscriptions. The Basic plan, which allows for, three simultaneous connections will set you back $60/year if paid annually, and $120/year if billed monthly. The Premium plan, which covers ,up to five simultaneous connections comes at $80/year in annual subscription and $155.4/year if billed on a monthly basis. Premium plans come with extra perks like VyprVPN Cloud, protection from Deep Packet Inspection, a kill switch, and the Chameleon Protocol.

Pros:

  • Based in Switzerland, so no data retention laws apply
  • Premium plan offers up to five simultaneous connections
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Robust encryption
  • Great security features
  • P2P torrenting
  • Supports many platforms
  • Fast customer service
  • Unblocks streaming and censorship-blocked websites

Cons:

  • Does not block ads
  • Takes time to find fast servers
  • The Basic plan allows only three connections
  • Does not accept Bitcoin
  • No refunds

6. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (PIA) is owned by the US-based Trust Media. Last year, they pulled out of Russia because they could no longer guarantee the privacy of its customers under new laws there. Now the company is closely watching the situation in the UK and is almost ready to pull out because of the Charter Act. That said, the US data retention laws and the Five Eye surveillance still apply.

If you’re okay with a US-based provider, however, you will find there is a lot to love about PIA. They deploy solid encryption, keep no traffic logs and offer granular controls over pretty much everything from protocol options to the desktop and mobile client setup. They support P2P and allow up to five simultaneous connections per account. The speeds are blazing fast with the network of whopping 3253+ servers in 25 countries, so you can stream, torrent and play enjoying unlimited bandwidth.

All subscriptions come with a 7-day money-back guarantee, and the price drops if you opt for a longer-term plan. For example, the monthly plan comes at $6.95; the bi-annual subscription goes down to $36.95 while the annual plan lands you an excellent $39.95 deal. You can also pay anonymously using major brand gift cards – Walmart, Best Buy, Starbucks – which makes life a lot easier if you want to stay below the radar.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Very user-friendly
  • Fast speeds and a lot of servers to choose from
  • Solid encryption
  • Allows up to 5 simultaneous connections
  • Minimalist aesthetics, which is an advantage if you ask me, but you might as well disagree
  • Blocks ads and trackers
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • No traffic logs
  • Anonymity (accepts Bitcoin and brand gift cards)

Cons:

  • No live chat
  • US-based

7. VPNArea

VPNArea is based in Bulgaria but hosts its servers in Switzerland, and maintains a strict no-log policy complete with AES-256 encryption and a laundry list of advanced features like a private server, dedicated IP address, auto connect, and a kill switch.

You’ll enjoy reliably high speeds, and flawless performance as VPNArea is specifically geared toward torrenting, gaming and streaming. Keep in mind their customer service works during regular business hours, but other than that, they’re a tech-savvy and efficient team.

The desktop client installation had a few hiccups in my tests, and I did not quite like how it hovers on top of other windows, but it’s also a polished and flexible software, which allows advanced customization if you like to tweak things your way.

Overall, VPNArea is an outstanding service all round, with support for many platforms, fast servers across 60 countries, flexible subscription plans and a 7-day money-back guarantee. You can get a monthly membership for $10, or choose a bi-annual plan worth $50, but the $59 yearly plan beats them all.

Pros:

  • Robust AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN
  • Zero logs policy
  • Allows up to 6 connections
  • Supports P2P
  • Anonymity, accepts Bitcoin
  • Excellent speeds

Cons:

  • Outdated install instructions on the website may be misleading
  • DNS leaks detected during my tests
  • Desktop app requires admin access
  • The customer service is only available during office hours