My tablet occasionally latches onto a FON access point but the signal is always at the minimum required for the icon to show up in the list so, for the places I generally hang out, I'd say it sucks. But I don't spend that much time looking so my experience may not be such a reliable indicator.
I find more Softbank access points with decent signals but I'm not signed up for their network so I don't know how well it works. The few times I've gotten on FON, I believe I didn't have to go through any login procedure (either that or I did it a long time ago, forgot about it, but my tablet stored the credentials).
You may have missed a subtle point on which I wasn't clear. I don't want to sign up with Softbank. It's not worth it to me. But several of the places I go to for lunch or dinner have a Softbank AP nearby and the signal always seems decent (and yes, I've seen the web login form -- but I don't need to login to know how strong the signal is from the AP to my tablet).
On the other hand, when FON shows up on my list at all, it's always very weak. So for me, considering all the places from which I might like to access the Internet, FON is useless. That's not to say that someone living closer to the center of the city might not find their APs a bit more convenient.
This may be slightly off-topic but it seems that many 7-and-I restaurants (like Denny's) have their own AP which is free for the first hour or so (ie: as long as it would take to eat lunch). I also have the WEP code for the AP at the bar where I sometimes hang out with friends. And for emergencies, I can tether my tablet to my cellphone (which costs a lot per packet but I don't plan to use it much). That covers me well enough that I don't feel like paying for public WiFi access.
Ok - thanks for the tips. Tight cel phone controls - I mean you need a 1 or 2 year contract and need to be a resident of Japan to get a phone. Other countries you can buy a SIM card and pay as you go. Same with wifi - Thailand has virtually 100% wifi coverage in the cities provided by the big internet companies. You can buy a password for a few dollars and get wifi pretty much everywhere you go.
You can buy SIM cards off-the-shelf from b-mobile or online from Amazon.co.jp. As far as I know, you do not have to be a resident of Japan and b-mobile SIM cards are prepaid so there's no contract. For WiFi there are a number of paid services that don't check your residency when you sign up. Unfortunately, fewer free ones than in other countries.
I've seen b-mobile SIMs at Bic Camera but I'd imagine any of the larger denki retailers would carry them. I also mentioned Amazon.co.jp in my last post. Click "In English" in the upper right corner of their home page and put "b-mobile" in the search box. BTW, you'll need an unlocked phone which you can also buy on Amazon or in various shops around Akihabara (if you don't already have one, that is).
Freespot is one of the public WiFi services. I gather some of the APs are actually free but many may not be. Google for "tokyo public wifi" and poke through the various forum posts. I saw a number of recommendations but didn't really follow up on any of them. Contrary to what some folks believe, I have other stuff to do besides doing someone else's research ;-).
BTW, at first I didn't believe that Sofbank's WiFi service required a contract but their web page suggests they do. That's kinda odd considering all the Sofbank WiFi stickers I see on store fronts around town. But Sofbank always did strike me as an odd provider.
Oh... one other suggestion. If you don't mind hamburgers, my kids have been able to get a free WiFi connection for their Nintendo devices at several McDonalds around town. I've never tried it from my tablet before but the next time we're there, I'll give it a shot and see what happens.
Scanning down the list of SSIDs my tablet seems to have picked up in its travels, I see 7SPOT (most likely 7-and-I/Denny's), FREESPOT, Wi2 (and Wi2premium which may be a paid provider -- suggesting Wi2 might be free), CG-Guest (who knows, maybe some company whose building I got too close to ;-), and, of course, FON and FON_FREE_INTERNET. None of them are marked in my list as being secured by WEP/WPA keys so those might be good search keywords to start with. I also recall seeing something about BBMobile, which is b-mobile's WiFi service. And some of the ISPs in Japan (like GOL) offer their own service that probably piggy-backs on one of the other WiFi provider's APs. You can sign up for a GOL account for about 500 yen per month and use a non-Japanese address. Asahi-Net (which I used for a while before I got cable) used to also offer a public WiFi add-on but, as I recall, they didn't have a "lite" package for those who don't really need the physical connection.
Thanks again. I appreciate it. Please don't do any research for me. I don't like wasting people's time.
I did find a freespot in Ebisu today and it worked great. I also signed up for the 7spot at 7-11, but 2 out of 3 7-11's didn't have it, so that's kind of unreliable.
Yes - softbank's hotspots are apparently only for softbank contract holders, which doesn't really make much sense to me.
I went to Mcdonald's, but they don't seem to have wifi anymore. At least it doesn't pop up on my phone...
Thanks for the other tips. I also found a couple of other paid services here and there, but Softbank and FON are the only ones I see EVERYWHERE in Tokyo. Too bad Softbank doesn't let people use their service without a contract...
If you don't mind paying and your computer has a USB port, there are WiMax networks in Tokyo as well. I was in the beta-testing phase for UQ WiMax but I couldn't get a connection from the apartment I lived in at the time and wasn't on the road much so I dropped them. But I heard others may have had better results. You can sign up for UQ WiMax at the major denki-ya. I don't recall having had to prove long-term residency and they didn't have a minimum contract during the beta period (though that may well have changed once they went "live").
While i lived there i used my iphone as a hotspot. I had a contract phone with unlimited internet so downloaded a free app that ment i could use my phoes internet. Used it for 2 yrs with no issues what so ever. It does run your phone battery down quite a bit though