Best VPNs for Japan
Japan’s one of the most wired countries in the world, with an eyewatering 92 percent of its citizens connected to the web. Internet censorship and government surveillance aren’t considered to be massive problems just yet, but circumstances and societal attitudes are slowly shifting.
VPN services are popular in the country, both for local residents as well as the two million tourists that arrive in the country each month. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN is a handy piece of software that circumvents barriers on restricted content as well as maintaining your privacy and anonymity by encrypting all the internet traffic to and from your device. It does so by routing the traffic via an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing. Here are the TOP 10 VPNs for Japan.
No.1 Express VPN
ExpressVPN ranks highly on our list of the top VPN services for its reliable speed and a user-first approach. There’s a clean, simple, and minimalist design and connection to the 1500+ servers spread across 94 countries is quick and efficient. There are servers located in Japan – ideal for residents of the country traveling abroad – but the company doesn’t specify how many exactly.
It doesn’t store any traffic logs but does retain metadata about the date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used. This isn’t an issue because your individual IP address is not stored. For users who are still feeling skittish – you can sign up anonymously by using a burner email account and paying via bitcoin – so none of the activity will ever be traced back to you.
Encryption protocols are a robust 256-bit AES-CBC with utilization of both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. An internet kill switch temporarily halts all web traffic if the connection drops unexpectedly. Hence, you’re getting what you pay for when it comes to ease of access and privacy and security standards.
ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN services out there that unlocks geo-restricted content on Netflix with ease. It’s also compatible with Hulu and BBC iPlayer as well as supporting torrents.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
NordVPN has a true zero-logs policy as it holds no data about user sessions, traffic, or timestamps. Authorities have tried clamping down on it in the past by sending multiple requests for information but the policy made it impossible to comply. Nord’s servers were also confiscated in one instance, but there was no incriminating data stored hence thwarting attempts.
The company operates 976 servers in 56 countries making it a sturdy choice for an entire range of web activity. Seven of these are located in Japan itself. Hence finding a suitable connection shouldn’t be an issue.
There are also servers optimized for anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, and dedicated IP – ideal for video streaming, strong encryption, and stringent privacy. It’s also able to circumvent the Netflix VPN ban with ease, as well as unlocking content from Hulu and BBC iPlayer. It supports torrenting.
NordVPN servers encrypts internet traffic via the 256-bit AES protocol by default and uses 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled. A single subscription grants access to six devices, with support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
No.3 CyberGhost VPN
Cyberghost Pro, which is based in Romania, insists it doesn’t store any user logs or data but its recent acquisition by a UK-registered firm means we’ll have to wait and see if that affects the policy. The company does, however, maintain that it’ll still be subjected to Romanian laws which don’t impose data retention of any kind.
There are over 850 servers spread across the world including eight in Japan so accessing local content shouldn’t be an issue. Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
Cyberghost Pro uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. There’s also an internet kill switch included which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
VyprVPN is fairly transparent about its logging policy, stating that it stores “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and total number of bytes used.”
At the same time, it insists that the data is retained for only 30 days and is used for purposes such as billing and troubleshooting. The company adds that it does not log traffic details or content of any communications.
Despite these slight concerns, VyprVPN is actually quite robust when it comes to evading restrictions on content – it’s one of the few VPN services that circumvent China’s Great Firewall with ease.
The company owns and manages entire data centers, which means there’s focus on speed and stability of the connection. Traffic is secured by the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included which means your connection will remain secure even if it drops unexpectedly.
A premium version of the package allows access to the Chameleon ™ protocol, which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it.
There are over 700 servers, including a wide choice in Japan and the rest of Asia. Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
The company doesn’t permit torrenting and has terminated accounts in the past for attempting to do so. It does, however, unlock content on Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
No.5 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.
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.
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.
PrivateVPN is a zero-logs Swedish provider. This includes Japan and throughout East Asia. It features both a firewall-based system kill switch and a per-app kill switch, which pretty neat. Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client. We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! Up to a generous 6 simultaneous devices are permitted, and port forwarding plus HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies are a nice bonus. With a 30-day no-quibble money back guarantee, why not give PrivateVPN a try?
No.9 Buffered VPN
It’s hard to make connecting to a VPN much easier than it is with Buffered VPN. Within seconds of launching the app you can pick a country from the list of 44 and get browsing with your real location and identifying IP address concealed. Buffered has servers in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, plus servers across Europe and North America, where the service is currently able to circumvent blocks on Netflix and other streaming services. Buffer’s speeds are very competitive as well, with a 23% to 33% speed hit on short-range VPN connections. Though it’s not quite so fast when connecting to an Asian server from Europe; Hide My Ass and Nord VPN do better here.
Buffered VPN is based in Hungary – outside of the fourteen eyes network though still inside the EU – and the company maintains no logs. All your traffic is protected in transit by 256-bit Blowfish encryption, and the service passed our DNS leak tests with flying colours. Our biggest concerns are that it doesn’t take anonymous payment via Bitcoin, and that it doesn’t have a killswitch feature, potentially leaving your real IP address visible should the VPN disconnect. Still, if privacy and anonymity aren’t your focus, Buffer is a great, trouble-free VPN.
No.10 Pure VPN
Pure VPN is based in Hong Kong and has a good presence across Asia, with two servers based in Japan. There’s a lot to like about its purpose-based approach, where you can ask for the optimal configuration for streaming, file-sharing or circumventing censorship, and it has an easy-to-use, feature-packed PC app. This includes a killswitch and split tunneling, enabling you to configure the VPN so that some applications use it, while others work outside it, which might be a necessity for some to work. Pure also scores for building and running its own networks, servers and apps, making them more secure than some hosted on third-party infrastructure.
PureVPN claims it doesn’t log activities and Hong Kong isn’t a member of the fourteen eyes network, though it is within China’s sphere of influence. It’s also one of the fastest VPNs out there, particularly for short or local hops, though we found Europe to Asia speeds a little on the slow side, which might influence you if you’re planning to use it to VPN back to Japan while traveling abroad.
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