As one of the most connected countries in the world, Japan has a fairly good record when it comes to censorship, freedom of speech, and general online access. However, just like any developed nation, the government still carries out surveillance on its citizens and those visiting – to get around that, you need a Japan VPN.
Staying private online isn't the only reason you might want to use one of the best VPN services, though. If you're visiting Japan, it's likely you can't read Japanese that well – so using a Japan VPN to change your location will let you access English-language websites.
And, of course, if you pick the right service you'll also be able to access streaming content from both Japan and around the world at the touch of a button.
What makes the best Japan VPN?
Like almost every country, the Japanese government and internet service providers take an interest in your activity. Subsequently, you’ll want your Japan VPN to be hot on privacy – and with so many excellent services available, choosing one that lacks basic privacy features should certainly be avoided.
If you live in Japan, you’ll want to pick a Japan VPN with plenty of servers in Japan and nearby. As one of the most connected countries in the world, this shouldn’t be too difficult to find. However, it's worth noting that local Japanese content and services like Netflix Japan are actually quite tricky to unblock, so picking a quality Netflix VPN is essential – and knowing how to get Japanese Netflix will be, too.
Ticking all those boxes and more is ExpressVPN. With excellent connection speeds all over the world, powerful encryption and serious streaming power, it’s simply the best Japan VPN. However, there are plenty more contenders, so keep scrolling to discover the top five VPNs for Japan today.
1. ExpressVPN – the best Japan VPN on the market (opens in new tab)
Whether you live in Japan or are just visiting, ExpressVPN is the very best service to have protecting you. With unbeatable streaming power plus excellent privacy features, it's the full package. Plus, you'll get a 30-day money-back guarantee and three months free on a 12-month plan.
2. NordVPN – big name is excellent in Japan (opens in new tab)
NordVPN is widely known as one of the best services on the market, and while it's been overtaken in recent years by Express, it's still a force to be reckoned with. With top-notch security and fair prices, it's one to consider.
3. Surfshark – great streaming and incredible value (opens in new tab)
One of the cheapest VPNs available, Surfshark is also a great choice for those spending time in Japan. With guaranteed access to streaming sites such as Netflix, iPlayer, TV Tokyo and Fuji TV, it offers mega value for less than $2.50 a month.
The best Japan VPNs today(opens in new tab)
If you want protection and security online when you're in Japan – or just want to explore TV that's exclusive to the country – ExpressVPN is the best service available.
With three separate server locations in Japan, you can make sure you're getting the very best speeds available, and this server variety also ensures reliable streaming and all-round peace of mind.
In terms of privacy, ExpressVPN boasts 256-AES encryption, a great selection of protocols so you can tailor your experience towards security or speed and Perfect Forward Secrecy, plus a kill switch and split tunneling.
However, what most users will notice first is the simplicity of the apps. While they deliver powerful configuration and great in-depth features, even newbies will be able to get protected in a single click. This prioritization of user experience is a staple of Express's product, and something we really appreciate.
Alongside all the classic streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and BBC iPlayer, you'll also be able to tap into exclusive services like TV Tokyo and Fuji TV. While non-residents may have to sign up to get watching, people who are already members can use ExpressVPN to access all this content from outside of Japan.
What really makes ExpressVPN the best Japan VPN is the combination of pretty much every feature you could ask for in a super-simple package – and that's why it tops this list.
Get 3 free months of the best Japan VPN (opens in new tab)
Tom’s Guide readers can get three free months of ExpressVPN by signing up to its 12 month plan – and you’ll be streaming Japan-exclusive content in minutes. However, if it’s not for you, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with all its plans, so there's no risk in case you change your mind.
If you're on this page, it's likely you've heard of NordVPN (or even read our NordVPN review) – with huge marketing campaigns and a top-quality product to match, it's one of your best choices as a Japan VPN.
That's down to its great streaming power, privacy-focused experience and its massive number of servers located in the country. Although you'll only have one location (Tokyo), there are over 80 servers there. That's great news for streamers and torrenters who want to make sure their servers aren't overloaded.
On that note, all Nord's Japan servers fully support P2P sharing, so you won't have to go through trial and error to find one that works.
In our testing NordVPN got us access to Netflix Japan on most attempts, and is also able to access national streaming services. Plus, great connection speeds mean you won't be waiting around for things to load. However, there may be a bit of trial and error before you find a suitable server.
All we can really fault NordVPN for is its app design – on mobile the map-based interface can be a little clumsy, and while that's a minor problem, it does slightly impact how pleasant the VPN is to use. On the whole, though, it's a solid choice for your Japan VPN.
Sign up now on the NordVPN website (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
If you're looking for a fully functioning Japan VPN for a little as possible, Surfshark could be the right choice for you, and it impressed us with its blend of power and value in our in-depth Surfshark review.
While it's not quite as in-depth as ExpressVPN, for the price there's very little to fault it. On the provider's site there are claims of being able to access – amongst other things – TV Tokyo, Fuji TV, Wowow TV, HBO, Prime Video, Netflix and Showtime. Some providers are more cautious with their claims, but this demonstrates Surfshark is pretty confident in its abilities.
For some, another bonus will just how simple Surfshark is to use – while you'll get protocol switching, a kill switch and more under the surface, the apps are designed so that anyone of any experience can get up and running in seconds.
However, for those who are confident with VPNs and looking to configure tons of settings this might hold them back. But, really, everything's good to go out of the box.
The biggest selling point is Surfshark's price, though: less than $2.50 a month. That's half the price of some of its more expensive competitors, and makes it the best cheap VPN on the market.
So, if you want to get a great Japan VPN for as little as possible, Surfshark could be the right choice.
Sign up now on the Surfshark website (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
In our most recent Hotspot Shield review, we saw the US-based provider make some key improvements, and one of the big wins was Hotspot Shield's excellent performance for unblocking Netflix Japan – you can check the whole list out on our which VPNs works with Netflix page.
Strangely enough, the Japanese library of Netflix appears to be somewhat more difficult than other locations, and in our testing only a few providers could get us access, with Hotspot being one of them.
A quality Japan VPN isn't just dictated by streaming, though, and thankfully, Hotspot Shield also delivers well in other areas, especially connections speeds. We saw the heady heights of 380Mbps on a 600Mbps line, so whatever you've doing you should be covered.
However, Hotspot Shield still does log more user data than rivals like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, and while none of that can be linked back to you, it's still a small blot on the copybook. Also, Hotspot Shield's apps don't offer the kind of customisation seem elsewhere – but for many, that won't be an issue.
But considering its performance and the exclusive discount available to Tom's Guide readers, Hotspot Shield is a real contender for those looking for a Japan VPN.
Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
IPVanish rounds off this list in style – as soon as you open the app you'll see what we mean. Totally different in aesthetic to its competitors, it's much more stereotypically 'techy', but we appreciate that. However, for newbies it may offer up a bit too much info for ease of use – check out our IPVanish review for more info.
In terms of being a Japan VPN, the service provides five servers in a single Tokyo location. While not incredible, it's more than enough for travelers and residents alike.
Something we really like is the fact IPVanish has an unlimited connections policy. Just like Surfshark, this means you'll be able to cover any number of devices with a single plan, which is a huge selling point over providers that limit usage. Unlike Surfshark, though, it's totally unable to access Netflix Japan – and that may be a deal breaker for many.
So, while IPVanish is a an excellent VPN – we wouldn't recommend a service we didn't think was top quality – for most people there are probably better options.
Sign up now on the IPVanish website (opens in new tab)
What is the best Japan VPN?
We rate ExpressVPN as most people's best option (opens in new tab) when shopping for a Japan VPN.
That's down to a huge number of reasons, but in short, it provides the most well-rounded package. The apps are simple yet powerful, it's great for unblocking streaming sites, and security is incredibly tight across the board.
Plus, Tom's Guide readers can now claim three months free on a 12-month plan, so ExpressVPN is even better value.
Why do I need a Japan VPN?
Although Japan's internet is much freer than many of its neighbors', the government and ISPs still track user activity – just like pretty much any other country. To avoid this, you can use a VPN to anonymize you IP and activity, giving you true web privacy.
However, many people use a Japan VPN to access Japanese media outside of Japan. That could be local TV networks, or Netflix Japan, which carries tons of anime not found anywhere else in the world.
Is a Japan VPN legal?
Yes, having a VPN in Japan is perfectly legal. However, a VPN doesn't make activities that are against the law legal. So, for example, if you download pirated software, you're still breaking the law.
Furthermore, Tom's Guide in no way condones breaking the law with a VPN, and only recommends their use for legal activities.