Japan is currently about the only place in Asia, that can be called a “developed market” with regard to VPS hosting. Only here of all Asian countries, you can find VPS offers that would be considered good, price-to-specs, even in the “Western” world. My guesses as to why that is, would be highly-developed Internet and high-tech infrastructure, prevalence of locally produced and consumed content over international, and no shortage of skilled IT workers.
Hosting in Japan also provides (in most cases) low latency to other locations in South-East Asia, such as Singapore, Hong Kong or even Australia. Some Japanese providers also have direct peering links into the mainland China networks. However many of these benefits may be quite “hit and miss” in nature, with a sizable chunk of networks having no direct connection, and packets to those will route via the United States on one or both of the ways (forward and/or back). So before buying always check who are the particular provider's upstreams and if they have direct routing to the locations that you need low latency to.
All things considered, Japan seems to be a pretty good option if you want to establish an Asia-centered website or service.
Things I noticed, that seem to be common across virtually all providers:
- Generous memory and disk allocations. For some reason the Japanese providers do not subscribe to the ”low end philosophy” at all, there are virtually none low-resource ultra-low-price offers. Maybe has something to do with Asia's IPv4 scarcity? Typical plans start from 1 or 2 GB of RAM, and tens or even hundreds GB of disk space. And maybe only in Japan you can get a true Godzilla of VPSes, 6GB of RAM, 300 GB disk KVM VPS for $24-something a month, which is not even that expensive, considering the specs.
- VM type: KVM. They really seem to prefer KVM over anything else – which is perfectly okay with me! The majority of providers that I came across, used KVM, with only some also offering OpenVZ, but(!) typically with management included and at a higher price.
- No English-language website or control panel. Everything is in Japanese, so I suggest that you prepare to use Google Chrome/Chromium with its automated translation feature, which usually succeeds in translating even HTTPS-only logged-in-only areas during the ordering process and later, in the actual VPS control panel.
- No English-language support. Some providers directly warn that they will not reply to support queries in any other language than Japanese. Some leave it to be inferred from the previous point. So far only one provider is known to provide support in English. Generally I think it's not too important, most things you will need to do usually can be done from the VPS control panel anyways, also remember that what you are buying is an unmanaged VPS; what remains is support during downtime or quality of service issues; here I think it should be pretty safe to hope that you won't have any :D Or that other customers on the same box/network notice them and complain to the provider to get them fixed earlier than you do.
- No Paypal. The only “international” way of payment supported would be via a credit card. Some providers also use processing systems which are picky about which cards they do and do not accept, e.g. with Ablenet only the third one of the cards that I tried worked fine. Two cards were rejected despite perfectly accepted everywhere else in various shops on the Internet. And with GMO VPS I was not able to successfully pay no matter which card I tried.
- Free trial. Almost universally, providers will give you 10 or 15 days of “Free trial” to check the VPS out and cancel without paying if you don't like it. However giving the credit card details will be required at the start of such trial, and a “lock” may be placed on your card for the amount that the plan you're signing up for would normally cost.
- Setup fee. Quite a lot of otherwise attractive providers have a significant setup fee, that may approach the price of 1 or 2 months of usage. Luckily, they also commonly run “campaigns” offering free setup for all orders made during a certain period (couple of weeks or a month). Also sometimes there's a setup fee only on the smaller plans, or on the contrary, only on the larger ones.
- Desire to “lock you in” for a year. OK, that's wording it in a negative light; speaking more positively, most providers will offer really steep discounts if you choose to sign up for a year-long contract, compared to paying month-to-month. Often the “huge bold number” price in their ads will in fact be the monthly price that's only available on the annual pre-payment. See the pricing table and the graph that I put together below. It lists several providers and their monthly prices when paying monthly, semi-annually and annually. Hopefully this will help you figure out which one offers the better deal and on which term, without comparing several convoluted Japanese-only websites. :)
- Unwillingness to accept foreign clients. Some openly write that only a person living in Japan may order their VPS; some put a requirement to provide a Japanese address when registering; this can be evaded using Tenso. They may have their own reasons for that, ranging from general distrust to lack of staff qualified to speak english to support such clients. And please, if you managed to evade the address requirement and registered being a foreigner despite them not accepting those, try to not stir up any trouble – don't complain to support for superficial reasons or ask dumb questions, don't overload the server, etc; else you may cause the provider to put up stronger barriers in place to prevent the rest of us from enjoying their probably pretty awesome VPS offers.
In the recent years several Western (or “worldwide”) VPS providers have been rolling out their offers in Japan, or lowering prices so that their offers are now in the “interesting” price range for any low-end VPS buyer. Now we have an option of Linode for $10, Vultr for $5, so it's not like your only option to host in Japan is to deal with all the quirks outlined above. You can now have English website and support, in some cases you can even pay via Paypal. A couple of downsides exist, however: typically the “global” providers do not offer unmetered bandwidth, and sometimes they forget to properly geolocate their IPs, so you might end up getting an IP address from an ARIN allocation and the whole world will think it's from USA (with an uphill battle ahead of you and/or the provider to convince it otherwise). The latter might be a problem if you're getting a Japan VPS to use for a VPN to access services where geolocation of your IP is important.
Luckily the increased competition makes some of the local Japanese providers improve their service as well, for example Ablenet and Conoha now have a website and panel in English, also the latter has recently upgraded their VPS service to all-SSD storage and lowered the prices a bit.
Here are some providers that I found. Please send me links if you know any other good offers, or notify me about updates to the already listed ones!
|Provider/plan||VM Type||1mo||6mo||12mo||Intl.orders||Eng.support||Cores||Disk, GB||IPv6||rDNS||Test IP||Notes||Links|
|Ablenet 0.5GB||KVM||699||597||494||Yes||Yes||1||50||/112||Ticket*||an.romanrm.net||￥1008 setup fee||LET|
|Ablenet 1.5GB||KVM||1317||1152||1008||Yes||Yes||2||100||/112||Ticket*||an.romanrm.net|| ||LET|
|Dream.jp 1GB||OpenVZ||504||504||504||No||No||0.4||50||1 IP||Instant||djp.romanrm.net||LET|
|Dream.jp 2GB||OpenVZ||1008||1008||1008||No||No||?||100||1 IP||Instant||djp.romanrm.net||LET|
|GMO ConoHa 1GB||KVM||963||963||963||Yes||No*||2||50@SSD||17 IPs||Instant*||cnh.romanrm.net||Deploys harsh bandwidth limits if you “overuse” b/w|
|Linode 2GB||KVM/Xen1)||$10||$10||$10||Yes||Yes||1||24@SSD||/56||Instant|| ln.romanrm.net|
|2TB ougoing b/w, overage is $0.10/GB|
|LowEndSpirit||OpenVZ||€0.25||Yes||Yes||1||1@SSD||/112||No||vl.romanrm.net||75 GB b/w, no dedicated IPv4||Instructions|
|OneProvider 512MB||KVM||$5||$5||$5||Yes||Yes||1||30@SSD||No||No||sljp.romanrm.net||1TB b/w||LET|
|SPPD 2GB||KVM||972||891||Yes||No||2||55||No||Instant||sp.romanrm.net||￥1620 setup, min.contract=2mo|
|Vultr 512MB SATA||KVM||$5||$5||$5||Yes||Yes||1||125||/64||Instant||vl.romanrm.net||1TB b/w, overage is $0.05/GB||LET|
|Vultr 768MB SSD||KVM||$5||$5||$5||Yes||Yes||1||15@SSD||/64||Instant||vl.romanrm.net||1TB b/w, overage is $0.05/GB||LET|
|There are also some other providers not listed in this table.|
- Prices are in Japanese Yen (JPY) unless specified otherwise.
- Intl.orders: whether or not a host freely accepts orders from abroad (i.e. allows to enter a non-Japanese address);
- Eng.support: whether or not they are known to be willing to support customers in English;
- IPv6: “No” when I couldn't find anything about IPv6 on their website; “Planned” is if they explicitly say on some page that it's coming in the future;
- rDNS: whether or not Reverse DNS (PTR record) can be edited; and is it instant via their control panel, or only via submitting a support ticket; just “Yes” here means rDNS is mentioned as a feature, but it is not clear whether it's instant or via a ticket only;
- Test IP: you can ping or traceroute/mtr this to check your latency and routing; also in some cases includes IPv6, so in order to keep the table compact, I created DNS records in my domain, pointing to the actual IPs; In most cases the company website is hosted in a different network than the actual VPSes, or doesn't respond to pings; where none of that is a problem, I'll just list the website address; Note that I don't have VPSes at all these companies, I just found some test IPs and saved them as DNS records for your (and my own) convenience;
- Red/green: best or worst in the category; of course it's quite subjective, e.g. some are expensive but provide a ton of resources; Dream.jp is cheap, but is OpenVZ with a slow CPU; etc.
- Ablenet's 1.5GB plan setup fee is waived as a “campaign” with no specified end date.
- Ablenet supports setting rDNS via a support ticket, but only on IPv4. IPv6 rDNS is not available. (asked in July-2013)
- GMO ConoHa are known to accept support inquiries in English, but will reply in Japanese only.
- rDNS in the ConoHa control panel does not accept domains in IDN TLDs (such as .xn--p1ai/.рф or .xn--j6w193g/.香港); their support staff confirmed this, but did not act to correct the issue (asked in April-2014);
- Linode provides one IPv6 address (/128) by default, and up to a /56 subnet on request (free);
- I contacted SPPD asking about foreign orders and customer support, they said that ordering from abroad is okay, but the support language is Japanese only.
Some provider directories (in Japanese):
LGs from Japan: