A blog by Colin Marshall has a neat piece on cell phones vs wi-fi in Japan. Now in 2006 I did frequent a couple coffee shops that had wi-fi (Dotour Coffee and Excelsior Coffee, franchise chains of the same company). But Colin is correct in that you couldn’t count on having wi-fi, and the gist of his post suggests that things have gotten worse.
His argument is that the Japanese cell phone market moved earlier than the US to smart phones [though with an idiosyncratic standard, so that it is a “Galapagos” market, lots of unique things which however are not viable in any other market]. As a result, there was no net advantage [pun intended] in yourself paying to set up wi-fi.
Comments? Queries? — I’m pretty sure you can get a “hot spot” map, one way to check whether things were really as scarce as claimed.
Oh, and this is part of his two-part “Kansai no Nikki [diary] series. You can find Part I here. As someone who’s intensely interested in cities, they include interesting observations and comparisons to other cities.