Monday, December 26, 2011

Leopalace Internet: LEO-NET

Leopalace apartments come wired with the company's own proprietary broadband Internet service, dubbed レオネット, or LEO-NET. This is, to me, is one of the apartments' biggest strengths, but it also highlights exactly how little control you have when you live in Leopalace.

Check out our AccessJ review below.

Internet Speed
Of course the first thing any Internet-nerd is going to want to know about is the connection speed. LEO-NET is broadband, and in my case fiber-optic, but some buildings may use ADSL. And remember, since it's proprietary, that means every other apartment in your building is using the same main line as you.

That said, the speeds were, in my experience, fine. I didn't dread downloading 100MB files like I did back on my terrible DSL connection in the States, but things over a couple gigs (like a Steam purchase or something) usually meant I'd be leaving the computer on overnight. Compared to other fiber-optics connections I used, it felt slow; I couldn't expect the several-megabit-per-second speeds I'd had on NTT Flets or whatever tiny regional company it was that strung cables into my university dorm room, intent on swaying me to their service with bright-minded catchphrases about their Internet being "本当にベリーファスト."

Anyway, if you're mainly concerned about things like watching Youtube, then no worries: LEO-NET buffers streaming video as soon as you hit the page.

In my case, I could almost expect LEO-NET to be down for a few days every other month for maintenance or some problem with my building. I imagine this isn't representative of all buildings, as it turned out that there was some physical damage to the line, and some third-party company had to come out on more than one occasion to fix it. The modems are all proprietary, of course, and can't (easily) be replaced by something else you buy yourself. They aren't bad, but they don't seem to be built for continuous operation. If you leave yours on all the time (instead of turning it off each time you're done using the Internet), you may find that every few weeks computers will mysteriously stop connecting to it. Cycling the power on the modem should fix the problem.

Signing In & Compatible Devices

I had some qualms about LEO-NET, the first of which was that it requires you to sign in every time you want to use it on a freshly rebooted device. If you're turning your computer/console on after a complete shutdown, the first time you open up a browser window and try to navigate to a page a popup will trigger asking you for your LEO-NET username and password.

That username and password should have been provided to you from the realtor in your moving-in booklet. Mine was on a flimsy blue sheet of A4 paper. The username and password are both long strings of numbers. Because they are a pain to remember, I used a magic marker to scrawl mine down in big numerals on a piece of paper and hung that on the wall (so I could see it from anywhere in the room).

Regardless, nothing on the Internet is accessible until that login information has been entered. Aside from PCs (Windows, Linux, and Mac), I was also able to get a Playstation 3 to connect to LEO-NET. You have to open up the console's browser once after every boot-up to get the "popup," but after you enter your credentials there you can play online without any hitches.

As for entering the username and password each time, I think I eventually got an obscure Linux browser (Kazehakase, perhaps?) to remember the credentials and automatically log me in whenever I started that browser, but I never found a way to do the same with Firefox or Chome at the time. For the PS3, I just had to enter the username and password on the crappy on-screen keyboard each time I played.

Multiple Devices

My other major complaint with the default setup is that it only allows you to attach one device to the Internet at a time. A standard ethernet cable snakes out from behind the LEO-NET modem, and you can attach that in to one device. If your device doesn't have an Ethernet port (i.e. iPad), LEO-NET tells you that sorry, you're just S.O.L.

I never tried to hook up a wireless router to my LEO-NET modem. It may be possible, but I don't know how you'd configure your router settings. It may "just work" or it may require you to play around a bit with the internals. Either way, I assume that after you got your device connected to the modem, you'd still need to open up a browser and enter your credentials into that obnoxious HTML port popup. Devices unable to provide that login prompt may simply be unable to use the connection.

I did, however, make good use of a cheap $10, 5-port hub. With that and a small collection of short Ethernet cables, I was able to connect all my devices and have them online simultaneously. Yes, I had to enter login credentials on each of them every time I powered them on.

Ready to Go

Perhaps the biggest strength of LEO-NET is that it's already wired into your room and ready to go, even before you move in. At other apartments, you have to contact a provider, make sure they have main lines installed at your building, then schedule a day for them to come and run a smaller line up to your actual apartment. During peak moving times, the installers can be booked at all times of day for 3 or 4 weeks. That can mean a sizable gap between moving in and using the Internet. And if you insist on a Saturday installation (because, you know, you have a job), you may be stuck waiting for a month or two before they can come hook your apartment up. This is pretty obnoxious around moving time, when you might want Internet access at home to communicate with family, employers, or to shop online for furniture and stuff for your new place, and I think this is especially pertinent when you're moving into a new place abroad. LEO-NET preemptively knocks that problem out of the way for you.

I hope you enjoyed our series on Leopalace apartments or found it useful in your own preparations to move to Japan. If you have any more comments on your experiences using LEO-NET, or if you have any questions about it, let us know!


  1. Oh man, I could actually feel physical pain when reading about having to manually log in the PS3 every time. :(

    I wonder if you could have the computer act as a router so the PS3 could connect through that since I assume it's on and connected most of the time anyway.

  2. Actually is very easy to have you browser (either firefox or chrome) remembering your credentials.

    But I prefer to have a script doing the authentication for me, here is the script:

  3. I wonder if it just got easier to get Chrome to do it, or if I was just missing a really obvious setting back then. Anyway, thank you very much for sharing the script. I am sure a lot of readers will appreciate it.

  4. My Leopalace apartment comes with a LAN cable outlet sticking through the wall. Hook up a LAN cable to it and to your computer, and you're away (except for UN and PW once a day or so).

    The biggest problem is paying. Although they are an internet service provider, amazingly, you can't pay over the internet. Leonet also connects to your tv through an archaic looking black box with an equally archaic looking remote control. When it comes time to pay, you have to fire up the tv, make sure everything is plugged in (ie, LAN cable into black box, black box into tv, etc), then negotiate the menu interface in Japanese on the tv via the remote control - no other way, unless you want to spend an hour or two going to the Leopalace office. Any problems? Call their help line, and an English speaking person will eventually call you back to talk you through it.

    I try to pay the maximum amount via credit card, which gets me about six months, and I can feel the tension rising in me as I prepare to negotiate the interface yet again. Something always seems to go wrong. Last time I couldn't even get the Leonet menu up on the tv screen. After calling the help line, and half an hour of futile connection checking and button pressing, they decided that the black box was malfunctioning, and they'd have to supply me with another. Of course, there is then all the fun of arranging delivery times when I am at home.

    This system is ridiculous. You should be able to pay via credit card online.

  5. Actually, I don't ever remember having to arrange payments for LEO-NET. It was included as part of my rent check. Is rent handled by your employer, or are you paying it directly? If you are already having rent withdrawn from one of your bank accounts, perhaps you could ask at the Leopalace office to have the LEO-NET charges included in your monthly withdrawal.

  6. Did you ever use torrents on leo net?

  7. I believe the internet fee is included in the rental for short stays, but if you take out a two year contract on the apartment, you have to pay separately.

    I think I'm the same anonymous who commented above, as I've just had to do it all again for another six months. This time, I think I got through all the fifteen different screens or so, only to reach the last one, when I didn't understand what was wanted, and entered the wrong information maybe three times. When I finally got it right and pressed enter, it flashed up a screen saying incorrect information had been entered. I know that wasn't true, so I think it was some kind of 'three strikes and you're out lockout', I finally managed to get an English-speaking support guy to call me back and arrange a payment at a convenience store. You can also do this online, if you can negotiate all the screens.

    All in all, a hopeless business model. If they didn't have a monopoly on the internet in LeoPalace apartments and had to face some competition, they'd be off their backsides in no time to provide a better service.

  8. Hey man, great article! I'm living in Leo Palace now, and I'm trying to hook up my ethernet cord to my PS3 so I can play online. But it's not working unfortunately. Any advice to get it to work?

  9. Got the new Life Stick system. It is so incredibly slow. Constantly timing out on my gaming consoles and handhelds. Kind of frustrating that this costs me ¥1650 a month, when my old apartment (not Leopalace...) had free fibre to the home that was about 200MB/s.

  10. I chose the standard plan which is around 2000 yen a month and I topped up my Leopoints or whatever to 6000 yen. Does it automatically take my points or do I manually have to pay for a new plan? Thanks heaps!!!

  11. It's slow and not smooth.
    What should I do.
    It's trouble.

  12. I have a question, the instructions said that I need to connect the stick to the TV but I don't have any TV yet xD.
    Can I connect directly to my computer or something?
    Thanks in advance.

  13. It's really slow. So freakin slow. I have tried other routers and the result was the same. Got my Leopoint reloaded but it is still slow.

  14. Leo Net quality varies drastically by geography and occupancy. I used to live in Leo Palace Apartments in smaller cities in Tochigi and Saitama with no problems with the internet connectivity or with connection reliability. I am pretty sure all those countryside apartments were at half occupancy or less.
    I now live in a suburb of Tokyo in a smaller Leo Palace (ten total units instead of the twenty unit buildings in the countryside). My internet during the daytime and the weekend is fine for web surfing and watching Youtube. If I try to play videogames onliine or try to use a direct download the network times out.