Navigating Japan with zero Japanese skills is not as hard as you may think. If you just have the right kind of apps downloaded to your smartphone or tablet, you can have the time of your lives in this part of the world, despite only knowing “arigatou gozaimasu” (“thank you) and “sumimasen” (“sorry”). Below are some useful apps that are a must to download before you head to Japan for your trip:
If you are having trouble finding a shop, temple, museum, restaurant or your hotel, Google Maps is your friend. It can provide you with a list of options if you are looking for the best way to get to a destination, whether it be by train, bus or on foot. It also displays fare prices and duration of travel, and offers a GPS function that can guide you in real-time to any corner of Japan that you want to explore. However, be aware that this app requires that your device is connected to the internet for it to work in Japan as it does not allow the download of Japan’s map for offline use.
Google Maps download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps&hl=en
Google Maps download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps-navigation-transit/id585027354?mt=8
MAPS.ME is a reliable alternative to Google Maps to save money on portable wifi rental or sim card purchase in Japan when it comes to getting around the streets and transportation networks of Japan. It works perfectly offline, so you can get the help that you need when locating sites and attractions in any part of the country without your phone or tablet needing connection to the internet. It has a GPS Positioning feature that pinpoints where you are and guides you to your next destination.
MAPS.ME download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mapswithme.maps.pro&referrer=utm_content%3D17431571%26utm_medium%3Dbanner%26utm_campaign%3D5496058%26utm_source%3D1link.mail.ru%26rb_clickid%3D17431571-1499126044-367590236&_1lr=1
MAPS.ME download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id510623322?_1lr=1
Japan Official Travel App
Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has developed the ultimate tourist app for travelling Japan. This free app is designed to have all the information you need to know as a tourist travelling Japan in the one spot. So far it includes information on: tourist information, public transport route guidance, free wi-fi spots and ATM locations, a listing of hospitals that support foreign languages, safety alerts for natural disasters, restaurant listings, luggage forwarding and storage locations and duty-free store locations. Phew! What more could you ask for!? Well, they even plan on expanding the app for information on rural areas, perfect for those planning to travel off the beaten track.
Japan Official Travel App download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/japan-official-travel-app/id1230367186?mt=8&ct=jnto_web_lp
Japan Official Travel App download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.go.jnto.jota&referrer=utm_source%3Djnto%26utm_medium%3Dweb%26utm_campaign%3Dlp
Japan’s transportation network may appear complicated to a foreigner, so an app like NAVITIME is essential to avoid wasting time getting lost or figuring out the best route using a paper map. It includes information on train and subway timetables, train and subway stops, travel duration, bus schedules, taxi fare estimates, pedestrian routes and other important details of Japan’s public transportation network. It uses distinct icons for different types of landmarks and has GPS and voice navigation to make your stay less stressful or confusing.
NAVITIME download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.navitime.inbound.walk
NAVITIME download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/navitime-for-japan-travel/id686373726?mt=8
An app released by the Narita International Airport Corporation, Tabimori is a free app that offers a wide range of features to make foreign visitors feel as comfortable as possible navigating the country. It features weather forecasts, flight information, speech translation, sites and attraction guides, route planner, currency converter, emergency contact, foreign embassies listing, duty free shopping, public transportation guide, and other useful functions, all of which can be easily accessed even if you are not connected to the internet.
Tabimori download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.narita_airport.android.tabimori
Tabimori download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id900354705?mt=8
Not speaking a lick of Japanese should not stop anyone from visiting Japan. The large touristy cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, have many English signs throughout to help foreigners who know very little, if any, Japanese. In the smaller cities and towns, you may need to use an app such as Google Translate to help you when ordering at restaurants, purchasing items at shops, figuring out directions and other everyday activities. In addition to its regular language translation feature it has the Word Lens function that allows translation of kanji to English by taking a photo of the kanji characters using your device’s camera.
Google Translate download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?hl=en&id=com.google.android.apps.translate
Google Translate download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/ph/app/google-translate/id414706506?mt=8
Japan is known for its excellent cuisine so having the GURUNAVI app is a must to find where the best restaurants and dining places are located. Whether you are in Tokyo, Hokkaido, Aichi, Fukuoka, Osaka or Okinawa, with GURUNAVI you can search information by city, price and menu and find dining establishments that offer English menus or accept credit cards.
GURUNAVI download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.co.gnavi.frg.activity&hl=en
GURUNAVI download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/jp/app/gurunavi-japan-restaurant-guide/id430795962?l=en&mt=8
Japan ATM Navigation
Although more and more business establishments in Japan have started to accept international debit and credit cards as payment methods, there are still many that only accept cash. Fortunately, there are numerous ATMs around the country where you can withdraw cash without any problems. And to find the nearest one to your current location, you need an app like Japan ATM Navigation. This app displays a route map that guides you to the closest SEVEN BANK ATM.
Japan ATM Navigation download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.co.sevenbank.atmnavi&hl=en
Japan ATM Navigation download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/japan-atm-navigation/id887864251?mt=8
Translate Japanese in real-time just by using your camera! Yomiwa does all the work for you, all you have to do is hover your camera over any Japanese words and it will display the translation. Especially perfect for travellers who plan to travel the country side where english signs can sometimes be scarce. This app even allows you to learn Japanese while you’re at it! It has a built-in drawing feature where you can draw Japanese characters for translation and it also includes a dictionary app where you can search in English, romanji or in Japanese characters. You can even click on words and find example sentences. The best thing about this app is it works fully offline, allowing you to save your data for other things!
Yomina download link for iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/yomiwa-japanese-dictionary-and-translator/id670931120?mt=8
Yomina download link for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.yomiwa.yomiwa&hl=en