Who still reads the paper, made out of paper? And would you even remember what a phonebook looks like? When travelling, carrying around heavy and quickly out-dated guidebooks is no longer necessary. All thanks to technology like smartphones, tablets,
and e-readers. If you equip yourself with the necessary tools, you can navigate around Japan like you’ve lived there for years. What are those tools, you say? Well, just scroll down for a list of the best apps you’ll need for travelling in Japan!
Glued to your phone
Especially in a country as gadget-loving as Japan, being glued to your phone only makes you blend in with the Japanese. In fact, Japanese have been so much absorbed in their phones that a number of incidents at train stations spiked the campaign “don’t ‘smartphone’ and walk” on train platforms all over Japan.
In order to prevent sky-high internet bills, I’ve collected apps that work offline when possible.
Here’s the list of not-to-miss apps for your device, which will make your travel through Japan that much more comfortable.
MapsWithMe is a sort of offline version of Google maps. It’s perfect for your orientation when you have no internet connection. Download the map of Japan in advance so you can use it offline at any time. When you do have a connection you can find your current location.
The paid version is more extensive and features, for instance, a convenient search bar.
image courtesy of android-phones.ru
Available for: everything
Price: 4,99$ (Lite version for free)
A great app to help you find your orientation is Planetyze.
Plan your trip to Japan from your iPhone or iPad and make it an enjoyable experience since the beginning. You will find all prefectures and most popular destinations in the main screen with full information about the sights and tours.
Planetyze also offers a maps to locate every destination, wishlist to save your favourite ones, reviews, videos and a earch option where you can find faster your favorites places!
Available for: iPhone, iPad.
Download Planetyze App
Navitime is a comprehensive train route app and one of the few that works in English.
It works with internet or WIFI. It now features a WIFI spot searcher which is helpful if you don’t want to pay for or cannot access internet in Japan.
image courtesy of appster.de
Available for: iPhone & Android
Price: 19,99$ per month (Lite version for free)
Imiwa is an offline Japanese dictionary app and works with English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, German, Korean and Russian. It works quite intuitively and best of all: it’s totally free! You will need to know the pronunciation in Japanese in order to look up words, so it works best with spoken Japanese.
image courtesy of Imiwa
Available for: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
For users of Android or Blackberry phones, I advise Aedict, a similarly handy tool for your EN-JP JP-EN translations. Aedict also provides example sentences with every looked up word.
Available for: Android and Blackberry
Price: 0$ or 5$
For those of you who haven’t studied written Japanese, it is close to impossible to look words up in a dictionary. For you, Yomiwa is the answer to all your troubles.
You simply have to make a picture of a Japanese text and the app does the rest, no internet connection needed!
image courtesy of Yomiwa
Available for: iPhone.
Line is a Japanese app that offers messaging and free calls (internet required).
Since most people in Japan use this to stay in contact with, well, everyone, installing this app and creating a Line ID will make it easier for you to contact your new Japanese friends. The good thing about this app it that you don’t necessarily
need a phone number so it also works on iPod touch and tablets.
However, unlike Skype, you cannot phone directly to phone numbers using the internet.
image courtesy of cubrid.org
Available for: Everything (even computers).
The best app for searching for a restaurant is without doubt the app of the Japanese gourmet website GuruNavi. Find restaurants listed by proximity to where you are at that moment, or choose a type of food or set a budget.
GuruNavi shows so many alternatives, it might have been called ‘Navi Guru’ (actually it probably won’t, since the ‘guru’ in ‘GuruNavi’ has nothing to do with master yogi’s, but is short for ‘gurume’ meaning ‘gourmet’ in Japanese).
Gurunavi often offers coupons for extra discount or complementary drinks.
image courtesy of japanmobiletech.com
Available for: iPhone & Android.
There are numerous apps to keep you informed about current events in Japan.
NHK World is one of the biggest English news feeds. Their news radio app, NHK World Radio, will keep you updated with the latest of all news concerning Japan, including business and financial news as well as other news on Asia and global news. The news updates come in 14 different languages. Note that you will need an internet connection, but the app itself is free.
image courtesy of english-samurai.com
Available for: iPhone, iPad & Android.
In Japan, photo sticker booths are immensely popular. They are also known as ‘purikura’ (from Japanese pop culture lingo purinto kurabu, meaning print club). You throw 400 yen into a machine inside a large booth (maximum of about 5 people comfortably, 15 people not-so-comfortably), and the machine does the rest. What is the rest? They slim you down, make your skin smoother and whiter, your eyes much larger and your make-up more pronounced. With this, anyone can look like a teenage superstar!
Although I advise you to at least try the real thing once, because it’s so much fun, Sticki Pici lets you make your own ‘purikura’ pictures, anywhere and with anyone.
Currently available at US iTunes only.
Available for: iPhone
Price: 2,99$ (Lite version for free)