The Best Travel Apps for Japan to Download Right Now!
With today’s technology, international travel has never been easier. When traveling to a destination that you’ve never visited before, having a few travel apps can decrease stress and increase productivity while on your trip. After countless trips to Japan, these are a few of the best Japan travel apps that we found most useful during our visits to Japan!
1. Google Maps
If you’re only going to download ONE of these travel apps for Japan, let it be Google Maps. It’s by far the app that we’ve used the most while in Japan. Google Maps allows you to be very efficient in how you travel from place to place, regardless of your method. I love how this app allows you to change your method of travel (walking, driving, public transit, etc.) and gives you both a map and turn-by-turn instructions.
Another great feature of Google Maps is its ability to calculate your fare on public transit (i.e. trains, subways, streetcars, etc.) so you’re able to purchase the correct ticket or more efficiently tap in on your IC card and don’t have to worry about correcting your balance at your destination.
The last thing we love about Google Maps is that we were able to save all of the places we wanted to visit by flagging or favoriting locations and you can find many other neat things in the area by clicking on different places and seeing photos/reviews.
We have used TripAdvisor a number of times when researching and planning our trips. While it is good to reference printed literature when planning your trip, TripAdvisor is amazing because information about attractions, hotels, and restaurants is typically updated frequently and it is free to use!
TripAdvisor utilizes reviews and information given by travelers and professional sources to give you information about the best locations to visit, stay, and eat, to get the most out of your trip. You can also create lists to save everything in one place.
One of the best aspects of TripAdvisor is its map and current location searches that allow you to search areas of interest near you. It was especially helpful on the evenings when we had changed our itinerary and needed a quick place to eat nearby.
While it is nice to visit “hot spots” in each city, we also enjoy trying new locations that haven’t been reviewed and sharing these new places with other adventurous travelers.
Gurunavi is basically the Yelp of Japan except it focuses on restaurants that are local favorites, versus the feedback of tourists (like TripAdvisor is in Japan). You can search by location or special features and find detailed information about the restaurant you choose to look at including hours, address, and how to get to the restaurant, real-time information, menus, and photos, and even make online reservations when available. The app is available in Japanese but if you go on the website you can translate easily to English!
4. Innovative Language 101
I have learned that making an attempt to learn another language can go a long way in how receptive others are when you visit their country. Innovative Language 101 has a lot of great materials to get you started on the basics of many different languages and is available to use on your desktop computer as well as your phone.
It also utilizes audio and visual lessons and has native speakers teach you proper intonation and phrasing of your desired language. There are also written lessons, PDF files, and community forums to aid in furthering your language education. While the download and trial membership is free, to gain full utilization of all the resources there are various membership packages available for a monthly fee.
Cost: Download – Free; Premium membership – $4-23/month
READ MORE: Things to Know About Driving in Japan
5. Google Translate
Google has developed some great apps that allow people to travel and communicate like never before! If you aren’t familiar with it, Google Translate is an amazing app that allows you to obviously translate simultaneously between two different languages. Hands down, this is one of the most useful travel apps for Japan.
The basic function is to type in the desired phrase or word and the app generates the corresponding text in the desired language. However, this app goes above and beyond with its extensive interface. An example is using the microphone to seamlessly translate spoken words into a text and verbal reply.
Another feature of this app which is still a work in progress is the written translation. You can take a picture of text (i.e. a menu, or attraction pamphlet) and have it translated into your desired language. It isn’t always 100% accurate but it is getting better and better.
As we’ve said before, Google Translate is an awesome app that works well MOST of the time, but there are times when it doesn’t translate correctly or it just doesn’t cut it. That’s where Imiwa comes in. Imiwa is basically a Japanese dictionary of words or phrases that you can look up or you can type our kanji characters to help figure out what a word is in Japanese if Google Translate is not translating correctly.
Hyperdia is a railway timetable app that is perfect for planning out when you need to catch your train. Google Maps also offers this feature but Hyperdia is another great way to double-check your routes, especially in more rural areas where Google Maps might fall short.
We love this app because it allows you to set specific times, railways, and other variables to determine your best route.
Cost: Free (First 30 days)
READ MORE: A Complete Packing List For Japan
If you are planning to book tickets in advance to certain attractions in Japan, Klook is a great option to streamline ticket purchases. Once you have an account set up you can simply show your mobile voucher/ticket. You also get discounts with the more bookings you make on Klook which makes it a cost-effective way to visit attractions in Japan too!
9. Japan Official Travel App
This app is kind of the king of the best travel apps for Japan. It has information about popular tourist spots, restaurants, baggage storage, ATMs, hotels, car rentals, free Wi-Fi locations, disaster information, train stations, tax-free information, and hospitals. Some of these features are even available offline.
10. Japan Taxi or DiDi
Where Uber is not available, Japan Taxi or DiDi will most likely be the best alternatives! It’s a program available only in Japan where you can call a taxi, make a future reservation for a taxi, find out your fare, and pay for it instantly by connecting your card. However, it’s important to note that some taxis still only accept cash so make sure you have some on hand prior to calling a taxi!
11. NHK News
NHK News is the largest news broadcaster in Japan. Downloading their app will alert you to local news near you (you might even find a cool event!) but it’s also a great app for your safety. NHK News offers live updates on any natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, or more. It is also available in a number of languages!
In the United States, we use WhatsApp or GroupMe but in Japan, Line is the popular messenger. The reason we love Line is that we can communicate with family and friends in Japan but it also can be a money-saving app too! Many stores and restaurants in Japan have QR codes that you can scan and sign-up for coupons or discounts to their store on Line. But, hey, if you make a few friends while in Japan, you could ask for their Line information too! 🙂
We definitely consider these to be the best Japan travel apps and they were seriously live savers on our three week trip to Japan and again when we moved to Japan for three months. Whether it be to get around, search for something to do, or aid in communicating, we highly recommend all of these travel apps for Japan to help make your trip easier and stress-free!
What were some apps that you couldn’t live without while traveling abroad? Which of these best Japan travel apps do you already have and utilize?