Finding a phone app and downloading it takes but a few seconds, but how do you know if your Japanese dictionary lives up to expectations when you need it most?
I am here to help you find some of the best dictionary applications to use inside or outside of Japan.
After mastering hiragana and katakana and learning the essentials of Japanese kanji, try to challenge yourself by downloading an all-Japanese app. Even if it’s just for play.
- Japanese Dictionary Apps for Study and Reference
- Japanese Dictionary Apps for Travel
Japanese Dictionary Apps for Study and Reference
1. Sanseido Language Dictionary The Seventh Edition
Android || iPhone
Japanese dictionary apps don’t come cheap, but they’re great tools for anyone who wants a little challenge or extra practice while studying Japanese.
What’s awesome about this app is how nicely it integrates with your phone. Sanseido Language Dictionary acts similar to iOS’s built-in dictionary, where it gives users the ability to select a word while web-browsing and displays its definition in a pop-up box.
iCloud synchronization lets you bookmark useful words on one device and display it on another.
2. Learning Language Dictionary The Ninth Edition
Are you a beginner, intermediate or anywhere-in-between Japanese learner? Great! This is the dictionary app you’ve been waiting for.
Learning Language Dictionary has a camera function that reads kanji from a picture that you’ve snapped (or one sitting in your albums) and defines it. No more #LivingInTheStoneAge woes.
Did I mention that this app is child-friendly (as in great for beginners)?
Definitions are kept on the elementary-level side while kanji can be converted to hiragana. Learning Language Dictionary also includes a kanji-trace feature, stroke order and includes the number of strokes in kanji to strengthen your reading skills.
More advanced speakers might enjoy 大辞林 (だいじりん), which is regarded as the Japanese Webster/Oxford dictionary for your iPhone!
Android || iPhone
FluentU can be used as a personal video-based dictionary for those studying Japanese.
At its core, FluentU is a language learning platform with a diverse video library, with media clips ranging from beginner to advanced. Search for any term and you’ll get a list of videos that feature that word. When you watch a video, you can add any unknown word from the interactive subtitles to your own flashcard deck for additional practice.
In addition to the videos, using FluentU’s annotated subtitles, flashcards and personalized quizzes can help you brush up on your Japanese, preparing you for future Japanese encounters.
Imiwa? is one of the most popular dictionaries available on your iPhone.
This app is great for those of us who aren’t quite sure how to search kanji by radicals. Users can search for kanji characters simply by drawing the character directly on the screen (or if you want to look up a word by its radicals, stroke order, kana or romaji, you can do that too). Imiwa? also lets its users practice writing Japanese characters.
Kanji is provided with furigana, and definitions come with example sentences. By tapping a new word, users can hear native pronunciation.
Other features include verb conjugation charts, notebooks to keep track of your favorite words, JLTP vocabulary lists and more.
Imi is another brilliant dictionary that allows you to search for vocabulary using kanji, kana or romaji. Imi provides example sentences with new vocabulary, and verbs and adjectives come with a conjugation list.
Imi can work as a study tool for those learning kanji with its built-in kanji flashcard tool or by making good use of its animated kanji stroke order feature.
Imi plans to release more features in the future that include quizzes and mini games, and the ability to sync study collections across multiple devices.
Japanese Dictionary Apps for Travel
6. GogoNavi Japanese
GogoNavi Japanese is a pretty straight-forward dictionary with a lot of useful features, the most outstanding of which is its ability to operate offline.
This may not seem like a big deal, but despite Japan’s high-tech toilets, punctual bullet trains and eye for all things cute (have you seen those owl cafes?!), you can spend an entire day searching for free wifi.
Along with saving you hours of wifi hunting (which you can now use to test out your Japanese shopping phrases at Shinjuku’s uber chic boutiques), GogoNavi lets you search for words by kanji, kana and romaji.
Each word is accompanied by audio pronunciation and example sentences. Users can tap on kanji to quickly look up its meaning, and words saved on your “favorites list” can be synchronized between all of your devices.
7. Akebi Japanese Dictionary
This app is a great all-around dictionary. Its powerful kanji tools can be used for study, and the fact that it works offline will prove to be extremely helpful.
Words can be searched for in different conjugations (eg: You can search for 買います/かいます and be directed to 買う/かう, the plain form).
Each kanji character is broken down by its radical, difficulty, JLPT appearance, stroke count and animated stroke order. In case that wasn’t enough, Akebi Japanese Dictionary allows you to create kanji sets and quiz yourself with flashcards.
8. Kansai Dialect Intonation
The Kansai area contains two of Japan’s old capitals, crazy-amazing food and a wild yet warm dialect. Why not try taking it up a notch and chat up the locals in 関西弁 (かいさいべん — Kansai dialect)? Kansai Dialect Intonation lets you do just that (or at least helps you understand what’s being said around you).
Not only does this app teach you new words, but you can listen to audio to learn Kansai-ben’s unique intonation as well.
9. Japanese Food Dictionary
Japan has hundreds of delicious specialties. Although so much delicious food can seem like heaven, having so many mouth-watering plates can make it difficult to memorize what’s what.
The Japanese Food Dictionary provides you with hundreds of common restaurant and street food from 塩ラーメン (しお らーめん — salt ramen) to キクラゲ (きくらげ — a mushroom-like fungi found in tons of delicious soup dishes).
Kanji and kana appear in each entry with a picture of each food item. To save you the embarrassment of holding up and pointing to the screen of your phone to order, this app will have you ordering Japanese food like a pro by using the audio provided with each definition.
Food items are split into restaurant types (eg: ramen shop) and categories (eg: seafood). You also have the option to browse or search by input. Admit it, this is basically the best thing ever.
10. Sushi Dictionary
Android || iPhone
Next to “the best thing ever” is the sushi dictionary. Many casual sushi restaurants like 回転寿司 (かいてんずし — rotating sushi) have menus in English, however if you’re not in a big city, or if you’re in a fancier establishment, then you may need some assistance.
You can browse through sushi easily by categories and pictures. Upon making a selection, you’ll be provided with the Japanese and English name and definition.
11. Yomiwa — Japanese Camera Translator
Not at a sushi restaurant? Fear not, Yomiwa is just the app you need to read anything in Japanese. This is an app that allows its users to snap a picture of text with their camera cell phone, and then defines words and characters—whether they’re in kana or kanji.
Having no sense of direction or knowledge of station names, I love using this app while trying to read sign boards and street signs. A similar app for Android users is Waygo. The best part about both these apps? They work offline!
You’ve got this! Now you’re ready to read and define just about anything that comes your way. Don’t know what all those buttons mean on a Japanese toilet? Pssh. Easy. Your phone can tell you that with a simple snap of the camera. Just make sure the shutter is on silent!