japan travel apps

9 Essential Travel Apps for Your Trip to Japan

After landing in Japan with only a few phrases under my belt, basic things suddenly seemed impossible.

How would I find my way around? How should I communicate with people? How could I ask locals about the best places to see, eat and visit? With no friends or family in the city, I turned to the internet for help.

Over my year spent living in Japan, I used a handful of apps constantly. Reading a menu in Japanese? No problem. Getting around by train? Simple. Keeping in touch with my new Japanese friends? Piece of cake.

With an arsenal of handy apps in my pocket, I managed to do just about everything. And now with these top recommendations available for all to see, you can, too!
 


 

9 Essential Travel Apps for Your Trip to Japan

FluentU

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

Trust me when I tell you that traveling in Japan is much easier when you can speak the language. But that doesn’t mean you’ll spend your days with your head buried in a textbook.

FluentU helps you learn Japanese through entertaining videos. You can watch movie trailers, music videos, news broadcasts and vlogs, all delivered in the context of personalized language lessons. Watching videos helps you hear native accents and learn about Japanese culture at the same time.

Even better, you can download tools and learning features to use offline. So you can keep watching videos from a maid cafe in Shinjuku or on a high-speed train from Tokyo to Osaka.

The FluentU Japanese Language and Culture Blog also offers tons of resources covering grammar, vocabulary, tips and tricks to help you learn Japanese more quickly.

Want to work from home? Maintain flexible hours? Make a positive impact? Be part of an empowering and collaborative community?
Click here to join our team!

HyperDia

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

If you’re planning to do any train travel in Japan, you have to get hold of HyperDia. Available in English, Chinese and of course, Japanese, it’s the go-to site for checking train times and buying train tickets. It’ll also warn you if part of your journey isn’t covered by the popular Japan Rail Pass.

In recent years, HyperDia has also started to include voice activation. It’s perfect for checking the next train while you’re running through the station with a coffee, bento and several suitcases in tow! Just say your departure station, arrival station and desired time, and the search results will appear straight on your screen.

Yomiwa

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

Spent the last hour trying to decipher a Japanese menu? It’s time to download Yomiwa.

This app can help you translate Japanese text simply pointing your phone camera. Your camera hovers over the characters and translates them into English. Use it for signs, menus, flyers, newspapers and more! This app is also a great way to familiarize yourself with common Japanese characters so you can learn to read by yourself.

You can save key words and phrases, look up definitions and even practice your writing skills. It’s available offline, too, so you can use it in those internet-free traditional restaurants that haven’t quite caught up to the 21st century yet.

Ms. Green

Website | Android

japan travel apps

This cute, manga-inspired app is your go-to guide for exploring Japan’s culture and customs.

You’ll learn while following the journey of Ms. Green, the newest recruit of a fictional travel agency. The adorable animations will guide you through Japanese history, food, sites, cities and events.

As well as offering a great guide to the country, the app also allows you to book tours, accommodation and transport in partnership with JAPANiCAN.

Navitime

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

What started as a simple guide to the Tokyo metro system has now grown into a comprehensive guide to the city’s entire transport network. Use it to navigate the mind-boggling network and get from A to B without spending hours staring at Tokyo’s daunting subway maps.

This app also features a route planner, travel times and station maps—much needed when you’re trying to navigate the labyrinth-like stations of Shinjuku and Shibuya.

You’ll also find regional guides and travel advice offered by other in-the-know expats.

Google Maps

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

This app is a must for Japan, where navigating the country’s confusing address system is almost impossible for non-native.

Most of the streets don’t have names, and the building numbers often aren’t in any order. So you’ll definitely need a hand in getting around! On top of that, taxi drivers rarely speak English, so you’ll need a way to show them where you want to go.

The second I landed, I downloaded the offline version of Google Maps, which saved me hours of wandering around, looking very lost and confused.

It’ll give you door-to-door directions while suggesting the best routes on foot, by car and via public transport. You can even use the street view feature to see what the building looks like before you arrive. Very handy given that many Japanese venues are several stories up and not always easy to spot at first glance.

Line

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

You may have heard that WhatsApp is the go-to communication app for traveling abroad. But not in Japan! Every time I met a new Japanese friend, you could guarantee one question would come up: “Do you have Line?”

It’s the communication tool of choice among young Japanese people and the best way to stay in contact with new friends. Primarily a texting app, you can also use it to make free voice calls and leave messages whenever you have an internet connection. Using this app means no large phone bill when you return to your home country!

The best feature, however, has to be the cute stickers and characters called Line Friends. They’ve gained a cult following and you’ll no doubt spot tons of stores selling their merchandise. They’re also the inspiration for animations, games, cafes, hotels and a theme park.

Gurunavi

Website | iOS | Android

japan travel apps

Like many people, I couldn’t get enough of the food in Japan. Ramen, sushi, tempura… and that’s just for starters!

But what’s the best way to find the bars and restaurants that you really can’t miss? Gurunavi, of course. With recommendations across several major cities including Kyoto, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Kobe, Tokyo and Nagoya, this app will help you find the best places to eat, drink and have a great time.

Gurunavi allows you to make reservations online, peruse menus (in English) and even check out local reviews. Most establishments won’t have English speakers on staff, though, so it’s important to learn some essential food-related lingo before you sit down to dinner.

Yurekuru

iOS | Android

japan travel apps

I was fortunate enough not to experience a large earthquake while living in Japan, but little wobbles are a fact of everyday life.

Before you arrive, it’s worth brushing up on the basics of what to do in the event of an earthquake, even if you’re unlikely to put it to use. When working in Japan, I felt a little foolish panicking at a light tremor while all my colleagues calmly took shelter under their desks!

This earthquake early warning system uses information from the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s Earthquake Early Warning system to inform you of an oncoming quake. You can also set your own threshold for alerts, so you won’t be disturbed by a little rumble in the middle of the night.

 

In a country where the language can be hard to master, apps are a great way to get around and make new friends. You’d be surprised how far you can get having an entire conversation using just mime and a translation app!

But if you really want to get to know the country, it’s best to become conversational before you go. Many Japanese people understand how tricky their language can be. If you’re able to show some effort and know-how, you’re bound to impress just about everyone you meet! Then you can use your new Japanese acquaintances for ramen restaurant recommendations, not an app!

 


Emma Brooke is a travel writer and serial expat currently living in Paris.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.

Sign up for free!

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close