Smartphone apps to use for your trip to Japan
How to make your trip easier ?
Check out a few of our favorite apps to use when traveling Japan by rail, including applications for navigation, time schedules, and general quality of life!
Travel with smartphone apps to optimize your travel in Japan!
Many travelers who visit Japan are intimidated by transportation in the country: the labyrinth of the Tokyo subway system, the unfamiliar language, the rules to follow… Your JR Pass takes a lot of the hassle out of your trip, and now with your smart phone, you can make it even easier!
Here are a few of our favorite apps for travel in Japan.
Getting around the language barrier
Yomiwa is one of the best all-purpose Japanese language/translation apps for travelers to utilize. With this app, users can translate written Japanese present in front of them via their camera. Text will be re-written by the app into, not only English, but a medley of other languages such as French, German, Chinese, Arabic, and Bulgarian. This will be especially useful for getting around and also at restaurants! We strongly suggest trying lesser-known restaurants that appeal more to locals that don't have English menus for a more intimate and authentic dining experience! A translation app as such will be ideal for such.
This is also a great app for Japanese learners as, when initially opened, the app prompts to whether or not you would like the app to be presented in Japanese kana characters or romaji (Japanese written in english alphabet). It also has an extensive Japanese dictionary to use as well as a kanji-identification tool that allows users to draw kanji to search them up. The app is also usable offline without an internet connection.
Find it here.
Google Translate has many similar functions as Yomiwa, but isn't created specifically for Japanese, so accuracy may not be as reliable. However, Google Translate's accessibility and ease of use makes it a popular choice that many visitors to Japan can rely on throughout their time in the country. Also like Yomiwa, the app can be used offline without an internet connection.
For those who know how to write Japanese, there is also a kanji writing input feature that is quite accurate.
Getting around Japan
Used all around the world as a standard for navigation is, of course, Google Maps. Google Maps in Japan offers detailed information on departure and arrival times, as well as extensive information on different routes, including ones that incorporate transfers and multiple modes of travel, like bus and/or taxi.
You may see more delays or differences in departure time in more rural parts of Japan, but in general, Google Maps is fairly accurate in this regard.
Google Maps also provides insight on walking routes, biking routes, taxi commuting times, and even air travel. Additionally, there are commuting fare estimates which are usually exact with train and bus routes.
Known as Japan Transit Planner, Jorudan is one of the best alternative applications to downlaod for navigating the train system in Japan.
Jorudan has a web and mobile version - both on Android and Apple iOS, and on which you can search train, airline and highway bus schedules in Japan and compares prices. The app is available in 13 languages including Japanese, French, English, Spanish and German.
Jorudan is downloadable on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and is also available on the web.
- Check out the web version of Jordaun here.
Navitime & Japan Travel
Navitime functions much like Google Maps but with a focus on travel within Japan. It includes routes for different modes of transportation, other location based services, and even a feature where you can reserve and purchase tickets for certain transit options.
Also notable with Navitime is their subsidiary app, Japan Travel, which has the option to search routes that are compatible with the Japan Rail Pass. As the pass is a popular option with visitors, using such in conjunction with both Navitime and the Japan Travel application will be optimal. With this app, you can save routes and plan your itinerary with spots you've saved yourself in regards to your personal interests. There are also a number of personal recommendations the application offers.
Both applications have a premium, paid version, however, for most travelers, the free-to-use version will suffice.
Getting around Tokyo
If you have a jam-packed schedule visiting all of the exciting places in Tokyo, the Tokyo Metro app is your new best friend. Available in English, French, Spanish, German, and Japanese, this app will tell you how to get from point A to point B without following the complicated metro map. It can even use your current location to help you find the nearest station!
The City Rail Map App will also give you transportation information about the Tokyo area.
In Japan, services such as Uber and Lyft are not as widely in use, instead, taxis are what are still predominantly used. Taxis in Japan are actually relatively expensive compared to many countries, however, they include a number of nice amenities and top-notch service. In fact, opening and closing doors is something that is often delegated to the driver to do with a specialized switch accessible from the driver's seat.
Flagging down a taxi in a busy, commercial area of a major city is no issue during anytime of the day or night, however, in more quiet or residential areas or the countryside, this may become more of a challenge. There are a number of apps available for travelers to call a taxi and also track the location of wandering taxis, but GO, DiDi, and S.Ride are two of the most prominent. These apps function much like applications such as uber and lyft out in the west and require an account to use. While attaching a credit or debit card is standard, there are also often options to just pay via cash upon being dropped off.
Other useful apps
With travelers and locals out-and-about throughout major cities in Japan, portable charging device rental services have greatly increased in number, and the most widely-used app is ChargeSPOT. This app, or any other portable battery rental apps, are a must-download for your trip to Japan, as they can come in clutch after a long day of exploration where there was no time or opportunities to recharge your phone!
Rental machines for ChargeSPOT can be found in convenience stores, inside stations, stores, restaurants, and even at many karaoke locations all througout Japan! Simply connect a credit or debit card to an account after you download the app and scan the QR code on one of the rental machines using the scanner. Typically, you are charged per hour for the rental, and once you're done, you are able to return the device to any other ChargeSPOT location in the country.
While the standard Uber app used for transportation isn't as widely used in Japan, Uber Eats has become a staple amongst the populations, especially in major cities. Uber Eats in Japan functions primarily like it does in any other country, with options for delivery and take-out. Use the app to get delicious, local food delivered if you're having a day or night in to relax, or use it to find interesting restaurants within your area.
Many restaurants on Uber Eats in Japan are local establishments that are popular with people living within the area, so it can be a great and convenient way to indulge in the local cuisine!