Girl using her smartphone

Photo:Dick Thomas Johnson

11 Useful Apps for Travellers in Japan

Ever found yourself confused while travelling in Japan? If yes, you are definitely in need of the recommended apps below! Even for me, as a foreigner living in Japan, I sometimes feel overwhelmed and lost staying in Japan. But, with these apps, I gradually got accustomed to this totally-new environment. Try to download these travel apps before your next visit!

1. iMoney (iOS)

Feel puzzled converting your country’s currency to Japanese Yen? Don’t worry! With this app, you don’t have to think about that anymore! Say for example, if you are converting from Japanese Yen to Hong Kong Dollars, just type the amount in Japanese Yen column and the total amount of Hong Kong Dollars will appear. The advantage for this app is that 5 kinds of currencies can be shown at the same time. If you are traveling with friends of different nationalities, this app can help much!

iMoney app screenshot showing 5 currencies

Apart from a converter, rates can be seen as well. As we all know, rates keep changing every day. Just select the base currency and different types of currencies will be shown. There are 168 kinds of currencies in total. Most importantly, the rates are updated every day!

iMoney app screenshot showing rates

iMoney - Currency Converter for iPhone

2. Japan Transit Planner - Norikae Annai (Android/iOS)

Before downloading this app, I always got lost and felt puzzled while taking JR or subway in Japan. However, with this app, I no longer have to worry about that! Typing the furigana (meaning “Japanese reading aid”) of Japanese names in this app will be fine! For those who don’t know kanji, just take it easy! Simply type which station you depart from and where you would like to get off at and select the time.

Norikae Annai app screenshot of search

Norikae Annai app screenshot of train route

Suppose I depart from Yokohama and would like to get off at Tokyo. This app shows 3 ways that I can head to the destination. But, you have to have an idea for these kanji first: (1) 「早」,「安」and「楽」. The first route shown by this app is the most recommended one. Bear in mind that 「早」means “the earliest route” (that you can arrive at the destination at the earliest time),「安」indicates “the cheapest route” and「楽」is equivalent to “the easiest route” (meaning that you don’t have to change to take trains for a couple of times).

Japan Transit Planner - Norikae Annai for Android

Japan Transit Planner for iPhone

3. Tenki.jp (Android/iOS)

Worried about the weather in Japan? Although this app is in Japanese, if you read a little of the language you can use this app to make your weather worries go away. Remember to select the district beforehand. The best advantage for this app is that you can see 9-day weather for a district in one time. But, for the detailed information, such as from what time it starts raining and when the rain stops, only 2 days will be shown. The data keeps updating as long as you refresh it.

Tenki.jp forecast screenshot

Want to know about the current temperature? Take a look at the bottom on the right hand side and you can see the Japanese word ただいま (means “now” in English). It is generally known that Japan is troubled by earthquakes. Tenki.jp also provides users with earthquake information as well.

Screenshot of earthquake information in Tenki.jp app

Tenki.jp for Android

Tenki.jp for iPhone

4. 食べログ (Tabelog) (Android/iOS)

Don’t know where to dine out? “食べログ” can help you wrestle with all your troubles! Tabelog is the largest food-hunting Japanese website. Even for Japanese, they usually make use of it to search for good restaurants. Although the app is in Japanese, lots of the restaurant information is bilingual or translated. To start off, you can directly press「現在地」(which means “current location”) and a list of restaurants will come out. If you don’t want to have meals nearby, just set conditions in the search engine. Conditions like “sushi”, “lunch”, “café”, “uedo”, etc. can be set. After setting the favorable conditions, detailed information concerning restaurants which fulfill your requirements will appear. Information like the range of prices, address and even the closing days are shown. When you click the restaurant, a number of comments and photos in regard to it will be shown.

Tabelog app screenshot

Tabelog for Android

Tabelog for iPhone

5. Maps.me (Android/iOS)

No internet connection and cannot figure out where you are? No worries! By using Maps.me, you just need to download the maps for the desired area once and then you can be able to use the navigation and search functions without an Internet connection. Download the maps you want by using the Internet first and you don’t have to worry about that anymore. The greatest advantage for this free-of-charge app is that you can search and navigate everywhere and anytime in the world in an offline state. Bear in mind that you have to get updated notifications in order to receive the latest maps. In my opinion, Maps.me is quite similar to Google Map but it’s more convenient as it can be used offline.

Maps Me app screenshot

Maps.me for Android

Maps.me for iPhone

6. Google Translate (Android/iOS)

Don’t know Japanese but want to communicate with Japanese? I believe most of you have encountered quite a number of times: when you don’t know how to express yourself in another language other than your mother tongue, you try to seek help from Google Translate! The meaning can be converted from one language to another instantly, and the meanings of words are explained at the same time. Don’t know how to pronounce the words in Japanese? Just press the volume button! With this useful Google Translate, I believe you can have a good communication with the Japanese. But, as it is an instant translation app, don’t expect that you have translated versions of quality, to be frank, Google Translate can really help much during your journey in Japan!

Google Translate app screenshot

Google Translate for Android

Google Translate for iPhone

7. Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi (Android/iOS)

No Internet connection? With this app, you can figure out the locations where you can find free wifi. Before using this, you have to register first by filling in your personal information like name, email address and gender as well as age. Afterwards, you will receive an email and then you can start using it. This apps is good as it provides quite a number of wifi spots in your nearby area. In the meantime, you can also download maps beforehand and then use them offline. Last but not least, there is an offline travel guides that you also have to download beforehand. They can also be used offline. The greatest advantage of this app is that it is available in English and the descriptions for travel guides are explained clearly.

Japan wifi app screenshot

Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi for Android

Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi for iPhone

Graphic showing smartphone user and app icons

Read on for a few additional apps recommended by Taiken Japan staff!

8. Japan Travel by Navitime (Android/iOS)

With intuitive route search and the ability to prioritize routes for Japan Rail Pass holders, plus offline spot search and travel information, this app should be part of every Japan tourist's toolkit.

Japan Travel for Android

Japan Travel for iPhone

9. Gurunavi (Android/iOS)

This restaurant app lets you search for places to eat near you, and filter by restaurants with English menus, English-speaking staff, non-smoking tables, and other incredibly useful criteria.

Gurunavi for Android

Gurunavi for iPhone

10. Japan Official Travel App (Android/iOS)

This is the official app from the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), a reliable source of information on all things Japan.

Japan Official Travel App for Android

Japan Official Travel App for iPhone

11. TripAdvisor Hotels Restaurants (Android/iOS)

Check the reviews and make booking hotels, restaurants, and other activities easy with this app. A great way to save time when traveling in Japan.

TripAdvisor Hotels Flights Restaurants Attractions for Android

TripAdvisor Hotels Restaurants for iPhone

With the aforementioned apps, next time when you come to Japan, you can then enjoy your carefree journey!

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