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First time in Japan? These apps will help you travel Japan easy-breezy. All these apps are free and very easy to use. Starting from which train to take to choosing a local restaurant for dinner.
Here are our personal recommendations as someone who has lived in Japan for over 5 years. Apps that we can’t live without while living in Japan!
1. Google Maps
Google Maps is for travelers who don’t have any particular type of Japan train pass. We love this app! It’s simple and very easy to use — and it gives the shortest and fastest route as possible when riding Japanese trains and when driving.
I’m a long time user of this app and it has been very useful for me ever since I moved here and started a job. It also has real-time updates like train delays. So if you are traveling to Japan without a plan on buying any type of pass and just want to get to your destination fast, then this app is perfect. The interface is also very simple and user-friendly. Google Maps also shows fares.
2. Google Translate
I love Google Translate especially when I’m shopping. It helps me translate Japanese to English by using the ‘instant camera translation’ feature. It is the most helpful app in cases of travel emergencies when you need to ask for directions or explain something to the police.
Although not 100% accurate, you still get the main point. But, when translating from English to Japanese, it’s a different game. You have to type in “simple English.” That way, it would give you a close-to-accurate translation. For me, Google Translate is the best translation app as it doesn’t have any intrusive ads.
Tokyo Subway Navigation app is very helpful if you have a Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket. The app would only suggest train routes covered by that ticket which are all Tokyo Metro lines.
The Tokyo Metro Pass is a great option for tourists who only travel to the Tokyo area. It’s only 600 yen and it gives you unlimited rides to all Tokyo Metro Lines which stops at most major Tokyo sightseeing spots. Check out this link for further information about Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket.
4. NAVITIME Japan Travel
Navitime is one of the most downloaded Japanese apps. It gives you general information about traveling to Japan. From how to get out of the airport, where to withdraw money, to free use of Wi-Fi, exchange yens.
Navitime can be a little buggy if your phone has low memory, however. The built-in train app is also very difficult and confusing so I would skip that and use the Google Maps instead. I have this app on my phone because it is packed with information about Japanese culture.
After over 5 years of living in Japan, I found that TripAdvisor isn’t the best app for finding restaurants in Japan. My reason is that TripAdvisor receives more reviews from tourists than from locals.
With Gurunavi, it recommends local-favorite restaurants near you which are not on TripAdvisor. It’s also very easy to use. Just state your preferred cuisine, location, and price range and it will give you a list of restaurants with the highest ratings first.
Airbnb is now very popular in Japan. And its app is helpful if all the cheap accommodations on popular booking sites are all booked. Our first Airbnb experience was in Ikebukuro. We had pleasant communication with the owner. Although we weren’t able to meet him in person, everything went well when we got to his place.
If you are new to Airbnb, you can sign-up using my link to get $33 of Airbnb credit which you can instantly use for your first stay.
7. Learn Japanese Phrases by Bravolol
When I first visited Japan, this was the first language app I used to learn simple Japanese phrases. You can even adjust the audio speed to practice your Japanese pronunciation skills.
After you have learned the basics and want to continue learning, you have to buy the premium version to access another batch of Japanese phrases. This app continues to improve a lot and I would recommend this for first-time travelers in Japan.
8. Ms. Green
Ms. Green is a Japanese guide app developed by JTB Corp., the largest travel agency in Japan. The goal of this app is to introduce Japan in the form of manga with Ms. Green as the main character. According to the story, Ms. Green is a new recruit of a travel agency and travels to many destinations in Japan. She encounters troubled tourists and teaches the best way (e.g. how to use Japanese toilets, train etiquettes, and many more).
You can reserve tours and accommodations while reading through the manga which redirects to JTB’s booking site called JAPANiCAN. The app also holds giveaways of gift certificates to users.
Download links: Android device | not available on the iOS device
9. Japan Travel Guide Offline
Japan Travel Guide With Me app is the highest-rated travel app in AppStore and Google Play since it was released in 2014. It’s an all-in-one Japan Travel Guide which you can use without the use of the internet. This is what sets them apart from its giant competitor’s TripAdvisor City Guide App.
Although not an app, the HyperDia website is excellent to navigate the trains in Japan if you have a Japan Rail Pass. The route search allows you only to ride the trains that are covered by your Japan Rail Pass. Check out this link for further information about Japan Rail Pass.