Ever found yourself flustered at Shinjuku station, staring up at the departures board and wondering which train is yours? Or visited a supermarket in Japan and wondered what flavour cup noodles you’ve just thrown in the basket?
Travelling around Japan can be tricky, even for fluent Japanese speakers, as the new environment causes us to lose our bearings easily. To make sure your Japan trip goes smoothly, we’ve hunted down and played around with 7 travel apps which you can download in time for your next visit!
This is the absolute must have app for train travel in Japan. Whether you’re hopping on the subway for a quick jaunt between Shibuya and Tokyo station, or going long haul with a journey up to Aomori or down to Fukuoka, Hyperdia will tell you when to leave, which trains to take and what time you’ll arrive. (Pssst… Imagine a National Rail website that never has to report on ‘bus replacement services’ or ‘cancelled’ trains, and it’s a bit like that). Having Hyperdia handy means you will not only know the time of your train, you’ll know the name of it and where it’s heading. You can even see which stops it’s going to make if you want a quick leg-stretch en route. For JR Pass holders, you can untick the ‘Nozomi/Mizuho’ option and see only trains which are valid with your pass. itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hyperdia-by-voice/id379001449?mt=8
The sushi dictionary makes you look like an expert at any sushi restaurant – from the high end, tiny sushi counters of Ginza, to the 100-yen-per-plate conveyor belt kind.
You can find a translation for fish types above and beyond your wildest dreams, which means you won’t have to play a tentative game of ‘guess the fish’ every time you pick up a slice of sashimi. For Japanese learners, you’ll be able to improve your vocabulary and become more of a serious sushi pro. It’s a great way to make sushi restaurants a more fun, and infinitely less daunting, experience! itunes.apple.com/us/app/sushi-dictionary/id891614860?mt=8
Using a live camera, Kanji goggles lets you take photos of Japanese characters and translates them into English! Particularly useful in the supermarket, or on menus, this app makes getting by in Japanese surroundings much simpler. Because of the photo-based nature of the app, good lighting and a better quality phone camera make it much easier to ensure you’re getting the correct translation, and not everything will work perfectly every time, but for when the going gets tough, Kanji Goggles is going to be your new holiday romance! itunes.apple.com/gb/app/japan-goggles/id397724055?mt=8
Tokyo Handy Guide
Launched on 25 December 2015, the Tokyo Handy Guide App encapsulates everything you need for exploring the capital. From maps of the city and transportation guides which are available offline, to the ‘spot nearby’ function, which allows you to find any sight-seeing locations worthy of visiting in the vicinity, the app is like a guiding hand through this dizzyingly fast-paced city. The app is available in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and is completely free! itunes.apple.com/us/app/tokyo-handy-guide/id1063035171?mt=8
Finding restaurants can be difficult in Japan, not only because it’s a cuisine you might not be used to, but even deciphering a restaurant from a hospital or a supermarket can be difficult when you’re first getting acquainted with your surroundings.
Gurunavi’s restaurant-locating service lets you enter your location, what food type you’re looking for, offers you a choice of price ranges and has a handy map function that will show you exactly where you need to go to get there. On top of this, advanced search filters let you find the nearest nomihodai (all you can drink) restaurant, look up eateries guaranteed to have English speaking staff, or ensure you’re heading somewhere with English language menus.
Though the app does feature smaller cities, it had a wider range of restaurants and cafes in its Tokyo and Osaka sections. itunes.apple.com/gb/app/gurunavi-japan-restaurant/id430795962?mt=8
For people who have studied or are trying to pick up a little bit of Japanese, Imi wa is the essential dictionary app.
Enter in romanji or Japanese characters and you’ll not only find the word you’re looking for in romanji, hiragana/katakana and kanji, but you’ll also have a wealth of example sentences at your fingertips, showing you exactly how to use the word. Definitely a safer bet than Google translate, this helpful app will help you out of tight spots as well as helping to improve your Japanese! itunes.apple.com/en/app/imiwa-japanese-dictionary/id288499125?mt=8
Released by Narita International Airport Corporation, this handy app is like an all-in-one service to help you navigate Japan.
Once signed in to the app, it will help you automatically log in to WiFi spots around the country, will provide you with a daily weather forecast and also help you to convert your currency, so that your holiday will be brain-pain free! It also has speech and text translation functions, and a ‘life and culture’ section which will provide you with tips on hot spring etiquette, purchasing train tickets and other handy hints you might not have thought about before stepping on the plane. The service works in conjunction with japan-guide.com, an incredibly useful source of sightseeing information which will give you the rundown on any kind of attraction in Japan – from the major temples to the more obscure local museums, as well as offering detailed information on how to access them. itunes.apple.com/gb/app/tabimori/id900354705?mt=8