All these apps are free, very easy to use, and personal recommendations from someone who has lived in Japan for over 2 years. Starting from which train to take to choose a local restaurant for dinner, these apps will absolutely help you travel Japan easy-breezy.
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Google Navigation app are for travelers who don’t have any particular type of Japan pass at all. Usually, foreign residents living in Japan use this app because it’s simple and very easy to use — and it gives the shortest and fastest route as possible when riding Japanese trains. 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, straight-to-the-point and user-friendly, and way better than Hyperdia or Japan Train apps.
Tokyo Subway Navigation app is actually very helpful if you have a 1-Day Unlimited Tokyo Metro Pass. Regular train apps like Hyperdia and Google Navigation App would show the cheapest and the fastest way to your destination in Japan. But with Tokyo Subway Navigation App, it would only suggest train routes that are part of Tokyo Metro Lines. Meaning, you get to fully take advantage of the Tokyo Metro Pass using this app instead of the regular Google Navigation or HyperDia.
The Tokyo Metro Pass is a great option for tourists who only travel to Tokyo area. It’s only 600 yen and it gives you unlimited rides to all Tokyo Metro Lines which stops in most, if not all, major Tokyo sightseeing spots.
3. NAVITIME for Japan Travel
The Navitime is one of the most downloaded Japanese apps. It gives you general information about traveling to Japan such as how to get out of airport, where to withdraw money, free use of Wi-Fi, exchange yens, etc. Despite its usefulness, there are opportunities for further enhancements. Navitime can be a little buggy if your phone has low memory. The built-in train app is also very difficult and confusing to use so I would skip that and just use the Google Navigation. This app is still installed on my smartphone because it is filled with articles about Japanese culture.
After over 2 years of living in Japan, I found that TripAdvisor isn’t the best app for finding recommended restaurants in Japan. My reason is that TripAdvisor receives more reviews from tourists than from local residents. With Gurunavi app, you can easily find places to eat near you and even recommends hole in the wall restaurants that can never be found on TripAdvisor. It’s also very easy to use. Just indicate your preferred cuisine, location, and price range and it will give you a list of restaurants with the highest ratings first.
AirBnB is becoming a very popular accommodation option in Japan. AirBnB can be particularly helpful if all the cheap accommodations on popular booking sites are fully booked. Aside from the affordable rooms or whole apartment you can rent for a night, it is also a very good way to interact with Japanese hosts. Our first AirBnB experience was in Ikebukuro and we had a pleasant communication with the owner. Although we weren’t able to meet him in person everything went smoothly when we got to his place. If you haven’t signed up with Airbnb yet, you can join using my link and you can save $31 on your first booking.
6. Google Translate
I love Google Translate especially when I’m grocery shopping. It helps me translate Japanese characters to English by using the Instant Camera Translation feature as shown above. Google Translate is most helpful 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. However, when translating from English to Japanese, it’s a different game. You have to type in “simple english” so the app would give you a close-to-accurate translation. Many people are not aware of capabilities of Google Translate and tend to download other translation app such as WayGo. For me, Google Translate is way better as it doesn’t have any intrusive ads.
7. Learn Japanese by Bravolol
When I first visited Japan, this was the first language app I used to learn simple Japanese phrases for greetings and meeting people. In the earlier version, the mascot parrot who helps you with the pronunciation was not a feature yet. With the current version, the parrot now helps you with listening and speaking. You can even adjust the audio speed to practice your Japanese pronunciation skills. After you have learned the basics and wish to continue learning, you have to purchase the premium version to gain access to other common Japanese phrases for shopping, emergencies, etc. This app continues to improve a lot and I would really recommend this for Japan travelers.
8. Ms. Green
Ms. Green is a relatively new Japanese guide app developed by JTB Corp., the largest travel agency in Japan. The goal of this app is to introduce Japan in 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 them how to use the Japanese toilet, Users can also reserve tours and accommodations while reading through the manga which then redirects to JTB’s online booking site Japanican. The app regularly holds giveaways of gift certificates to users.
9. Japan Travel Guide With Me
Japan Travel Guide With Me app is the highest-rated travel app in AppStore and Google Play since it was released in 2014. Created by travelers for travelers, Japan Guide With Me app is faster and more user-friendly compared to other travel guide apps. The main feature “Use Offline” is what sets them apart from its giant competitor’s TripAdvisor City Guide App. The large reason why it is loved by many travelers who chose to explore Japan without renting portable Wi-Fi or data SIM.