Japan is exciting and unique but it can be hard to travel for first-timers. We share the best apps for travel in Japan, so you can have a stress-free trip.
Japan is one of our favorite countries in the world. The food is amazing, the culture is unique and the cities are diverse. Tokyo is a bustling city with some amazing things to see and do, including the stunning Tokyo Disney Resort – plan at least 5 days in Tokyo. Kyoto offers temples and beautiful nature whilst Osaka is the place to be for gaming and quirky foods. You can also check out Universal Studios in Osaka before exploring the most romantic places in Japan.
Best Apps for Travel in Japan
Japan Official Travel App
This app for travel in Japan is developed and managed by the official tourism board of Japan. If you’re looking for a one-stop app, this is the one. The software features a guide to exploring the city on your own. On the “Discover” tab, businesses promoting Japanese culture, such as sake brewing, historical sites, and even featuring local people, are all available.
Another section is called “Route Search”, which is a great way to figure out how to get from one place to another, whether by train, bus, air, taxi, ferry, or bullet train. The app also displays specific options if you hold a particular transportation pass.
You can discover various businesses on the tab “Point of Interest”. From attractions, tax-free stores, restaurants, and hotels, to free wifi spots and tourist information desks.
Finally, the app also features tickets and passes in a promo or at discounted prices. You can find a link on each promo to purchase the pass. There is also a list of helpful hotlines for visitors, including fire stations, ambulances, police, and embassies.
Google Translate is a handy app to install when visiting Japan. The app allows users to write the word or sentences in their preferred language and then automatically translate it to the language of their choice.
The app also has a microphone function that lets you speak directly on the phone, and it will transcribe words. The app will then proceed to translate the transcribed words. You can also ask the other person to speak on your phone to translate their answers. Remember to download the languages you need in advance so you can translate offline.
All translated sentences will be displayed on the screen and can be played as audio. The microphone or record and speaker features are great for persons with disabilities. All these features are for free. You can subscribe to the “Pro” version, which is ad-free, phrase book access, and camera translation, just to name a few.
- On the left language bar, choose the input language.
- On the right language bar, choose the output language.
- Write the words or phrases you wish to translate inside the white box. You can also press the “microphone” button if you want to record instead of typing.
- Once all the texts are encoded, click “translate”.
- Below the white, a blue box will appear, showing the translated version. You can copy, share, and play the translated words on the speaker.
Navitime is an app for travel planning. It’s available to many countries (not in the EU due to privacy policies). The app features five options – explore, map, route, trip, and miscellaneous services such as booking hotels and tours, settings, and emergency hotlines.
After installing the app, choose Asia, then Japan. Now, select the number of times you have visited Japan in the past, and finally, your main reason for visiting Japan this time.
To use the “trip” tab, you must create an account. This tab will help you make and plan your travels in an organized manner. The explore section is excellent for getting tips about traveling to Japan. It will show you articles on using JR Rail Pass, upcoming public festivals, and even activities you can book.
You need to upgrade to “Premium Plan” if you wish to see other functions such as multiple collections/travel plans, alternative routes, voice navigation, and rainfall radar.
Maps.me is a famous offline navigating app either by foot or car. Although the public transportation option is available, it’s not the most reliable. But the app still helps with knowing where you are and where you’re going, especially if you just arrived in a new location trying to figure out how far your hotel is or the distance between the airport and the city center.
It’s important to remember that you must download the maps in advance for the navigation to work. The software also features a “wallet” section where you can fund your account and transfer worldwide, although it’s not as polished as other e-wallet apps.
To download the map:
- Click the “Search icon”.
- Type the city or country. Let’s say “Japan”.
- Now, you have five options – “Download”, “route to”, “route from”, “add to favorites”, and “share”.
- Once the map has been downloaded, test to make sure that the navigation works by filling out the location tabs.
Voice Tra is a fantastic translation app that was first built to translate between Japanese and English. It’s now has expanded to 20+ languages. The app can only be used for microphone or record setting and not for typing compared to Google Translate.
Because of this specific feature, this app is perfect if you speak to a Japanese local and want the conversation to be more precise, smooth, and quick.
How to use:
- Choose your language preference or native tongue.
- Read the terms and conditions before you agree.
- A tutorial will show you how to use the app.
- On the left side is the language of the other person or the language you wish your words to be translated to.
- On the right side is your own language.
- Click the microphone button and say the phrase you need to be translated.
- Remember to keep the words short, 1-2 sentences is the best, and avoid longer phrases to ensure the translation is accurate.
- The app will automatically play the translated words into Japanese on the speaker.
- If the other person/Japanese speaker wishes to talk, click the left toggle or the “Japanese” word, then the mic.
- Now, your friend can speak Japanese, which will translate automatically into English.
Japan Transit Planner
This transit planner for any area in Japan assists in navigating the country in a much more organized way. The main screen has four primary tabs: route, timetable, spots, and my page.
You can use the free version or upgrade to the premium mode to access more features. But, honestly, if you just need the transit feature, you don’t need to upgrade. You can use other free apps for different functions instead. The paid version is called “Norikae Annai”, but you can only install it once you are in Japan.
It’s a pretty straightforward app to use. For example, on the “Timetable” tab, you only need to place the station name and voila! You have the information you need. The “spot” section is a great way to check which places you want to go to. Simply click it, and the app will help you find the route to reach that place.
How to use the “route tab”:
- Input the departure and arrival station.
- Add the time you plan to leave.
- Need to switch places? Simply click the arrow button.
Some trains and metro in Japan don’t work 24/7. In this situation, it will help to have a backup plan. Japan Taxi lets you get a ride in a matter of minutes even though you can’t speak the local language.
You should set up the app in advance. Make an account and include a password. You can set up a payment in different ways, such as bank cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Docomo “d” payment. The app is available in English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
To order a taxi:
- Set up the pick-up location.
- Add the drop-off location.
- Click “order now”.
- Track how long it will take for the driver to pick you up.
If you want to take your Japanese vocabulary to the next level, try this Japan-developed app called Hey Japan. Knowing the basics will definitely make your trip more enjoyable and easier. Locals are always happy to see foreign visitors putting extra effort into communicating in a local language.
After you install the app, you will select which language you prefer the app to run. You can then set a time for the software to remind you to do your tasks of the day. You don’t need an account, but you must input your Japanese level and how many minutes a day you want to work.
The app will give you daily tasks, including writing, listening, and speaking. Compared to Duolingo, this app gives you a quick yet helpful explanation of how the Japanese language works to help you with your progress.
UberEats is a globally-used app. If you already have this installed, the app will adjust once you arrive in Japan. Just make sure that the app has permission for “Location” to work properly while in Japan. Set up the payment method in advance. It accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. You can also pay with Apple Pay and Google Pay.
How to order food:
- You can type the cuisine or restaurant name in the browse section.
- Choose the food you want and modify it or add special requests.
- Double-check if your address is correct, it’s best to write your hotel’s name. If that’s not possible, look up the hotel’s address and use that, then add a hotel name on the “note to the driver”.
- Pay your order and track the delivery progress.
In most places in the world, there are go-to apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Telegram, and Signal for communication. For Japan, it’s the app Line. This communication software works the same as the other apps. All you need is a phone number to make an account which could be set up once you’re in Japan or before you arrive. This is the best way to communicate with your accommodation, tour agencies, and friends that you will make in Japan.
Best things to do in Tokyo
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy, and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this microphone for all our Youtube voiceovers.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favorite travel insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offer year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel, I always take these trusty hand sanitizers and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.