Japan is one of the world’s most exciting travel destinations, offering up a mix of ancient and modern sensibilities, tasty cuisine, and breathtaking scenery—but it’s not without its challenges. What with the language barrier, the many options for public transportation, and the simple fact of having too many great restaurants to choose from, sometimes you need a little outside help to get by.
Whether for translation, restaurant searches, sightseeing, shopping and more, here are some of the best Japan travel apps, not to mention some old standbys that are great everywhere, to help you get the most out of your stay.
8 Great Japan Travel Apps (and some worldwide ones too!) by Category
There will come a time when you are confronted with something you want to read, but it is (of course!) written in Japanese. For street signs, menus, posters and the like, it’s Google Translate to the rescue.
The great thing about this app is just how diverse the functionality is. You can take a quick picture and it will tell you what it says in just a couple of seconds, or you can use an augmented reality feature that actually transforms Japanese to English in real time and looks like magic! It even works with voice, so you can have something akin to a conversation should the need arise.
Finally, there’s the old standby: typing words you want to see translated into Japanese. For simple nouns the translation works well, while longer sentences might be more challenging. There are other translators on the market, but none of the free apps are as quick and easy to use. Although obviously not exclusively for tourists, Google Translate ranks among the best Japan travel apps.
Despite Japan’s fabulous transportation system, getting around can sometimes be tricky. And here again, Google is your best friend.
While not specifically a Japan travel app, Google maps is the perfect solution for this as it provides walking routes, car navigation, plane flight times and even ferry times, down to the minute. If you are connected to the internet you can find comprehensive directions from anywhere, to anywhere.
The best part is probably knowing where you are—and being able to follow yourself on the screen to make sure you’re actually going in the right direction—is particularly useful if you are going somewhere off the beaten path.
Food is one of the most appealing things about Japan. With a centuries-old fusion of various Asian dishes and the unique Japanese aesthetic, there are any number of new and interesting meals to be tried—but the trouble is how to find them!
One great way to experience traditional Japanese cuisine is with the Gurunavi app. Available in English, this app is free for both Android and iOS. It requires the internet to use but has a large database with all kinds of restaurants big and small. You search for restaurants by location, cuisine category, meal time, price, and even whether the restaurant offers discounts or coupons.
Quick to setup and easy to use, is one of the best Japanese apps for finding nice family restaurants or last minute snacks and is sure to cut down on arguments over where to eat.
Japan is a densely populated country with millions of people crammed into small urban areas. Despite a high population density it can be surprisingly difficult to meet new people, and even more difficult to meet others who enjoy the same activities as you.
For that kind of social interaction, it’s not really necessary to rely solely on Facebook; instead, why not just use Meetup? As you probably know, this is a social portal for chatting and engaging with people who share the same interests. It has a noticeable advantage over traditional social networks as it prioritizes nearby users, allowing you to organize events with like-minded individuals.
It is the perfect way for short term visitors to find cultural activities, and for longer term visitors to meet new people and make new friends.
If you are looking to travel while in Japan, whether on day trips or longer excursions, Triposo is an excellent choice.
This isn’t a Japan travel app, but rather a hefty worldwide one that’s worth downloading over WiFi before you leave. The download includes offline access to a multitude of tours, a simple exchange rate converter (updated whenever the app is online), a phrasebook and overview of key points of Japanese culture—an exhaustive list of things to help any traveler.
It features day-trips and tours for experiences as varied as fishing to pottery—simply choose your desired experience, hop online and book it through the app. The entire experience is seamless and well thought out. This is one application that will definitely prove useful for the duration of your stay.
Japanese study App
When it comes to the language barrier there are two distinct kinds of travelers. For the casual type who wants to travel with the least trouble possible and only wishes to learn basic words and phrases to get by, Google Translate is usually more than enough.
But for the more dedicated learner who may be on an extended stay or generally wants to beef up their study regime, there are few better Japanese apps than Obenkyo. This spartan application gives an overview of the various features of written Japanese, allows you to study them, and gives a comprehensive test to ensure that you have memorized the lesson.
The standout feature is a writing section that tests your ability to write the many, many kanji characters used in Japan, something offered for a premium elsewhere.
This ad supported software is free and available on Android.
The ubiquitous retailer Amazon is a great choice for shopping, and Amazon Japan, which offers everything from food to cars, is no exception.
Although the main categories are in English, be aware that many of the available pages are actually still in Japanese. Although your choice of brands will be more limited and more expensive than back home, you can still find almost anything. If you can read and write Japanese there are alternatives that might be cheaper, but none have the range of products available on Amazon.
If you need the convenience of a single application versus the specialization of many dedicated apps, try Tabimori.
With a QR code reader, weather forecasts and even last minute flights, the everyday usefulness of this Japanese app is hard to match.
Much of the app is available offline but live searching, such as finding train times and for restaurant reservations requires an internet connection.
Awesome Japan Travel Apps Can Break Barriers and Keep you Connected
Travel to Japan is already easy and fun, and you can help to overcome any potential language and culture barriers you may encounter with a touch of your screen! Whether you are looking for a gourmet meal or a way to meet people, there is a Japanese app—not to mention countless worldwide varieties—to help you.