Towering skyscrapers, countless Michelin-rated restaurants, and a public transport system that can’t be beat. Tokyo has always had just about everything and anything a city lover could ever want—except for free WiFi. While it may be good to travel without Internet for a few days, allowing yourself to get “lost in translation,” it’s likely that cutting the proverbial digital umbilical cord will begin to take its toll as you start to crave all the apps you left behind and the Japanese-specific apps that make travel oh-so-much easier. If what we’ve described is a little too uncomfortable to imagine (or sounds absolutely terrifying), then we suggest you take the necessary measures of obtaining access to a Japanese WiFi network
WiFi in Japan: Essential Apps for Traveling in Japan
Find Japanese Coupons
One of the biggest perks about having an Internet connection is the online coupons and sale information you’ll have access to while in Japan. For example Japan’s most popular free chat app, LINE, offers a plethora of coupons and timely sale updates for those in the know. All you have to do is download the chat app, check out the “LINE@” section on the “Official Accounts” page, and add whichever official LINE@ account you’re interested in.
And voila! You’ll have coupons for your favorite restaurants, cafes and stores—even seconds before you enter the door. Be warned: It will take some basic understanding of Japanese to navigate coupons and sales! If you can’t manage this on your own, ask a friend or colleague to help you.
Official Accounts page on LINE (left) and GU Online Store’s free shipping coupon (right).
Find Japanese Restaurants
If you’re a foodie looking for a good deal, definitely check out Gurunavi. Featuring just about all the restaurants you could ever imagine, Gurunavi is Japan’s ultimate restaurant guide and discount coupon website. You can search based on cuisine, location, price range and more. So if you’re looking for a soba restaurant in Shinjuku, that also has free WiFi and discount coupons, just run a quick filter search on their site.
Another great feature of the Gurunavi English site that no gourmand will want to miss is their Michelin Guide search feature. You’ll have access to information on over 400 Michelin star-rated restaurants in Japan. Yum!
Gurunavi home page
Not planning on traveling with a laptop? Don’t sweat it; the Gurunavi app is available on both iOS and Android phones. With all the same search functions as the website, you’ll be able to lookup restaurant information on the go. And the best thing about the app is that you’ll have a portable digital coupon booklet right in your pocket.
Japan Navigation App
While Google Maps offers an offline version for many of the world’s major cities, like Sydney, San Francisco and Amsterdam, they have yet to make one available for Tokyo (or Osaka, or Kyoto, etc.). If you don’t want to get lost, which is bound to happen many times, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to connect to WiFi every now and again to get an update on how far off the beaten path you’ve actually gone.
Of course besides coupons, gourmet, and navigation, there are also plenty of other fun apps you can use while you’re in Japan. Check out our other recommendations for social apps.
Non-WiFi Apps you can use in a Pinch
Japanese Public Transport App
When traveling around Japan it can be difficult to find free WiFi. However, there are several helpful apps that can fortunately be used offline. Take the Tokyo Subway Navigation for Tourists app for example. Powered by the Tokyo Metro, this free app allows users to search for transfer information on the vast Tokyo Subway network (including the Toei Subway system). Available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, as well, this is one of the better options for navigating Tokyo’s public transportation.
Japanese Translation App
So now you can ride the subway like a boss, but can you read and understand the barrage of street signs that aren’t in English? You don’t have to start learning the highly complex language just yet though. With Yomiwa Offline Translator/Dictionary for iPhone, all you need is your phone’s camera. Just point your lense toward the Japanese characters that you’re trying to decipher and the app will provide the meaning. You can also choose a photo of the characters you want translated, and the app will do the rest. While this isn’t a free app, you’ll be glad that you spent a little money on it when it translates “立入禁止” (no trespassing) for you.
Japanese Currency App
Do I add an extra zero, or do I divide it by two and then add an extra zero…?
Converting foreign currency into your own is, without a doubt, one of the most mind-numbing travel tasks that happens again, and again, and again. Don’t sweat it anymore, just download Xe. This handy currency conversion app will convert every existing currency—even Bitcoin!
It works best while you’re connected to the Internet, but it’ll save the last updated rates so that you’ll still be able to find out how much your meal cost without being connected to WiFi. The free version will allow you to track up to 10 types of currencies, while the paid version can register 20. If you don’t mind having third-party ads popping up every now and again, the free version should be enough for your time in Japan.
Japan WiFi Rental: The Bottom Line
Traveling without WiFi in Japan is not a life or death situation—in most cases—but having it will make your travel experience more convenient and much less complicated. Nowadays, most hotels in major Japanese cities will have in-room WiFi. If not, they’ll usually have paid WiFi, or free WiFi at the lobby. It doesn’t sound great, but it’ll beat not having internet. However, the better option is guaranteed coverage with either a prepaid SIM or a Mobile Hotspot, depending on your device.
When you experience the world’s best ramen or the grandeur of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’re going to want to brag about it, stat. Just don’t forget to take a second to enjoy the moment you’re living in—before posting it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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