9 Best Apps and Sites for Traveling to Japan

So you’re tickets to Japan are booked and have no clue how to get around the country, especially its most popular spots. While you can always go with a tour guide to help you out here, this can prove to be an expensive proposition. This is why we suggest using nothing but your smartphone to get around in Japan. Thanks to the tech savvy population in Japan, almost every citizen of the country likes to access information through mobile apps.

This is why there are plenty of apps and sites out there that can help you in your trip to Japan. Some of these sites and apps come from official sources, so you’re assured of getting the accurate information. We’ve made sure to include a couple of surprises in here as well, so be sure to have a look at all these amazing apps and sites for traveling to Japan.

9 Best Apps and Sites for Traveling to Japan

Japan Official Travel App

The name says it all, and this comes from Japan National Tourism Organization to help visitors get started on all the aspects of Japanese tourism. In addition to talking about popular hotspots in the cities of Japan, the app also helps you find events in rural areas of the country, allowing you to explore the hidden gems of the region. If you’re traveling through Japan Rail Pass, you can find all the information necessary on upcoming trains, routes and so on from any part of the country.

You will also find details for the local embassy for your country, medical emergencies as well as local rules and common manners, helping you blend right in with the population. If you’re out of internet coverage, you can search for nearby Wi-Fi hotspots as well as hospitals using offline mode on the app. Given that this app uses GPS to ascertain your location for the most accurate results to your query, it is recommended to use this sparingly and only in time of need. One of the primary concerns while traveling is lack of travel adapters or power banks nearby, which means conserving your battery becomes a big concern. The Japan Official Travel App is free to download on the Google Play Store and lacks ads or in-app purchases.

HyperDia

This app is an all-in-one solution for your travel needs in the country. While it comes from an independent developer, it does feature all the features you would expect in a travel planner app. Some of its features include the ability to search for your nearest stations using GPS. You can also set custom route maps and set up to three via stations for a longer journey.

You can also get information on renting a car or hotels around you, giving you all that you need while traveling. This is perhaps the easiest app to use especially for English speakers as most apps on the Japanese version of the Google Play Store are in the local language. Although HyperDia does support searching through Japan Rail Pass, customers can only enable this by purchasing the paid license for the app.

The app has not been updated in a while, which means the user interface doesn’t look all too appealing. However, it still gets the job done, so we do recommend you to check it out. It’s free to download, but comes with ads. There are no in-app purchases.

Rakuten Travel

Rakuten is a popular name in Japan and arguably one of the biggest names in e-commerce in the region. Its dedicated travel app is also worth checking out thanks to the wide array of suggestions and tips it offers for those traveling within Japan. Overall, there are over 18,000 accommodation options to choose from in Japan, which covers pretty much every corner of the country. Rakuten Travel is also recommended if you’re eager to stay in a ryokan, which is the local name for a traditional Japanese inn.

The app also has excellent social media integration, allowing you to share the hotels or spots you’ve discovered with your friends online. One caveat with this app is that hotel information is mentioned in Japanese, which can be easily translated using an app like Google Translate. The app uses your phone’s GPS, so you might want to use it only when you need it. Customers can also find information on tours and holidays directly from the app. As you would expect, the app is a free download on the Play Store although it comes with ads. There are no in-app purchases, however. Rakuten works with any device that runs Android 4.4 or higher.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor needs no introduction as it is one of the most popular services to get recommendations on any spot you’d like, especially if they’re popular. By factoring in real user reviews of a place, TripAdvisor offers users the ability to get firsthand information on the good and bad of a restaurant or a place they’re looking to visit. While TripAdvisor started off as a website, it has long had a dedicated mobile app for Android and iOS users. This allows users to quickly attain all the information on the popular spots around them along with suggestions on the best time to visit.

The app also supports hotel bookings now, allowing you to get all the information on a hotel within a matter of seconds. Since TripAdvisor uses over 200 booking sites to offer this feature, it promises to offer the cheapest prices on any property you pick. There are quite a few apps that make this claim, so we’re taking this with a grain of salt. Speaking of salt, you can also reserve tables at a restaurant near you, all from the same app. The combination of these features and the promise of millions of honest customer reviews makes TripAdvisor a great app to have regardless of where you’re traveling.

Japan Navitime

This is a comprehensive tour guide for any person who has just landed in Japan. Although there are several apps like this, it never hurts to have good alternatives. As is the case with most apps, this app offers offline mode as well, allowing users to navigate certain features without an internet connection. Interestingly, the app will also help you discover the local Wi-Fi hotspots from popular outlets like Starbucks, to help you get back online.

The app offers a comprehensive list of articles to help you understand the Japanese culture and also move around like a local would. There’s information on trains (including subway lines), airplanes, taxis, and ferries, thus covering pretty much all modes of public transport in Japan. You can also checkout the activities happening around you and even look for ATMs, TICs or currency exchange counters. Given the influx of tourists in Japan, the citizens of the country have ensured that everyone is welcome in the region.

This app is free to download on the Google Play Store, but comes with ads and in-app purchases. An in-app purchase will unlock features like voice navigation and the ability to search for alternate routes. Strangely enough, the developer offers a 7-day pass for the app, allowing you to use the premium features for a week. This is ideal for travelers staying in the region for a short period of time.

Yomiwa

This is an absolutely necessary app to have on your phone while you’re traveling to Japan. This is mainly because it can help you translate street signs and characters that you find on the street, helping you easily navigate to new regions within Japan. The app uses optical character recognition or OCR technology to cleverly translate Japanese text that it sees through the camera. This is made for Japanese translation, so you’ll also get accurate translation for alphabets like Kanjis, Hiraganas, Katakanas, or Romajis. At a time, the app can recognize up to 4000 characters through the camera, giving you real time translation.

Moreover, the app also features a handwriting recognition feature built into the app, offering translation this way. To avoid confusion, the app also has a large database of Japanese names built-in. In addition to using this as a standalone OCR translation app, Yomiwa can also come in handy as a dictionary for those curious to learn the Japanese language. This is a free app on the Google Play Store and comes with in-app purchases. There are no ads.

Japan Restaurant Guide

Gurunavi, which is also known as Japan Restaurant Guide on the Google Play Store is an excellent app to checkout new restaurants in town. It also lets you filter restaurants based on what they serve, for example, Sushi/Seafood, Yakiniku or beer halls. Furthermore, you can check out restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi access as well as places with English speaking staff to make it easier for you. The developers call this “Japan’s largest gourmet & restaurant guide”, so you’re in very good hands.

The recommendations you get are often user created, thus ensuring a proper dining experience for the users. Also, in larger cities, smaller localities are individually mentioned, giving you access to the best restaurants around you. If one of your main purposes of travel is to discover the best Japanese cuisine, Gurunavi is an excellent guide to have on your smartphone or tablet. The app is a free download on the Google Play Store.

There are no ads or in-app purchases, so you’re getting a clutter free user experience. The app was last updated a couple of years ago, although it’s still pretty functional with no bugs. You will need a smartphone or tablet running at least Android 4.0 or above to use this app.

Travel Japan Wi-Fi

Traveling across Japan can be quite exciting, but what if you don’t have a cellphone provider? Well, thankfully, Japan is filled with Wi-Fi hotspots in several public places, offering you the ability to quickly login to the internet while on the go. But how do you know where to find these hotspots? That’s where this app coms into the equation. Travel Japan Wi-Fi basically allows you to find the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot in your area, which also means that it will need GPS access for the best accuracy on your vicinity.

This is more than just a Wi-Fi finding app, though. It also comes with a map feature that you can download for offline use, which can be ideal if you don’t have cellular internet on your phone. This is also beneficial if you’re looking to avoid data roaming and overages from your home network. Once you setup the app, it will set up a map view displaying the cafes, restaurants and public places around you where free Wi-Fi is available. As is the case with any app that uses GPS, it can drain the battery of your phone pretty quickly. Keeping this in mind, we recommend you to use this sparingly throughout your travels. This is a free app with no ads or in-app purchases.

Sushi Dictionary

This is pretty self explanatory really, but for those unaware, Sushi Dictionary is an app that helps you understand the various types of sushi that is available around you. If you’re like me and only know the one kind of sushi, this app can come in handy in discovering new varieties. This app can help you get started on details for over 150 fish and sushi terms, so you can even look cool when you order in front of your family and friends.

It is important to note that this app covers way more than just sushi, which basically means this app covers the entirety of Japanese seafood. Overall, there are more than 800 entries of Japanese food items in this app, so you’re probably not going to run out of food to discover anytime soon. What I like about this app is that it also helps you understand the pronunciation of a word thanks to the little speaker icon on top of each word or dish you’re looking for. This is a free app with ads and in-app purchases.