Downloading some of the right smartphone apps before travelling in and around Japan can save a whole lot of stress when the useful information you need is at your fingertips, and all in one place!
I recommend Travel Japan Wi-Fi - Guide & WiFi. The application catalogs free Wi-Fi hotspots in the major cities of Japan. This free service is available for two weeks only to tourists visiting Japan. To access the numerous wi-fi points available only to “premium users”, you’ll need to enter a unique code from a “Travel Japan Wi-Fi FREE Wi-Fi Ticket” card. These have been distributed to most hotels, guesthouses and hostels in Japan.
One thing is that you need to have Internet access to download the map data beforehand. Once downloaded, you can then view the map even when you’re offline (since you’d probably be looking for Wi-Fi in the first instance)!
If you don’t mind only connecting to the Internet every now and then, these free Wi-fi spots could cut the hassle and cost of buying a SIM card in Japan.
Hyperdia is an app that compiles comprehensive information of all train, metro (subway) and bus timetables across the country in the most convenient of ways. While available as an Android app, the iTunes store only has “HYPERDIA by VOICE”. iPhone users can alternatively access the Hyperdia webpage via Safari. You can select the quickest route, the cheapest route or the one with the least amount of transfers.
It also tells you when the day’s first and last train services run. This could avoid unexpected taxi bills after a night out in the city or a last minute scramble getting to the airport. The app requires Internet connection to work.
Great all-rounder apps such as Triposo provide a wealth of restaurant, accommodation and activity recommendations based on budget, location, reviews and much more. They also summarize practical information on electric plug types, weather and currency.
Triposo can still be used (to some extent) with no Internet connection.
Learn Japanese (Phrasebook) by Codegent features words and phrases that are accompanied by audio files. This brings the language to life and is especially useful for the trickier phrases. You could even play the audio when asking around for help if you’re not up for a game of charades.
My recommended dictionary apps are imiwa? (Apple) or Jsho (Android). These highly functional apps allow you to translate short phrases, save favourite entries, view example sentences, verb conjugations or related words/characters. It goes without saying these are handy tools for learning language on the go.
This is by no means a complete list, so leave a comment below if you’ve come across other handy smartphone apps!