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The Best Japanese Apps for Visiting and Living in Japan

Post: Wednesday April 1, 2015

Taking a trip to or within Japan any time soon? Do you have a smartphone? Are you looking for an app or two to help with navigating around Japan, assisting with language barriers, identifying touristy ideas, or just making life a little easier while you're here?

Well, there is indeed an app (or two) for that.


Considerations for using your phone in Japan

Roaming charges

If you are traveling to Japan, make sure you check with your phone service provider before you leave to make sure you understand the costs that may be associated with using your smartphone while in Japan. Depending on your service and plan type, using your phone may be quite expensive so be aware before you use any of these apps while traveling here.

Phone operating system

Some apps are only for iPhones and some may be only for Android phones. We will highlight this as we review the various apps.

Now that we've gotten the preliminary stuff out of the way, below are a few apps that can make transition to life in Tokyo or traveling around this beautiful country a much smoother process.

Japan travel app options

Japan Travel Guide with Me

If you are traveling to Japan, Japan travel Guide with Me for Android phones is quite useful. It's an offline travel guide, which means that it doesn't use cellular data and can be safely used in "airplane mode" if you are traveling in Japan and don't have a roaming plan. This app is developed by travelers, for travelers, and has a variety of articles that are based on your current location and travel destination. It also provides a mapping feature based on your current location to allow you to find your bearings when out and about.

Japan Travel Guide with Me App

Japan Travel Guide

Japan Travel Guide by Triposo for iPhones offers great offline travel guide resources as well as a detailed offline map that allows you to find your way when traveling through Japan. It also allows for booking hotel rooms directly within the app, though please note that you need to be connected to the Internet, either over WiFi or cellular data connection.

Japan Travel Guide App

DiGJAPAN! - Traveler's Guide

DiGJAPAN! - Traveler's Guide by MAPPLE ON, Co., Ltd. is the other option for a free app and a great resource for iPhone owners, that provides offline maps and travel guides for people traveling in Japan. You can download it free at iTunes and get Sightseeing Information, Navigation function, Wi-Fi Hotspot Search, Basic Travel Information, and more. Offline functionality of the app will free you from scurrying to find internet connection.


Japan Transit Planner

If you need help getting around using public transportation in Japan, Japan Transit Planner is a great resource for iPhone owners. It provides searchable train routes and station timetables. For Android phone users, Japan Trains is a free alternative which can be used offline, and even includes platform information for where to find your specific train.

Japan Transit Planner App


GuruNavi is the ultimate restaurant finder for Japan. It's available for both iPhone and Android and allows you to search for restaurants based on your present location or any number of criteria, including cuisine type, price, reviews, etc. It also has a built in map feature and other search filters including whether a restaurant has English menus or English speaking staff. This is a must-have download for the traveling gourmand.

Gurunavi app

What is the best Japanese language app?

Yomiwa & Waygo

Yomiwa is an app for iPhones that uses your phone's camera and optical character recognition to translate Japanese characters into English. It's great a great translation tool when you don't recognize a character in reading material or when you're out and about trying to figure out what a particular sign says or what a particular entrée option is on a restaurant menu. It's not perfect, but a huge step forward in making Japan seem less impenetrable to the non-Japanese speaker.

Yomiwa App

Waygo is similar to Yomiwa and uses your smartphone's camera and optical character recognition as well. The big differences are that this app comes with additional language options such as Korean, and Chinese, which is a benefit for international travelers, and it's available for both iPhone and Android.

Waygo App

Google Translate

While not a Japanese specific app, Google Translate (for both iPhone and Android) is one of the most functional translation apps available today. It allows for near simultaneous translation between two languages, employs speech recognition algorithms to translate what you say into a second language in real-time, displays the translations on the phone as a fallback, and can be a lifesaver in many situations where you are trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak your language. Japanese is no exception. It's definitely not perfect, but it can be used on or offline to provide instant communication between you and speakers of more than 90 languages.

Google Translate App


While not specifically a translation app, Skritter is available for both iPhone and Android and is a great way to learn kanji. It allows you to practice writing kanji directly on the phone screen using only your finger or a stylus. It offers real-time stroke correction if you write a character incorrectly and also incorporates a spaced repetition system to help you to remember kanji over a long period of time.

Skritter App

While both the Apple and Google app stores have thousands of useful apps, those listed here are particularly beneficial to expats living in Japan. Also, be sure to check out our article on Internet service providers in Tokyo to help you stay connected to the world.


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