There’s no place quite like Japan. We might be a little biased, but it’s just as amazing as you’d imagine. Part of the adventure, though, is figuring out how to get around — especially if you don’t speak Japanese! Fortunately, we’ve created this list of the best apps for traveling in Japan to help you explore with less stress (and travel anxiety)!
If you’re traveling to Japan for the first time, it can be a bit overwhelming. We hope this quick guide will help you feel a bit more prepared. Also, we do recommend purchasing a Skyroam portable WiFi device to ensure you have seamless internet connection when using these best travel apps for Japan. Don’t forget to also check out our tips for what to bring when traveling to Japan (and what to leave at home!).
1. Google Maps
One of the biggest benefits of using Google Maps in Japan is that you’re already familiar with it. There’s no learning curve — you know how to use it! As one of the oldest and most well-known navigation apps, it’s also packed full of useful features.
It’s not perfect (nothing is!), but you can use it to find your way through cities, towns, and even many villages in Japan. Google Maps will offer recommendations for routes in real-time, which saved us many times while we were traveling. You can use Offline Maps (but you won’t be able to see your pins) or even create custom My Maps as well as find local attractions, restaurants, and more.
It’s hard to find a single thing to hate about Japan’s transportation system. The Shinkansen, local trains, and buses are absolutely outstanding. Everything is clean, efficient, and ridiculously punctual. It’s also very confusing if you’ve never used it before!
That’s why you need HyperDia. The app provides accurate guidance in English, Japanese, and Chinese. In addition to providing information about Japan’s train system (including warnings if a leg of your journey isn’t covered by the Japan Rail Pass), you can also check walking times, hotel suggestions, and car rental rates.
Download: iOS/Android ($2.99/month)
The website refers to Maps.me as “not just an app but a friend in all your adventures.” It’s easy to understand why. You probably won’t replace Google Maps with this one, but it’s a great companion. This offline map app is perfect for those times when you might be off the grid or unable to access data.
All you have to do is “download a map, choose your route, and get ready for a great journey.” Using Maps.me is pretty simple and, unlike Google, you’ll still be able to see points of interest even if you’re using it offline. This really saved us in Kyoto and on a particularly memorable trip to Fuji-Q Highland during the rainy season!
4. Japan Travel by NAVITIME
Planning to visit Tokyo? Even if you’ve been to big cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto, you’ve never seen anything like Japan’s capital. Just getting out of Shinjuku station is notoriously confusing! NAVITIME makes one of the best apps for traveling in Japan. Trust us!
Tokyo’s transit system is complex, but the Japan Travel by NAVITIME app makes it so much easier. Not only can you use it to get from point A to B, but you can also check out train delays (a rarity!), a list of train stops (to make sure you’re headed in the right direction!), search for free WiFi spots, access recent routes offline, and use voice navigation. On top of that, Japan Travel also includes guides for shopping, nightlife, food & drink, and so much more. You can even access coupons and complete itineraries!
5. Japan Transit Planner by Jorudan
While not as helpful to foreigners traveling in Japan, the Japan Transit Planner still offers some great features. It’s easy to use so that you can quickly find details about fares (including total price), distances and duration of your trip, types of seats on the train (reserved vs non-reserved), and any added costs you may incur.
We highly recommend getting a Japan Rail Pass, and this app allows you to filter out routes that aren’t covered and pick your reserved seats. Planning to fly somewhere? This app has information about flights, too!
Download: iOS/Android (free for basic features)
6. Tokyo Subway Navigation
This app is pretty self-explanatory. You won’t want to get lost in Tokyo, so use this navigation app to make sense of the Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines. I’ll readily admit that in all of our Japan travels, getting around the Tokyo system was absolutely the toughest. Best of all, you don’t need to be on WiFi or using data to access the offline map!
7. Google Translate
You can have all the maps in the world, but a language barrier could create a new set of issues. We are very familiar with Japanese, but there were times when we struggled (particularly with questions about food allergies). That’s why Google Translate is definitely among the best apps for traveling in Japan.
With Google Translate, you can download Japanese for easy offline translation. It was rough when the app first launched, but it’s improved so much over the years. You can speak into it in English and show someone the written Japanese translation, use the voice translation (needs data) or even use the camera mode to translate written words (takes a little practice, though!).
Need to find a place to eat in Japan? The GuruNavi restaurant-finder app will help you find something delicious. After all, I’ll easily admit that even with convenience stores and cheap meals, we have never hated a single meal we’ve had in Japan.
To use the app, all you have to do is choose your prefecture (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, etc…) and your location. GuruNavi will break down your results by cuisine (Izakaya, sushi, etc…). You can even apply filters to narrow the results to places that offer free WiFi, offer service in English, and more.
9. Ramen Beast
We love ramen. All kinds. While I’ll admit that we eat Korean ramen more often, there’s something wonderful and soulful about a bowl of Japanese ramen. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
The Ramen Beast app is fantastic because it’s managed by a group of locals who are passionate about recommending Japan’s best ramen to hungry tourists. They provide basic information about each shop, recommendations for what to order, and helpful descriptions of the dishes.
Download: iOS (free)
If you’ve seen our guides to Fuji-Q Highland or Universal Studios Japan, you’ll know that we love Klook! The website offers guides for things to do all across the country, and you can narrow it down by city, destination, or category.
You can book everything (at a GREAT discount) from theme park tickets and attraction passes to hotel transportation on Klook. Then, you can use the app to access the voucher. It was great not having to keep track of printouts or emails!
Download: iOS/Android (free app, pay for the vouchers)
We’ve never been big on Uber. We prefer rental cars that I can wipe down and sanitize. BUT, on a recent trip to New York City, we discovered the beauty of Uber. We had planned on relying on public transit, but there were a few times when hitching a ride made more sense.
It’s similar in Japan. It’s so much easier to use the expansive transportation system, but you might find yourself needing a ride back to your hotel. Uber can help with that (and the cars are going to be a lot cleaner in Japan!). To be completely honest, though, taxis are probably going to be cheaper (if you can hail one)!
Download: iOS/Android (free app, pay for the rides)
12. Ecbo Cloak
On our last trip to Japan, we decided to keep our room at the Universal Port Hotel in Osaka as our home base while we explored other areas. This meant that when we stayed at The Knot in Shinjuku, we paid for two separate hotel rooms, even though we weren’t sleeping in one of them. Why did we do this? So that we wouldn’t have to drag our luggage around.
Ultimately, we were cool with that decision, but if you need someplace to keep your bags for a few hours, definitely check out Ecbo Cloak. The app will help you locate and reserve a spot at luggage storage shops in your area.
Download: iOS/Android (free app, pay for the storage)
When you’re looking for the best apps for traveling in Japan, it’s hard to go wrong with one created by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)! Offered in 15 languages, you’ll find useful information to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.
No matter what’s on your itinerary, this app will help you get organized and ready for the adventure. JNTO makes it easy to uncover details about local attractions, restaurants, transportation, accommodations, and even currency exchange!
Best Travel Apps for Japan
Getting around a new country can be tricky, especially if you don’t speak the language. Finding the right apps, particularly if you’re traveling alone in Japan, can make things less stressful and more enjoyable. New apps are popping up all the time, so we’ll try to update this post as things change. Until then, safe travels!