10 Essential Apps for Traveling to Japan

Planning to Japan soon? How do you prepare yourself and get all information before heading to Japan? Travel Guide book? Traveling is very exciting and exhausting sometimes with all kinds of things you need to prepare of such as looking for reasonable budget lodging, transportation during in Japan, weather forecast, searching restaurants, money exchange shops and attractive tourism spots. However, some of the people don’t have time to prepare in advance. Therefore, it could possible they find some problems to get their desired destination and language barrier could cause the problem is getting worse. 
Smartphone is crucial tool of our daily life and it is helpful for traveling in Japan without bringing heavy travel guide book and maps along the trip. Today, I need to recommend free apps I use every day in Japan. The apps are more helpful to make your journey easier and smoother. Make sure you get the apps on your mobile phone before heading to Japan.

1) GuruNavi
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Japan has a lot of restaurants and gourmets but which one is fit your needs. If you have no plan where to eat and which restaurant you must go, GuruNavi is the best app for you to find the best restaurants fit for your needs and near you. GuruNavi is Japan leading gourmet and restaurant guide. The app has built a good image and reputation due to the reviews and recommendations of the app users. It is simple to indicate your preferred location, price range, type of food and then the list of restaurants with the highest rating appear in the app. You also can make a reservation directly through the app and find saving opportunities. The app supports multiple languages such as English, Chinese and Korean. It is available in iOS and Android app.
Photo credit: http://www.realestate-tokyo.com/news/japanese-apps-for-visiting-and-living-in-japan/

2) Tabelog
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Another useful app for you to find food and restaurant recommendations called Tabelog. This is most Japanese favourite app when they need to find the best place to eat. It is similar to the GuruNavi app. Tabelog helps you to find restaurants nearby and sort them by price and rating. From the rating system, you an easily make a good decision even you don’t know Japanese. The different between GuruNavi and Tabelog is GuruNavi is the main source for information while Tabelog is focuses on reviews. Tabelog also selected the best restaurants and foods based on Gold, Silver and Bronze Award 2017. For more details, please check out their website. Overall, it is comparable to yelp app and it is available in iOS and Android app.
Photo credit: http://mainichi.jp/articles/20160918/gnw/00m/040/005000c

3) MAPS.ME
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When travelling to another country you’ve never visited before, you will get lost. Do you bring a heavy guide books or maps along your journey? No way. Heavy, inconvenience and wasting your money. Why not choose more handy mobile apps to guide your direction. MAPS.ME is offline navigation app. It is perfect for looking specific destinations without internet connection. Don’t worry, information on the map is updated and accurate and you don’t get lost while having MAPS.ME app. Prepare to get and install before heading on your trip to Japan. It is available in iOS and Android app.
Photo credit: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/maps-me-offline-map-nav/id510623322?mt=8

4) Google Maps
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Google Map is a navigation app for finding your destination by typing address. Many foreigners living in Japan use Google Map due to it is simple and it provides the shortest route to user. In addition, it also has real time updates such as the road under construction or train delays. Some of apps handle Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway while Google Map gives you train lines, subway lines and walking paths. The different between Maps.Me and Google Map is Google Map cannot download offline maps. You are not able to use the app if you have no internet connection. It is available in iOS and Android app.
Photo credit: https://www.macrumors.com/2012/12/12/google-maps-for-ios-now-live-in-app-store/

5)  Tokyo Subway Navigation
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According to the Forbes 2016, Tokyo subway system is one of the most complex in the world. It is not because of many lines but there are multiple companies that have subway systems in this city. Indeed, you must get subway navigation app if you want to go Japan. Tokyo Subway Navigation is free application provided by Tokyo Metro to users. Users can search transfer information for the Tokyo Subway network. You just select your departure and destination station and then the app will show you the main route, cost and time required from departure point to destination point. The app also can advise you which exits to take for popular tourist attractions. It also can be used on or offline, thus, don’t worry if you have no internet connection. The app supports Chinese, English, Korean, Thai and Japanese. 
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Navitime for Japan Travel is another most downloaded navigation app for Japanese. It provides information about routes search, voice navigation, free use of Wi-Fi, train delay, place to withdraw money and exchange currency. Besides, the app also provides information about car rentals and recommended attractions. It is available in iOS and Android app. 
Photo credit: http://travelamusement.com/travel-app/japan-travel-route-map-jr-app-reviews-2017/

7) Google Translate
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I used Google Translate app every day. Language barrier is the most difficult part for foreigners who like to travel to Japan. Of course not all the foreigners know how to read and speak Japanese. Thus, Google Translate helps a lot. It is easy to translate your language to Japanese or vice verses. You also can take a photo of the written Japanese and translate it into your language due to build in camera function. It is available in iOS and Android app.

Photo credit: http://www.iclarified.com/28169/google-translate-app-gets-hebrew-and-arabic-voice-input-other-improvements

8) VoiceTra (NICT)
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I am afraid to go Japan because I can’t speak Japanese. No worry, get VoiceTra app from Play Store or Apple Store, you can interact with local people easily. VoiceTra is speech to speech multilingual translation app. You can translate your spoken words into Japanese language. Just speak to VoiceTra and the app will translate into words. The translation results are translated back into your own language and showed at the bottom. It is make sure the results are being delivered with the intended meaning. Beside Japanese language, you may allow to translate between 31 languages. It is available in iOS and Android app.

Photo credit: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voicetra-voice-translator/id581137577?mt=8

9) Tokyo Handy Guide
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If you plan to Tokyo area, you definitely need Tokyo Handy Guide app. This app contains everything you need to explore Tokyo. It is included city maps, transportation, sightseeing spots and more useful information. Maps of Tokyo such as Shinjuku, Asakusa, and other Tokyo central popular areas. Also, this handy guide provide information of Tama and Ogasawara islands. If you plan to zoo or museum, this app will help you. This free app can be used of offline and available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. It is available in iOS and Android app. Go to discover how amazing this app helps your journey.

Photo credit: http://www.gotokyo.org/en/tourists/topics_event/topics/160112/topics.html

10) Japan Connected - Free Wi-Fi
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The last but not least free app is Japan Connected - Free Wi-Fi that I need to recommend to you. When you having some essential apps on you smartphone but you don’t have internet connection, the apps are not working. Therefore, this app is made you it easier to get connected especially for those travel on budget. This app will search for free Wi-Fi in the area and connects to the hotspots automatically. Enjoy free Wi-Fi access no matter where you go.

Photo credit: http://www.ntt-bp.net/jcfw/about/index.html
All the free applications mentioned above are very helpful tools for foreigners who do not understand Japanese. It is suggested to download the apps to your mobile phone in order to get information of routes, restaurants, transportations, attractive places and many other useful information on the places you are visiting. Not necessary to know Japanese, you just need to get the right apps prepared. 

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Sumi Ally C