Are you travelling to Japan? Check out these apps that you absolutely must download if you plan on travelling to Japan in 2022.
As we shake off the couch potato torpor of 2020 and begin looking toward a world of lifted travel restrictions, you might be asking yourself a hopeful question: can I travel to Japan?
Yes! If you’re prepared, that is.
Since we all live with our phones surgically attached, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for traveling to Japan is with a pocketful of nifty smartphone apps. Here’s what you need to know to prepare and all the necessities you should have in your pocket.
Can You Travel to Japan?
Can you travel to Japan? At the time of writing…well, it’s complicated.
To put it simply, Japan has some of the most stringent COVID-19 travel restrictions in the world, with 159 countries on its banned-from-entry list at the time of writing.
Check the list often and regularly check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They will provide entry requirements for tourists when restrictions change.
17 Apps You Need Before Travelling to Japan
If you clear the COVID-19 test, you’re ready for…well, everything else about Japan. Malaysians traveling to Japan are in for an amazing cultural experience, but also a bit of culture shock.
Here are 17 apps that will turn your first trip to Japan into the trip of a lifetime.
1. Overseas Entrants Locator (OEL)
Due to COVID-19, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare requires three apps for all travelers entering the country: Overseas Entrants Locator, MySOS, and COCOA.
Overseas Entrants Locator, or OEL, allows the Japanese Health Monitoring Center to track your location. This makes it easier for the HCO to find you if they need to contact trace.
Last on our list of apps required for entry is the COCOA app.
This is the official COVID-19 contact app for the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. It notifies you of close contact with COVID-positive users to help the Japanese government contain the spread of the virus.
4. Sushi Dictionary
Now that we got housekeeping out of the way, let’s talk about some fun apps. Like a sushi dictionary.
Yes, literally, a sushi dictionary. Sushi Dictionary is intended to help foreigners understand a sushi menu (and order your favorites). It’s also a resource for regional sushi styles and broader Japanese seafood and fish dishes.
Just don’t order a California roll.
Will you really need to know Japanese beyond the sushi menu?
In case you do, turn to the Imiwa app. It’s s a free multilingual all-purpose Japanese dictionary with entries in English, German, French, and Russian.
6. Google Translate
Oh, and if you really need a Hail Mary? Revert to the classics. No, not I’m deaf and you don’t speak Japanese.
Google Translate will get you out of a pinch. Just don’t rely on Google Translate too much—it directly translates what you say without rearranging the sentence for grammar, so you may wind up with something completely nonsensical. But for single words, it’s perfectly fine.
7. Google Maps
Pop quiz: how do you get from Harajuku station to Asakusa? And which one is the Ginza line, again?
The Tokyo metro map isn’t quite the overturned spaghetti bowl that is the Boston road map, but it’s extensive. That’s great news for travelers—you can get anywhere you want to go in Tokyo on the trains. You just have to learn how to navigate them.
Google Maps is an excellent starting point to get your bearings before you set foot outside your hotel. Or, if you get lost, ask Siri for help. It’s like having a tour guide, but free and occasionally snarky.
8. Rail Map/World Transit Maps
Of course, there are some lands Google Maps has yet to traverse. Or at least, Siri isn’t as smart as some other travelers.
With that in mind, make sure you download World Transit Maps (the update of Rail Maps).
It offers rail maps integrating everything (railways, metro lines, and commuter lines) for most transit systems in the world. Trust us, when you’re dealing with the Tokyo subway system, integrating everything is kind of a big deal.
Worried about finding yourself without Wi-Fi? Download the MAPS.ME app before you leave the hotel.
This nifty little app delivers a beautiful feature: you get offline world maps anywhere in the world. Yes, please.
Of course, before you even get to Japan, you should have the Hopper app on your phone. It’s a crazy-easy way to find cheap flights (minus the fees and frustration).
Plus, if your flight gets delayed or canceled, you can hunt for a new one without scrambling for your laptop.
Once you land, you need a few navigation apps in your back pocket. A good place to start is the HyperDia app.
This app offers route and railway navigation through Japanese train lines. All you have to do is input your origin and destination and HyperDia will direct you.
Think of it as Google Maps, but specialized for Japanese train lines.
12. NAVITIME for Japan Travel
For navigating the maze that is the Tokyo subway, we also love Japan Travel by NAVITIME.
Listen, Tokyo is the most complex train system in the world—we’re taking 80 lines and over 700 stations. NAVITIME delivers a streamlined app that makes it easy for foreigners to navigate the maze of Tokyo transit like a local.
That includes features route planning, travel guides, timeline planning, and more, all in an aesthetically appealing interface. The Tokyo subway never looked so good.
If you’d prefer not to do Singing in the Rain: Tokyo Redux, it’s good to have the JapanTaxi app on your phone as well.
It’s like a car service, but better. It links you up with over 60,000 taxis serving all 47 prefectures in Japan. Who needs Uber when you have JapanTaxi?
14. Travel Japan Wi-Fi
Did you really see all the sights in Tokyo if Instagram doesn’t know about it? Questionable. But for Instagram, you need yourself some Wi-Fi.
For that, turn to the appropriately dubbed Travel Japan Wi-Fi. This nifty little Wi-Fi ninja automatically connects you with Wi-Fi hotspots while you travel, which means no more eyeballing your data roaming.
Plus, you can save your favorite visited spots so the app connects to those first the next time it’s in range.
Want to find the best restaurants in Japan? Preferably without trawling blog posts (beautiful though they are)?
The GURUNAVI app is Japan’s gourmet navigator. Think of it like Google, but for restaurants. All you have to do is search restaurants by area and cuisine. You can check the menu, find any sales promotions, and make a reservation, all within the app.
16. NHK World TV
According to the movies, Japan seems to be a place frequented by giant skyscraper-crushing lizards, geishas, teenage ninjas, and the art of finding perfection in the imperfect.
No promises on the lizard, but you should probably have news alerts. You know, just in case.
Your go-to news app is NHK World TV, the app of Japan’s public broadcaster. NHK-World Japan is its international arm, and NHK World TV makes the news available in English.
17. Yurekuru Call
You should also have Yurekuru Call, which broadcasts one specific push notification: earthquakes.
Hey, that’s an important concern in Japan, irrespective of whether said earthquake is attached to a vengeful lizard or giant death robots.
Make Memories During Your Japan Travel
If you’re traveling to Japan, you’re in for a real treat. Nothing quite matches the color and unique cultural quirks of Tokyo, from the traditional, meditative rock garden to the youthful culture of cute that brought us Sanrio and Pikachu.
Looking for more great tips to make the most of your trip? Make sure to check out our blog for more great posts, like this one-day Tokyo itinerary.