It is exciting to travel to Japan, but it can be a bit daunting to think of the cultural and language barriers, especially for first time visitors. Downloading a few useful apps to your phone can make your trip a lot more comfortable.
If you don’t speak any Japanese, we would recommend using Google Lens for those hard to read signs and notices, as it will translate Japanese text into your own language as long as you have an internet connection.
It can help you navigate through your trip to Japan in many ways, you simply point your phone's camera at an object. Google Lens attempts to read barcodes, QR codes, labels, and text to identify the object and display relevant search results, web pages, and information. For example, if you point your device's camera at a Wi-Fi label that includes a network name and password, it will automatically try connecting to the scanned Wi-Fi network. Lens can also use images to identify text, find results for Google searches, and use Google Translate to translate text.
For train travel we would recommend Japan Travel by Navitime in order to easily check train times and routes. If you’re using a JR Pass you can narrow the search results to prioritise JR trains, and if you aren’t using then search by the fastest or most cost-effective route. Google Maps can work perfectly well too.
Ecbo Cloak is a useful app for locating luggage storage space near you. If you’ve checked out of your hotel and need somewhere to store your suitcase while you explore, it can be a lifesaver! Just use the app to find a storage place nearby, leave your luggage there, pay, and pick it up when you need it again. It’s especially useful if you aren’t close to a large train station, so may have fewer storage options.
One of the best things about visiting Japan is the food! So to find the best places, try using GuruNavi. It uses a simple search interface where you can pick the type of cuisine you want, in a specific city or neighbourhood. You can use it to check if a nearby restaurant has English menus, if they accept credit cards, the opening hours, and have a look at the menu and prices.
For noodle-lovers we should also mention Ramen Beast, an app designed to help foodies discover the best ramen in Japan! Search the city of your choice for the best ramen spots - each listing has photos of the place and food, essential information like which dish to order, and a description. Note this app is currently only available for iOS download.