Living in Japan can be difficult, but the internet has many resources to make things a bit easier. An iPhone or other smart phone can put those resources at your fingertips wherever you find yourself in Japan through a wide variety of standard or easily downloadable applications.
Google maps, for example, can find and give you directions to everything from castles and temples to a coffee shop near your station. Once you have arrived, you can take pictures or video and upload them on the spot for your adoring fans back home to enjoy using Facebook or Twitter. I don’t carry a full electric dictionary anymore; the one I bought for my iPhone works almost as well as my full size Casio, but weighs much less!
If you already have an iPhone or are thinking about one, I collected a list of the most useful programs for people living in Japan. Free apps are labeled, but please follow the links the provided links to check the current prices of the rest. If you
Here are the most useful apps I have found. Enjoy, and feel free to offer your thoughts and suggestions below. I am always looking for more!
It may seem surprising to see an app about garbage, unless you have lived in Japan and then you already know why!
Throwing away garbage in Japan can create headaches for many. With ThreeR, this is a thing of the past! This multilingual trash app will give you access to area-specific garbage information including a full calendar, search function, and reminder alarms to make sure you never forget when the next pickup for any given item is. Also includes helpful picture examples of trash bags and item categories for even easier reference.
Tokyo Metro is a complete interactive iPhone map for the Tokyo Subway system in English. This is a very popular app in Tokyo.
Japan Subway Map is a complete guide to subway systems in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. The Tokyo map also comes complete with exit information on each station!
Norikae Annai is a very handy train finder. Everyone is probably familiar with the Jourdan Route Finder website. It is a great place to get great information on how to get anywhere in japan on the train, and this is the app version of that service. Unfortunately, the app is only in Japanese, but if you can make it work, this app will make your life easier! (Free)
The Japan Taxi App is a smart and easy way to order a taxi in Japan. Just move the little guy to where you are on the map and hit the call button. A taxi will come soon after. It works a champ! (Free)
Organized by the Tokyo Taxi Association, Takun is “Tokyo’s largest common taxi dispatch system. We will immediately dispatch the nearest taxi from about 11,000 cars in total.”
This is the only option which links to private “taxi” drivers.
Google maps may be the most useful thing on this list. It becomes more useful when you learn to cache a google map on your iphone for use offline by entering “OK maps” in the search bar within the app. It will save the area that you choose up to the level you want. You will be prompted to “Save this map?”
AroundMe uses your location to find information about your surroundings. It can be used to find coffee shops, gas stations, and other locations around you. Very convenient! (Free)
Glympse is a free location-based service application allowing you to share your real-time location safely. Keep track of your friends and family easily and simply by GPS anywhere. Could be used to send a link to a friend if you are lost! (Free)
A fun, social way to bookmark, organize, and create quick and easy personal lists and reviews of your favorite restaurants, check-ins and recommended shops to have for later and share with friends. Restaurant business cards made social!
“The idea was that wherever I was in Tokyo, I’d always be able to look at that map and find the craft beer bars near me. I’d never have to settle for mass-produced beer again.” And so it was…
TeePee Japan is touted as the “ultimate foodie and traveler’s friend in Japan.” The Japanese version of this app is gangbuster popular, and this translated version is gaining quickly as THE place to look for the best restaurants, onsen hot spring resorts, great ski resorts, and even clothing stores in Japan.
myStarbucks is a handy app for finding the closest Starbucks location to you. If you must have a cup, right now, this is your best bet at finding a decent one! (Free)
Sushipedia is an app dedicated to sushi! You can search by name, ingredient, and attributes among other things. This is great fun at the conveyor belt sushi, and will teach you a lot about what you are eating. (Free)
Pocketbook Appendix is English version of Techo-no-furoku(手帳の付録). This application has a lot of information on Japan. Prefecture names and zip codes, measurement and date conversions, etc…
Gengou Free converts western style dates into Japanese style dates (Showa, Heisei, etc.) (Free)
MeasuresLite is a neat little app that can convert measurements to and from various systems. Great tool for, oh let’s just say someone from a country that does not use the metric system. (Free)
Web MD is a free app that can help you check your symptoms, and access drug & treatment information. This might get you out of a doctors visit, or you could show it to the doctor instead of trying to explain them. Most doctors in Japan can read English, they just can’t speak it!
Japanese is a full-fledged Japanese-English dictionary that fits in your pocket! I have been using this personally for about a year, and I love it. You can also add any word you look up to a flashcard set and study it later.
Japan Goggles can translate Japanese words to English from the camera, or images on your iPhone.
Kotoba! is a FREE Japanese dictionary! It is not the best, but if you just need to look up simple words this should be great for you. I also used this for a long time, and it worked pretty well! (Free)
Lingolook Japan is a handy Japanese phrase book. If you don’t need a full on dictionary, this will get you around town and keep you fed.
MoneyTree is a Tokyo-based startup, basically Mint.com for Japan that securely connects users with over 30 different banks and credit cards in Japan from a mobile device.
Netflix originally produced this internet speed-test app as a simple way for its customers to know whether or not their ISP is throttling speeds to Netflix or if there is an actual issue with their connection. It offers an ad-free clean interface and really only does one thing: test your connection. Whether you want to test your home wifi connection or even your mobile 4G connection, this app helps provide the information you need quickly and easily.
What other apps do you suggest? Let us know in the comments below!