Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Most Useful Apps for Traveling in Japan

In this day and age, smartphones are our new maps, translators, and guides. It is the most useful tool that helps us navigate when traveling to a foreign country like Japan. But for it to be useful for your Japan trip, there are a couple of apps that you need to download, which we have compiled for you below. As the interface of each app differs, a few apps are included under each category where possible. It is best to play around with them to find out which one you like the best before departing for Japan.

Table of Contents

Japan WiFi Auto-Connect

Obviously, if there is free WiFi to use, it would be the best. But just like any country in the world, the free service in Japan is mostly only available at your accommodation, restaurants and cafes, and shopping malls. Once you leave these facilities, you will likely have no other free internet connection to rely on.

But if you are comfortable without access to the internet when you are away from a hot spot, a convenient app to download is Japan WiFi Auto-Connect. The phone app notifies you if a secure, trustworthy, free WiFi hotspot is nearby. You can then connect your device to that hotspot. The network will be saved in your device, and the app will automatically connect it to the hotspot in the future.

Important: Refrain from inputting sensitive personal information, including credit card details, while connected to free WiFi.

Tip: If you want to know where to enjoy free WiFi access in Japan, refer to Japan WiFi Auto-Connect’s WiFi Spot Map.

Safety tips

As you may be aware, Japan is a country where natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons happen frequently. While there is no need to be overly concerned, installing the country’s official travel app on your phone will help prepare you for the worst situation. Because the Japan Official Travel App was terminated in September 2023, you can download the Safety tips app, an alternative developed by the Japanese government.

When you first open the app, it will ask where you come from. Set it as your home country for the Emergency Contacts screen to show your country’s embassy. The app will also ask you to input up to five destinations you plan to visit. This can be changed later on in the setting screen. We recommend turning on the “Automatic location setting” on the setting screen so you don’t need to keep updating the attractions you will visit in the next few days.

If any warnings are issued in your chosen area, they will show at the top of the screen. The app also offers Medical Institutions and Evacuation information and Helpful phrases if needed.

The Most Useful Transportation Apps for Traveling in Japan

Trains, whether the metro or bullet train, are one of the best ways to travel around cities and between prefectures in Japan. However, because Japan’s train system is one of the most confusing and complicated networks in the world, relying only on Google Maps would not be sufficient to determine which train line is best for you to catch. So we recommend downloading a transportation app specifically for Japan’s public transportation system.

Google Maps

Google Maps are great for finding out the closest stations to you. Utilizing Google Maps’ Offline Maps feature, you can still get directions to the locations you want to get to, even without a signal to a WiFi hotspot! Of course, remember to download the area map beforehand for this function to work.

Japan Transit Planner

Japan Transit Planner is arguably the most convenient app when it comes to figuring out what train line or bus route to take. The app was developed by a well-known company, Jorudan. It is one of the most popular apps the Japanese use for travel planning.

In addition to Japanese, the app also supports other languages, such as English, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. The app will automatically be set to your phone’s default language. If you wish to set the app to a different language, go to the Menu tab and select FAQ. Under “Others”, there should be a “Select Language” option.

Searching for how to get from destination A to B is easy. After inputting the destinations, the app will list out a couple of route suggestions. Each option will display the departure and arrival time, the time required for the trip, the number of transfers required, and the cost.

You will notice that there is a small alphabet underneath most options. “F” marks the fastest option. The options marked with “E” are the ones that require the least transfers. If you are on a budget, choose the option marked with “L”.

Before using the app, ensure the “Route Options” settings reflect your situation or preferences. For example, if you have a Tokyo Subway Ticket or a JR Pass, remember to tick it so that the search result only shows the routes covered by the pass. You can also untick the transportation modes you don’t want to take. For instance, remember to untick all the other modes if you only want to take the train.

Japan Transit Planner’s Timetable Function and Buy Tickets Function

The app also has a timetable function to assist with your trip planning. Not only can you search for the timetable for a particular date, but it can also tell you the timetable for a weekday, on Saturdays, or on holidays, including Sundays.

Japan Transit Planner app also has a Ticket tab. All tickets shown in the “Buy Tickets” screen can be purchased. Once purchased, it will show on the “My Tickets” screen and can be activated on the day you want to use it.

Important: Please only activate a ticket on the day you want to use it.

Japan Travel

NAVITIME JAPAN Co., Ltd is another mainstream company specializing in Japan’s transportation planning. The app that the company developed for foreign tourists is called Japan Travel. The Japan Travel app has many more functions than the Japan Transit Planner. You can use it to search for train and bus routes, explore nearby popular tourist spots and restaurants, create a sharable itinerary, and spots where you can purchase tourist products, including transportation passes.

Japan Travel’s Route Function

To search how to go from destination A to B, use Japan Travel’s Route function. Like Japan Transit Planner, you can customize the preferred transportation mode. In addition, it also offers the Preferred Route options. This is particularly useful if you need the travel route to be wheelchair accessible. On a typhoon day, you will also want to set the Preferred Route to Avoid Rain.

After completing a route search, you can pin it for future reference. It will also show you how much it would cost if you take a taxi.

Besides the nationwide JR Pass and Tokyo Subway Ticket, the Japan Travel app has incorporated all transportation passes available, making it more convenient for those who use the regional passes!

However, unlike Japan Transit Planner, Japan Travel’s timetable function is only available to the premium version.

Japan Travel’s Itinerary Planning Function

Japan Travel App’s itinerary planning is called Trip. You can create an itinerary for your upcoming Japan trip on the Trip tab and share it with others. Whether it is via WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, or text messages, the app can support all the sharing functions available on your phone.

The most useful thing about this itinerary planning function is that the app will automatically show the time required to travel between the two spots entered, as well as detailing the arrival time at the next attraction you want to visit. So all you need to do is keep adding the spots you want to visit on a particular day, and the app will sort out the transportation for you!

Japan Travel’s Map Function

Japan Travel’s map function is really handy if you need to find free WiFi hot spots, currency exchange, tourist information, and ATMs around you. It will also tell you where to store your baggage, directions to the nearby convenience stores, and, most importantly, the restrooms!

The Most Useful Food Apps for Traveling in Japan

Finding where to eat can be overwhelming, particularly after you have spent all day finding your way around to sightsee. Especially in big cities like Tokyo, where an entire building can be filled with cafes and restaurants, choosing which one to enter for your next meal can be overwhelming. Again, Google is useful. The reviews of the restaurants and attractions in Japan are mostly authentic. The practice of buying reviews in the country is uncommon, so the ratings are generally trustworthy!

OpenTable

You might already have the OpenTable app downloaded on your phone. The app works in Japan too! While many locals use Tablelog or Gurunavi, neither app supports the English language. However, both Tablelog and Gurunavi have mobile-friendly English websites.

  • Tablelog has a review section where people can comment about their dining experience and share photos.
    • A rating over 3.5/5 means that the restaurant serves decent food, as reviews given by the Japanese are generally more critical.
  • Gurunavi tells you whether there are multilingual staff and menus available. If a restaurant has vegetarian options, this information might also be available under the restaurant’s information.

HappyCow

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you might already have HappyCow’s app downloaded to your phone. The app will be your lifesaver when you are in Japan. It is the ultimate source to find a vegan-friendly restaurant close to you.

The information provided by HappyCow and the customer reviews are very reliable!

Tip: You can also refer to our articles in the Vegetarian Dining category. While the articles only cover a limited part of Japan, detailed information about the restaurants and cafes is included.

The Most Useful Translation Apps for Traveling in Japan

The language barrier is always the most daunting experience when traveling to a foreign country. Unless you speak Japanese, a translation app is essential to explore this beautiful country on your own.

Google Translate and Google Lens

In addition to inputting a phrase or a sentence into the app, Google Translate has a feature where you can snap a picture of anything you want to translate. The app then turns the foreign language into English or any other language you wish to select. It is a great feature when it comes to reading menus. Google Translate also has a speech-to-text translation function, which will be handy when communicating with the locals.

Another advantage of using Google Translate is that you can use it offline if you have downloaded both your native language and another foreign language beforehand. This is a lifesaver feature when your phone cannot connect to the internet.

Tip: Many Android phones have Google Lens built-in as part of the phone’s camera app. It can be used to translate foreign languages too.

Papago

For a more accurate translation, download Naver Papago. Many users find Papago’s interface more user-friendly. It is probably the best English ⇔ Japanese translation app available. Like Google Translate, if you download the language pack, you can use it offline.

The app can also translate images and can provide a speech-to-text translation function. In addition, Papago also has a Phrasebook for anyone who wants to learn some basic everyday phrases.

Ecbo Cloak: The Most Useful Baggage Storage App for Traveling in Japan

Being able to find a place where things can be kept securely is essential when traveling. Apart from the coin-operated lockers at the stations, some shops in Japan also offer baggage storage services. But how do you find them?

Ecbo Cloak is the best app to have when you need to store your belongings temporarily, almost anywhere and anytime. After entering the location, the number of bags you own, and/or the number of suitcases, the app will show you a list of places that can hold your belongings. So whether you need a place to store your baggage for a few days or have done too much shopping and need to offload some bags before heading back to the hotel, Ecbo Cloak is the best solution provider!

You can even make a reservation!

mymizu: The Most Useful Free Water Refill App for Traveling in Japan

Access to fresh water is a necessity, regardless if we are traveling or not. If you are on a budget or want to be more eco-friendly, finding a spot to refill your water bottle during the day is desirable. So download the mymizu app!

mymizu is the ultimate lifesaver, especially during Japan’s hot and humid summer. If you are running low on water but don’t want to purchase another plastic bottle, use the mymizu app to find a nearby water refill spot.

The app even has a function that can remind you to drink more water to prevent dehydration!

Not only does the app work in Japan, but it might also show water refill spots in your home country! If it doesn’t, you can be the first person to add a spot to the map! If you are a business owner, you can also contribute to this great cause to help spread access to those who need it!

Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It?

Click the photo for everything you need to know about the JR Pass!

Once you have a rough idea of which prefectures and cities you want to visit during your next Japan trip, it is time to figure out if you need a JR Pass because not all itinerary needs one.

Our Guide to Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It article has everything you need to know about the nationwide and regional JR Passes. It also covers other factors that can help you decide if a JR Pass is or is not worth your upcoming trip!

SIM Card, eSIM, or Pocket WiFi: Which One to Use in Japan?

If you haven’t already, get your internet connection in Japan sorted out as soon as possible. The last thing you would want to do after landing in Japan is spend time deciding what product and from which company you should rent a pocket WiFi or purchase a SIM Card. Another common question is whether to rent a pocket Wi-Fi or purchase a SIM Card.

So refer to our SIM Card, eSIM, or Pocket WiFi: Which One to Use in Japan article that answers all your questions about how to stay connected to the internet when you are in Japan!

Japan-Wireless-Pocket-WiFi
Click the photo for recommendations for Japan’s pocket WiFi, SIM Card and eSIM Card.