Planet Japan, that crazy nation that blows your senses apart and rebuilds them in a kaleidoscope of colour conflict – vending machines that sell everything you never knew you needed, onsens to lose yourself in for days, Harajuku madness, plastic sushi, real sushi, rainbow food, robot restaurants. Yep, we’re already confused and we’ve been there (a lot).
If it’s your first time or fiftieth time, you’re in luck because now thanks to a ton of smart phone and android apps, you can make more sense of this country and elevate your skiing and snowboarding holiday in the land of Japow.
Just download these apps before arriving and find all you need from transport to restaurants to storing luggage, taking the right Shinkansen to finding the best ramen.
Oh, you’ll need data of course so make sure you’re set up with a local or data SIM card or get yourself pocket wifi.
If you only use one site this is the must have for making sense of train travel. On Hyperdia you’ll get departure and arrival times, which trains take the JR Pass, the best trains to take to get from one resort to another and if you have an iPhone then you can use the voice requests on the app. Ask Hyperdia for a specific route or time and it will then search it for you. Also available for android.
Ramen. It is the godsend of Japan. You’ll be hard pressed to find a bad one, but to help you get the absolute best ramen then download the Ramen Beast. These guys are the local experts on where to find the best ramen with listings on the iPhone app featuring photos, recommended dishes, who is open when and where and more. It’s not available for android yet but there are a ton of ramen apps, just not all as quirky and fun and hip as the beast.
We’re obsessed by the camera translate on Google Translate. Obsessed. Point your phone camera at the street sign, the food packaging, the newspaper, even the confusing toilet and voila, it will translate what you’re reading.
If you want to use it for conversation then we recommend using the landscape format. Just turn the phone on its side and you’ll have big type text like an auto cue. Also try the voice translation, get someone to speak into it in English or Japanese and translate into the other.
There is a local translation app called Yomiwa that pretty much does the same thing with a camera pointed on any writing in Japan if you find Google not working well enough for you.
If we had a dollar for every time someone in our Japan Facebook Groups asked us where they can store their luggage while they sightsee or go skiing after checking out from their lodge, well, then, we’d be loaded.
Ecbo Cloak is akin to Air BnB, just search where you’ll be and voila, a list of nearby storage offers pops up in people’s homes, restaurants, stores and more. You can book and pay via the app too (also on android) and get directions to where you need to offload your gear.
Japan travel NaviTime
Oh Tokyo, you complex and addictive minx. To make sense of getting around this mammoth city then use NaviTime for navigation for iPhone and android from your hotel to a tourist spot, a restaurant, an Onsen, wherever you’re heading. Plus find the best shopping, food, experiences and even discount coupons.
Yes you can use Uber in Japan, but TAKKUN for taxis in Tokyo is prime as it partners with over a dozen taxi companies. Use the app (also android) to book a taxi, get your identification number for that taxi, check it’s location on the app, then when it arrives use Google Maps to show where you’re going in Japanese. Remember to carry cash and don’t open and close the taxi door yourself as they are automatic.
Think of this as the Yelp of Japan dining. It’s not an app but it is a searchable website and the ultimate restaurant guide in Japan with diner ratings, recommendations and even an awards rating. Plus there’s plenty of drool worthy pictures to get the hunger juices flowing. The star ratings really help and you can search by style of food, location, hours of opening, yen you want to spend and more.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian then Happy Cow is probably already your friend. You can download the app for smart phones and android and you’ll find hundreds of Tokyo and beyond options.
Join our Japan Facebook Group for skiers and snowboarders and tap into our brains trust of seasoned travellers.
Do you use any useful apps while travelling in Japan? Which ones do you rate?