Japan is one of my favorite travel destinations. This country is full of surprises. Whichever part you go, from north to south Japan, you will find something that will amaze you. Also, Japan’s transportation system is one of the most efficient in the world. When you come from a country where getting stuck in traffic for hours traveling just 15 to 30 kilometers away or in the MRT because of a “malfunction” is somewhat a daily occurrence, you’d almost instantly appreciate riding an “densha” (train) in Japan.
However, Japan also has its shortcomings. Though its train system is a big advantage, it can be a difficult thing to master because of its complexity. Another limitation is language. Unlike in the Philippines, the English language is not prevalent in Japan. There are still many places where communication is a hindrance. Yet, they are working to bridge the communication gap. Also, there are already apps that make it possible to communicate despite not knowing the English language.
As I travel through Japan, here are some useful apps I installed on my phone that I found helpful. Feel free to send some suggestions in case I missed any.
In Japan, the train system is composed of a massive network of trains going from one place to another on a virtually accurate schedule, making it super efficient. Unlike to what we’re used to where a track serves the same route over and over, this isn’t the case in Japan. Therefore, it’s easy to mistaken a train will pass through same places because it is on the same track we take. A lot of factors tend to vary but the sure thing is, the trains wait for no one and they leave on the dot. Also, don’t get me started on the rapid and local trains. Rapid trains are similar to what we call a “skipping train” that skips certain stops for faster travel. Sometimes, there’s also a difference in train schedule during weekends and weekdays. Hence, getting lost is sometimes inevitable.
As a solution to not getting lost, I have Google Maps on my phone. I use Maps frequently. It gives details of the best train routes to take from one point to another. It also gives options for driving and walking. Within cities, walking is a big thing in Japan. For instance, in Nagasaki City, exploring it by foot is an experience I recommend. Nagasaki City is like huge museum rich in history.
Aside from navigation, a nifty feature of Google Maps is one that allows you to discover places near you like restaurants, coffee shops, parking lots, and more.
Exploring Japanese cities unknown to me has been possible because of these Google Maps.
When planning your trips inside of Japan, Hyperdia is the go-to app that gives detailed train schedules. It lets you customize your search to do a multi-city search, specify arrival or departure times, and include or exclude specific trains (like show shinkansen or bullet trains only, prioritize JR trains, etc). On the result, it gives details such as train route options, price, travel time, travel distance, and even commuting ticket discounts for frequent travels (1 month, 3 months, etc).
For me, it gives a more comprehensive train route options when Google Maps isn’t enough.
Unlike in the Philippines where almost anyone from anywhere has conversational English skills, English isn’t prevalent in Japan. Communication can be difficult especially in distant cities because it is highly likely no one is speaking English. Good thing, we now have Google Translate. Although translations are not 100% accurate, you can get the idea base on context. So far, I have survived the trip with the help of this app especially when I have important inquiries about directions. Also, I spent a night in a homestay on a tea farm and this app is my savior. I was able to chitchat with the locals, thanks to Google Translate.
This app is very easy and convenient to use. Aside from typing, it allows translation through voice or by scanning photos.
Japan travel can be expensive. So, to cut down on some expenses, I AirBnB’d my way through Japan. I found AirBnBs cheaper than hotels so I often chose the former. Since traveling often means you’ll be out most of the day, a basic AirBnB near a train station is often enough. Yes, pick one that is near a train station or near the city center so you don’t have to walk far or spend extra when traveling around.
In my experience, Japanese hosts are some of the nicest and most respectful I have dealt with. I even had a host who went out of his way just to fix a misunderstanding regarding the delivery of a data SIM.
Unlike the Philippines, which only has two seasons, Japan has four seasons. So, to prepare what types of clothes to bring or even wear on specific days, always check the weather. Accuweather is a nifty app that I have, which gives information on the weather for the day and even for the next 10 or so days. This allows me to prepare my travel essentials like whether should I bring an umbrella today or not — although, always bring one whenever you can because rain or shine, you might be able to use it.
This app is more of a generic must-have travel app. SHAREit allows you to instantly share photos even between an Android and an iOS device. Hence, it makes it easier to get your OOTDs from someone else’s device (with the permission, of course) so you can post them on your social media pages.
Since I travel with different people who have different devices, I found this very useful since you can share photos (and other media like video and audio) almost instantly. It’s easy to use because after connecting to devices, you just drag and drop the files you want to share.
Any other apps we should have when on a trip to Japan?