These apps are all really useful for planning your Japan trip and while you’re there.
Learn Hiragana & Katakana with Dr. Moku
The Japanese language uses 3 alphabets and it’s well worth learning hiragana and katakana before you leave as you’ll be able to spell out brand names, place names, foods etc. These handy apps from Dr Moku use pictorial mnemonics to help get them stuck in your brain and it’s incredibly successful. It should only take an hour to get them memorised and then you can test yourself daily as a top up, plus there’s a quick reference page if you need to look up a character on the go. Read my full review »
How did we manage before Google Translate? The web and browser apps are brilliant for translating text but the mobile app is extra useful for languages like Japanese as you can take a photo of the text and get a pretty decent translation. You’ll never be stuck trying to understand a Japanese menu or sign again.
This app is essential if you’re visiting with Japan Rail Pass and worth getting even if you’re just doing a day trip or moving between Tokyo and Kyoto. It lets you check train, bus, ferry and plane timetables as well as check different routes depending on which services/companies you want to use. It’s available in English and free to use for 30 days so time your download accordingly.
Moshi Moshi Tokyo
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s fun fashionable guidebook to shopping, eating and having fun in Tokyo is only available in Japanese. However, this app lets you preview the Harajuku section in English and French so you can get some tips and hopefully they’ll add more content in future.
Get the app: iPhone (Free)
Shinjuku & Tokyo Station maps
You may scoff but Shinjuku and Tokyo are the first and eighth busiest stations in the world with multiple floors and hundreds of exits. You can get by following the signs but it can be very difficult to navigate, plus these will help you find shops, restaurants, toilets etc. The English version launches in late March.
A free “really delicious restaurant guide” app that’s available in English and includes over 1600 restaurants chosen by local food writers, restaurateurs etc.
Tokyo Art Beat
Find exhibitions and events around Tokyo. You can search by subject and location and see what’s popular or nearby. It also includes coupons for discounted entry.