Japan is a difficult country to navigate and communicate. These phone apps will help you find the places you want to visit, get on the correct rail line, and speak with local citizens.
1. Google Translate
A must-have app for any traveler. The text to text from English to Japanese works extremely well when asking questions to employees at hotels, restaurants, shops, and activities. Just have them read the translated text and they will understand what you are asking. You can tilt the phone sideways to show the text in a larger font. Google Translate allowed me to book a karaoke room, buy the correct sized pearl necklace, and find a shop selling kimonos. The photo to text translation is also decent as long as you line up the words correctly. Stay away from the voice to text as it has a hard time recording and translating. I have tried English to Japanese and vice versa using the voice to text with minimal success.
2. Google Maps
Another must-have app for any traveler, Google Maps is essential in moving from one place to another. It works just as well abroad as it does around your city or neighborhood. I found it helpful for mapping out subway rides, finding bus stations, and locating any business. There are a few caveats to keep in mind. It does not work as well if you are in an underground subway tunnel or walkway. Also, some businesses are only in Japanese text in google maps and cannot be found by typing in their English text equivalent. However, this is still the best mapping tool available.
This communication app works great as a way to stay in touch with family, make local calls, and contact other travel companions. It works off of your WiFi/Cell Data, so you avoid roaming charges. One nice feature in the app is to create a group of your family and friends back home. You can send updates and pictures without worrying about time zones.
A great app that will make traveling by Shinkansen or rail line much easier. This app allows you to select station names and to map out train schedules and stops. You can also select the Japan Rail Pass option to only show trains that are included with it. The app has a 30 day trial, but it seems to still work after the expiration. This app is a companion for the website www.hyperdia.com/en.
*All app badges pictured are trademarked by their respective companies.*