7 Free Apps to Make Life Easier in Japan

Stay app-to-date with these everyday tools

By The Savvy Team
August 23, 2016

Whether it's for navigating the urban jungle, communicating with Japanese colleagues or finding the best spot for your date tonight — useful mobile apps can make your life that much easier and so much more fun. It doesn't matter if you're vacationing, in Japan for business or here to stay for good, here are seven of our favorite smartphone apps.

Explore Local Tastes

Looking for a restaurant in your area? Feeling like budget sashimi at a place that offers your favorite drink and is still open at 2 a.m.? And has a private, non-smoking room and staff who can assist you in English? No worries, this restaurant search app is up to the challenge no matter how fussy your dining choices. Search by location, food category, opening hours, price and extra options, such as English-only menus and specific credit cards. 

Website: gurunavi.com
Platform: Android, iOS
Language: English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese

Stay Informed
Japan Today

[Note: This app is no longer available] Leaving the debate on print versus digital aside, current events are indeed an important part of our lives, perhaps even more so when we live abroad. The Japan Today app provides daily updates on news in Japan, featuring everything from the latest typhoon stories to business interviews and Japanese entertainment.

Website: www.japantoday.com
Platform:  iOS
Language: English

Speak the Lingo
Yomiwa Japanese Dictionary

If you find yourself staring at a sign board wondering whether you’re about to enter a regular bar or a host club, use this app. A real-time, offline translator, this will help you understand Japanese without speaking a word of it. Draw what you see or simply capture that important information with your camera and it will tell you what it’s all about. Note: The camera feature is paid, but with a one week free trial.

Website: www.yomiwa.net
Platform: Android, iOS
Language: English

Navigate Your Route
Japan Travel – Route, Map, JR

Regardless of how many years you’ve spent in Japan, navigating your way through the train and subway systems can be a daunting experience. This app helps you find the fastest train route from your current to your desired destination, as well as showing you costs and information on train delays (if any). Search free Wi-Fi, money exchange, ATM and tourist information spots and even ¥100 stores in your area!

Website: None
Platform:  Android, iOS
Language: English

Get Cash
Japan ATM Navigation

The ATMs at 7-Eleven convenience stores allow you to withdraw cash using almost any international and domestic bank cards — and this app helps you find the route to the closest one in your area. A life saver in case of a sudden cash emergency or impulse buy.

Website: www.sevenbank.co.jp
Platform: Android, iOS
Language: English

Find The Right Spot
WhatsAround Me

Whether you’re looking for a beauty salon, car rental, convenience stores, post office or even the police or a plumber, this app has it all. Organized alphabetically, WhatsAround Me features nearly 90 search categories and will help you find the shop or service you’re looking for that’s closest in proximity to you.

Website: None
Platform: Android
Language: English

Serve Up a Taste of Japan

If you’ve had enough of those yakitori (grilled chicken) stalls and oyster bars, why not try putting something together yourself? Oyshee is a recipe app featuring everything from traditional Japanese omochi (rice cakes) to gyoza (dumplings) and even strawberry cakes. Search by food type, ingredient or basic Japanese dishes. The “Healthy Food” category even lets you filter your search by vegetarian, gluten-free, high-fiber, low-fat or other recipes.

Website: recipe.rakuten.com
Platform: Android, iOS
Language: English

Have we missed something? Share your favorite app for life in Japan with us in the comments below!