Helpful applications

Tokyo Rail Map (Lite)

This application shows a map of the train system in Tokyo. Handy to have on your phone instead of carrying a map with you.


This is the official application of the TokyoMetro company operating the Tokyo subway. This helpful application contains a map of all Tokyo subway lines. It allows you to plan a route while you are offline, using your phone’s GPS for locating the nearest station.

It should be noted that the application only displays subway routes. In many cases it’s more efficient to take a JR Line or a combination of subways and JR Lines. Google Maps shows combination routes but to use Google Maps you need to be online.

Google Maps

If you want to avoid getting lost in Japan, get yourself some mobile internet and Google Maps. This application saved me a lot of time by showing detailed maps and itineraries to all kinds of locations. It even shows the prices of subway and train routes.\


Landed in a strange neighborhood with no idea what to do there? The TripAdvisor app can sometimes be of help: a function called “near me now” lists nearby attractions, shopping opportunities and activities (tours) as well as hotels and restaurants.



I used the Hostelworld app many times to book on the go. It’s not perfect but it does the job.


Google Translate

Google Translate is very helpful, offering you the option to translate your language to Japanese and back, either by typing in the words or speaking. It works surprisingly well - at some point I even had a bar conversation aided by Google translate. since english and Japanese are gramatically very different it doesn’t work well for sentences with difficult grammatical structures but still it translates well enough that you can be understood. At one point I was lookung for a power converter in a huge electronics store (see: Yodabashi). If you type in the word to be translated and then hold your phone sideways the app will show you the translation in very large type so you can easily show it.

Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese

This is an iPhone app for people who really want to learn Japanese. It starts off with a nice introduction where the gist of the teaching method is described - rather than try to translate little useful phrases to Japanese it describes how the language actually works and teaches you how to write Japanese. When you write Hiragana (commonly used script for Japanese words) it’s very important to know about the correct stroke order. The app contains little animations on how to write the different characters. It doesn’t try to simplify or make things easy so it’s not for the faint of heart - this is an app for those who really want to learn Japanese.

Learn Japanese

This iPhone app is a basic helper for small phrases and words. It can help you to learn the absolute basics like saying hi and thanks. It’s free with an in-app purchase for more words. Stick with the free version - a native Japanese person told me some of the transations of kind of wrong.

Dr. Moku’s Hiragana

This playful app is entirely focused on learning to write Hiragana. It contains a quiz function and tries to make you remember the characters by using “funny” pictures. The free version teaches you about 25% of Hiragana characters. It’s worth a try for kicks but if you are serious about learning Japanese give Tae Kim’s guide a try.


This is a wonderfully detailed English-Japanese dictionary app.