Japan Survival Apps 2017

In this article, we will talk about what we believe to be some of the most useful smart phone applications in japan for foreigners. There is an immense amount of applications out there and more are coming out everyday, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list or an application review but rather a curated list of applications that we make use our self as foreigners living in Japan.

Please note that we only included applications that are available in English and omitted popular ones that are also popular outside of Japan (Facebook, Twitter etc…)

With that said, lets get started!

Japanese

Skritter (Japanese Practice)

If you wish to become better at reading/writing Japanese then it is necessary to practice regularly. Although it’s subscription based model may be off putting to some, Skritter is in our opinion one of the best application for this purpose. You can create custom lists or automatically generate lists from several of the most commonly used study books, practice stroke order and study Kanji compositions among several other features.

Platforms: Web, iOS, Android

Price: 7-day free trial. $7.50 to $14.99 a month based on the chosen plan

Imiwa? (Dictionary)

A powerful and free dictionary. Supports English, French, German and Russian. Most dictionaries in the market make use of the same open source databases and this one in no different but in our opinion Imiwa? has a unique feature called “Analyze this” that sets it apart, if you happen to have some Japanese text in your clipboard and you open imiwa?, It will automatically break down the text into dictionary entries.

Platforms: iOS only

Price: Free

Google Translate (Translation)

This one needs no introduction. Though it may not always be accurate it, the Word Lens function can be really helpful to translate signs, menus etc.

Platforms: Web, iOS, Android

Price: Free

Wakaru (Browser, eBook/PDF reader)

Wakaru includes a web browser but also an eBook reader module integrated with the Aozora Bunko and Hoshizora Bunko ( online Japanese libraries) where you can download free books. It allows you to easily look up words in the integrated dictionaries by highlighting the kanji (same as Rikai on a computer), browsing Japanese sites and reading eBooks/PDF files on a mobile has never been easier.

Platforms: iOS

Price: $6.99 for the full version. Free for the LITE version which has limitation on the number of word lookup one can do on eBooks and PDF files.


Social Networks and Messaging

Line (Messaging)

The most popular messaging app in Japan. This is a must have if you wish to have any type of social life in Japan.

Kakao and Facebook Messenger are also widely used but if you only want to install one messaging application then Line is the one you need.

Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows

Price: Free

Meetup (SNS)

It’s easier to make friends when you have things in common. Meetup allows you to do just that, if you still don’t speak Japanese there are many Language Exchange meetups available to choose from.

Platforms: Web, iOS, Android

Price: Free


Transportation

NAVITIME for Japan Travel (Transportation)

The public transportation in Japan is one of the best in the world but in a city like Tokyo, it can be overwhelming. The Greater Tokyo area alone counts 136 railway lines and more than a 1000 stations! Suffice to say that an application which can help you find your way around is indispensable and that is exactly what Navitime for Japan Travel allows you to do.

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free


Food and Delivery

Gurunavi (Restaurant guide)

If you are looking for a place to eat but are not sure what’s around you then Gurunavi will come in handy. You can lookup restaurants by several criteria (location, cuisine, price etc) and even make reservation when it is possible to do so.

Platforms: Web, iOS, Android

Price: Free

UberEATS (Food delivery)

A new player in the food delivery scene with a growing list of restaurants to choose from.

Note: Rakuten Delivery has many more restaurant partners compared to UberEATS but it’s only available in Japanese!

Platforms: Web, iOS, Android

Price: Free


Entertainments and Events

iFlyer (event information)

iFLYER is a festival, live music, and club event information provider. If you want to know what Live music and events are available or which club to go to this week then this application is what you need. You can also reserve tickets for your chosen events. While navigation is provided in English some of the events only provide details in Japanese.

Platforms: Web, iOS, Android

Price: Free


Safety

Safety Tips (Natural Disasters Notifications system)

With Safety Tips, you can receive Earthquake Early Warnings, Tsunami Warnings, Volcanic Warnings, Weather Warnings and Heatstroke Warnings. There is also a number of useful information in the app including list of medical institutions that accept foreigners, communication cards, list of nearby shelters (see below) and much more.

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free

Japan Shelter Guide (Designated Shelters Information)

Provides a list of Designated Shelters in your location. This application is required if you wish to access shelter information from within the Safety Tips application.

Platforms: iOS, Android

Price: Free


This concludes our list of what we believe to be some of the most useful apps for Japan. Of course there are many more applications out there and we would love to hear what applications you find useful, please share in the comments your own recommendations.

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