In high-tech Japan you might feel a little naked without your friend the smart phone in your hands. It seems like everyone has at least one phone, two SLR’s and a gameboy (are they still called that?!). I didn’t want to have my telephone with me and be available but on the other hand functions like a map and e-mail I kind of didn’t want to miss. So I decided to get a SIM card for data from b-mobile. I hear that you need a Japanese visa to get a card for phone calls but this solution was optimal. You get 1GB that you have to spend within two weeks. If you stay longer and you are more people travelling you might want two overlapping cards. Otherwise make sure to have it in the beginning as you are probably most lost at that time. The card was sent to our first ryokan in Tokyo and everything worked just perfectly.
Besides the apps I also use at home like google maps, the weather forecast, my currency converter etc. these apps came in especially handy:
Trains Japan (trains.jp)
This app helps you to find the best route in the jungle of Tokyo’s underground (all lines). You enter your departure station and destination and it will calculate the fastest route and tell you the price. The latter can be important because sometimes the price table is in Japanese only and it can be hard to understand what the fare for your destination is. I found this very useful but I also quite liked to ask some passers-by for help. This always made for some very nice encounters. Everyone was just eager to help.
Oh and did I just use the word passerby? Great, this finally gives me the chance to share this picture from my last Japan visit in 2007:
So now that you understood that, let me tell you about another useful app called Hyperdia.
If you have purchased a Japan Rail Pass to travel around the country you will be interested in train time tables outside of the Tokyo metro system. Hyperdia tells about departure times, tracks, places to change etc.
My favourite little helper, also because I am a language fanatic, was Learn Japanese
The free version gives you a lot of the basic vocabulary and also some hilarious tongue twisters for entertainment. You can read in Romanji (the English phonetic way of writing Japanese) and in Japanese (handy if you want to show it to someone) or the app can read out loud with really good sound quality. Again, try the tongue twisters! This app does not teach you Japanese but it contains all the useful phrases a traveller might need divided by category.
These little helpers should bring you safely through your holiday and with the SIM card you will also be able to take photos and publish them right away on instagram, like I did here. Did I oversee any useful apps? What do you think a traveller to Japan should not miss to install before going?
Oh, and what you see on the picture on top of the post is a ninja that goes into the audio plug of your phone. Cannot live without that, right!!? All the useful stuff you can get for those phones in Japan…