Moving to Japan can be a mixed bag of emotions that range from the excitement of a new lifestyle to anxiety about how to get around, where to eat and all other aspects of settling in to a new “homebase”.
Thankfully, technology helps to alleviate some of these challenges.
One of the main aspects of living comfortably in Tokyo is getting a handle on the transportation system.
1. If you speak Japanese, this is a little bit easier as you can download Navitime (iTunes / Android). There are a number of different versions and other related options through the Navitime name, but this is the basic and easiest in Japanese. You can pay for an upgrade to be able to see the train stops and bus schedules.
2. There is an English version, but it is not as good as the Japanese version or other apps in English. Therefore, if you are looking for English-friendly apps, then City Rail Map (iTunes / Android) is excellent for covering the JR and Metro lines. When you first download the app, you just need to choose Tokyo as the city and then it will show the rail map. You can enter in the stop names in English and choose the best route according to desired departure or arrival times.
3. If all else fails and you are within a reasonable taxi ride, you can also download JapanTaxi (iTunes / Android), which allows you to choose from a few taxi companies to pick you up from your current location. Some options will even allow you to book ahead of time. Similar to other taxi apps, you can input your credit card for cashless payments. Although Uber is here as well and is quite popular, this is a local option.
Although you can go to just about any corner or side street and find a convenience store with cheap eats options or the Japanese version of “fast food” chains, there are times when you just cannot be bothered to go out or shop. Therefore, there are a couple of options – again depending on language skills.
4. For the Japanese readers, Demaekan (iTunes / Android) is a good option for basic food ranging from pizza to tonkatsu. There are some other options through this service as well depending on where you live and what is available.
For online food sources, you can get Amazon Fresh now in Japan, depending on your area. The page may first appear in Japanese, but you can easily change the language.
If the idea of going to the stores to search for what you might need overwhelms you either because of the potential crowds, trying to find the store location or language issues, there are a number of apps that you can use to avoid these anxieties.
6. The most common app people will refer to you that covers a number of departmental goods is Rakuten (iTunes / Android), which also has an online site if you prefer shopping on your computer. This is kind of like the Japanese version of Amazon, but also comes with a point card that you can use to collect points at various locations like Fukutaro Pharmacy or Mr Donuts.
Just note that Rakuten Global Market (iTunes / Android) appears to be products from Japan to be shipped abroad, but the domestic app is the regular as shown in the image above and those linked. However, this seems to be the only option for an English friendly app.
7. Another app that is a bit newer to the scene is Honestbee (iTunes / Android). Like most of the other apps, it depends on your location in Tokyo, but you can get groceries or food deliveries. They are also continually updating their service area, so even if Costco is your only delivery option, you can join their mailing list for updates on when they expand their area.
9. Just recently, Starbucks, Japan (iTunes / Android) has implemented the rewards system to go with prepaid cards and pay via the app. Unfortunately, the app and important information is in Japanese with very little offered in English. If you still want to set it up, you can always do the sign up and get information in a branch where most of the staff members working there can/will help you in English.
10. For those who are concerned about the potential tremors and reported inevitable big quake to hit the area, there is Yurekuru Call (iTunes / Android) that will alert you of earthquakes when they hit nearby. You can adjust the settings to alert you depending on the strength so that you are not being constantly informed about the smaller shakes that happen frequently on the island. There are other services available as well, but this one seems to be the best one at the moment.
Of course, no app article is complete without a mention of the Japanese version of “Whatsapp” that is used in the US and Europe – Line (iTunes / Android). This messaging app is also used for advert notifications from companies like Uniqlo or festivals that might be happening around, like the Tokyo Ramen festival, etc. Many restaurants will have their Line QR code available so that you can stay updated on their goods and services. So, be sure to download Line as soon as you can!
These top 10 apps for easier living in Japan will help you to settle into life faster, but remember that some of these apps require you to be in the Japanese version of the App Store or Google Play store. Therefore, you may have to wait until you have a Japanese address and credit card to be able to download some of them. However, once you do, you’re on your way experiencing all the joys of technological conveniences.