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Tech tips to enjoy your Japan holiday to the fullest

Navigation & Communication

Osaka Castle, Japan.

If you last visited Japan before the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be surprised by how much the country has changed thanks to the pandemic stoking the need for digitisation in a typically slow-to-change country. Here are some tech tips that can help you travel more conveniently around Japan, whether it’s your first time or if you’re a seasoned traveller.

1. Finding your way with Google Maps

Reviews in other languages are automatically translated.Easy enough to find restaurants and eateries.

Let’s start off with something that’s essential to every travellerand that’s getting around. The best map app to use for most tourists isGoogle Maps. Not only does it have precise instructions for public transport, including which train carriage to board for the fastest transfer times and which platforms you should be waiting on, but the app also has a clearer system of labelling shops and restaurants.

Note the detailed directions for exiting the station.Note the helpful notice that the train becomes local.

Take my favourite gyoza shop in Ebisu, for example, which shows up perfectly on Google Maps, with the app also offering auto-translation of reviews in different languages, which is super handy. I’ve also found plenty of great restaurants and izakayas just by doing a quick scan of the available listings in an area from Google Maps.

Google Maps clearly marks toll and non-toll roads.

Apple Maps is another option, and I’ve found that the directions provided on Apple Maps can be slightly more detailed, particularly when it comes to how to find specific exits in large, confusing Japanese subway stations.

For those of you who might be driving, both apps also indicate clearly which routes include tolls, and offer alternative routes that don’t have tolls, so that’s a good feature to try and avoid toll fees, which can add up very quickly.

2. Gettinga taxi with Uber

Uber.Uber Eats.

Moving on, if you’re more of a taxi person, there are two main options. Our recommendation would be to download Uberbecause you’ll be able to use it with a Singapore number. A point to note is that in Japan, you will only ever get licensed taxi drivers through ride-hailing apps due to the country’s regulations. An added bonus is that the Uber app also supports Uber Eats in some cities, so if you’re feeling peckish at night, you’ll be able to get food delivered through the same app so you can enjoy it in the comfort of your hotel.

However, one thing to note is that Uber doesn’t work in every city in Japan. Be sure to double-check if the city you’re heading to is on Uber’s list or not. If you’re headed to somewhere like Hokkaido or Nagasaki, your best bet would be to download DiDi, a ride-hailing app that originated from China and has now expanded into Japan, as Uber hasn’t yet entered those areas.

The other option would be GO, which is one of the most popular taxi-hailing apps in Japan. The app has finally allowed accounts to be registered without the need for a local Japanese number as of November 2023, so tourists can now use their own phone numbers to sign up for an account.

That said, these apps aren't the only way to get a taxi in Japan, you could simply try to flag one down on the road. This can be the better way especially if you are in a rush since Uber and GO can occasionally take a while to assign a taxi to you.Don't worry about telling the driver your desintation, you can simply show them the address on your phone usingGoogle Maps or Apple Maps.

3. Reduce language barriers with Google Translate

Google Translate.Google Translate.

Speaking of which, communication in Japan can be as easy or as hard as you make it. Learning a few easy, everyday phrases definitely goes a long way, but if not, there’s always technology to the rescue. Google Translate has to be one of the apps I pull up most often while I’m in Japan, whether it’s to communicate with the locals or just to read signs and menus.

There are three important features in the app to take note of. First is the normal translating feature, where you can type in English or your preferred language and get it translated. You can also use the microphone to record and translate something someone is saying to you. This works well if you’re asking simple questions that don’t require follow-up clarifications or just translating a reply and the like.

Conversation mode.

If you need to have a longer conversation, that’s where the Conversation feature comes in. When in this mode, you can set the phone to constantly be listening for speech so it automatically translates when one person speaks. It’s a bit of a slow process since you have to speak, wait for it to translate and then the app will recite the translated phrase out loud, but it’s certainly much faster than typing your question, and passing your phone to the other person for them to type their reply. Our tip here would be to make sure to leave some space between when each person starts talking, or the app can get a little confused and cut off the start.

@hwztech We put Google Translate to the test while holidaying in Japan. #hwz #hwzsg #google #googletranslate #japan #travel #traveltips ♬ Pebbles – Official Sound Studio< PrevPage 1 of 3 – Navigation & CommunicationPage 2 of 3 – Convenient cashless payments, internet access, and the HWZ communityPage 3 of 3 – Gadget recommendationsPage 1 of 3 – Navigation & CommunicationPage 1 of 3 Page 1 of 3 – Navigation & CommunicationPage 2 of 3 – Convenient cashless payments, internet access, and the HWZ communityPage 3 of 3 – Gadget recommendationsNext >

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