Tokyo: An App Lover’s Guide
Get the tourist-friendly apps the locals use.
There are moments of zen to be found in Tokyo—but they’re not why you visit. The sprawling Japanese capital floods the senses with its flashing neon streetscapes and pulsing nightlife districts, gleaming department stores and tiny vintage boutiques, ancient temples and flashy new skyscrapers. It boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in the world but is home to plenty of lantern-lit food stalls. The city may feel overwhelming at times...and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The app worth traveling for
‣ Tokyo has one of the most exciting art scenes in Asia, and TokyoArtBeat is a dialed-in guide for English speakers. Skip the news section and head straight to the search, where manga hounds and photography fanatics can filter venues by medium. You can also look just for opening receptions, kid-friendly entertainment, workshops, festivals, and more. The entries provide descriptions of shows, as well as hours and nearby exhibits. The premium version adds museum discounts and the ability to save favorite spots.
Where to eat
‣ Many of your go-to apps for discovering restaurants and making reservations in the U.S. work just as well for Tokyo. OpenTable goes deep: Set your location to the city and your filters will show even small neighborhoods (albeit in Japanese characters). The app narrows choices by cuisine types too, including many different varieties of Japanese and Chinese cooking. And you can’t go wrong with the The Infatuation’s Toyko dining guide, curated by a professional reviewer. For crowdsourced recs on under-the-radar spots, turn to Foursquare, which has a thriving community in Tokyo.
Where to stay
The city is enormous—nearly twice the size of New York—so it’s worth picking a centrally located neighborhood. The lodging app Relux is especially helpful here; it only includes hotels and traditional inns that meet its high-quality standards. Or access a broader selection with Booking.com, which makes checkout superfast with Apple Pay.
What to do
‣ Culture Trip’s in-the-know articles will lead you to the best street food, shops, and snap-worthy spots in the city, while the minimalist currency-conversion app Elk takes the pain out of calculating how much it will all cost.
Get around town
‣ MakeCitymapper your go-to app for navigating Tokyo’s complex (but highly efficient) public transportation system. View bus, subway, and rail lines independently or together; station names are given in both standard and romanized Japanese; and the app automatically provides walking times to any destination. The Japan Official Travel App has a transit planner that shows which leg of your route is covered by a Japan Rail Pass.
Tsuku Tsuku uses your device’s GPS to notify you when the train or bus you’re waiting for is approaching, particularly useful because many older stops may not have English-language announcements or signage. Apple Watch support comes in handy too.
In need of a ride? Book a cab or reserve one in advance with JapanTaxi,thenpay through the app.
‣ DownloadiTranslate Converse, which instantly translates conversations into Japanese (and more than 30 other languages and dialects). Its sister app, iTranslate Translator, works with text you photograph.
Drops turns language learning into a surprisingly addictive game in which you drag words and sounds across colorful backgrounds, limiting you to just five minutes of study a day. It covers 30 languages, including Japanese.
Some 1,500 earthquakes strike Japan each year. Be prepared for the next one (and the one after that) with warning app Yurekuru Call. It works with the Japan Meteorological Agency’s warning system to send a push notification just before a shake-up or tsunami.