Japan’s rapid tourism increase has been accelerating, especially as we approach 2020 for the Tokyo Olympic Games. In recognition of this, the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) has recently launched a new free and comprehensive app for tourists. Named the Japan Official Travel App. and designed to be a one stop shop for all, it has a multitude of information and services that are not only invaluable for tourists, but I would argue for foreign nationals residing in the country too. The app provides information on many aspects of Japan including travel destinations, restaurants, ATM locations, embassy and hospital information, a list of free WiFi spots, information on culture and more. Furthermore, the app also supports several languages such as English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean.
Note that I have taken screenshots from the android version of the app, the iOS version while being the same app may be a little different in appearance and user interface.
Getting the app is very easy from either the iTunes (225mb) or Google Play store (62mb), hit download and then you’re ready to jump into the app. Upon startup, you may be initially asked to input some basic information for a survey, however this is optional so feel free to skip ahead. You will then be presented with a start-up screen, giving you a selection of articles and information based on a choice of either new (latest articles), category or area. In the android version of the app, the main slide out menu can also be access from the top left hand side of the app.
The default start-up screen finds us landing in the the latest article (new) section, and this includes the most recent additions and posts to the app. The beauty of the app is that it provides access to information and YouTube videos (embedded) in the app from a variety of sources including All About Japan, Time Out Tokyo, Live Japan, Japan Monthly Web Magazine and more. So not only will you be able to access a variety of viewpoints and information, but you will also be able to gain all this knowledge under one roof.
The route search of the app is also quite impressive, when compared to Google Maps currently functionality, it contains more useful information that may impact your journey. Especially things like, expected weather if you need to walk, the number of train line changes required, and the difference between normal ticket and IC card fare prices. It also has a tourist focus, as it allows your to prioritise routes which are covered under the Japan Rail Pass to maximise the value of that precious purchase.
The settings section of your route search functionality is also quite versatile, allowing you to choose from Plane, Shinkansen (Bullet train) and local train routes, ferry, bus and even taxi. The displayed taxi route will also include an estimated cost and time to your desired destination, although this may be impacted by things like traffic and ETC charges.
Spot search and Offline Features
In the Spot Search section of the app, you are able to perform a number of handy functions, based on your current GPS position. Based on your current location you can check for surrounding Tourists Spots, Tax Free Stores, places for Baggage Storage and local ATM locations.
By selecting one of these options, you will be displayed with a map of your current position, and you will then be given a vantage point of the surrounding facilities that are close to your location. You are also given a pointer to measure the estimated distance between you and your desired destination. For example, selecting the ATM position nearest to you, your axis will then provide a measurement of the distance between you and that ATM, so you can determine how far you need to travel.
From the same screen you can also access a list of locations, in this case ATMs, usually based on proximity to you, which you can select and access further information about. For example, the actual address, operating hours, distance from you and more.
One of the convenient features of the app is the availability of offline options, especially for those tourists who many not necessarily have access to a continuous data connection in Japan. Some of the services available even while offline include:
- Free WiFi – find local free WiFi hot spots in your area.
- Tourist Information Centre – search for local Tourist Information Centres that may be nearby.
- Station – you can find the closest train station to you based on your current location.
- Hospitals – locate the nearest hospital based on your current position.
Furthermore, any routes that may come in handy or you wish to use in advance, can be saved and accessed later even when offline, so this is also another convenient offline function. You will notice all offline features are also highlighted in the ‘Spot Search’ section of the app.
The Travel Tips section of the app provides you with general advice and tips for making your travels in Japan a smoother and more trouble-free experience. There are five options you can access including general travel tips, links to useful apps, links to useful web services, a list of discount travel passes available and your home country’s Embassy information.
Tips on traveling in Japan, provided by Navitime Japan, provides you with advice and tips on making your travels in Japan problem free. From providing information on hospitals, medicine, travel information, navigating the various airports and more.
Embassy Information is obviously another handy feature, in the unfortunate event you experience an emergency, loose your passport or encounter some other kind of trouble, it is handy to make sure you are aware of the location of your country’s main office location. Having this information in the app is extremely useful.
The app also provides a comprehensive list of discount travel passes, available for both train and bus, although unfortunately the list is very long, and navigation of this information seems a little user-unfriendly as there is no search function, and the list is not in alphabetical order either. However, if you have the time to spend searching, you may be able to uncover a few valuable discounts to save you some ¥¥¥.
How can I get it?
To access this app, follow the link to the JNTO App page here, or alternatively you can also jump straight to the download pages for both iOS and Android. Hope this app makes your travels or life in Japan a somewhat smoother experience. Bon Voyage!