Especially for those of you trying to navigate through the complex train system of subways, bullet trains and other modes of transportation during your visit to Japan, fear not. There are some user-friendly ways available at your fingertips, either via your smartphone or an internet browser to help you plan your trip.
JNTO Travel App
The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) has launched a free and comprehensive app to try to meet the increasing demand of 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.
It also provides a comprehensive tool for navigating the complex train network, no matter where you are in the country. You can find out more about the app in our comprehensive post.
Probably the easiest application to use for the train system is Google maps, which is universally available over most mobile phone platforms or via your web browser, etc. Simply type in your desired destination, and let your GPS do the rest in terms of locating your current position, you can then use it to work out the most efficient bus/train/walk combination that will be most convenient for you. This app will also usually provide the platform number and general direction of the train you are boarding to help you clarify. There are a number of customisation options too, especially for the train system this is one of the easiest apps to use.
Another helpful resource for the train network is Hyperdia, which is an English based website, that can be used to navigate the train system to any station. Using this website, you have many customisation options available at your fingertips, and after completing your search it will usually provide you with a range of options, showing the most efficient route, to the cheapest, and more. It will also most of the time provide you with useful details like platform number, and general direction of the train. You can access this site via http://www.hyperdia.com/en/
Of course, if you are really in a pickle or don’t have access to wi-fi, simply ask one of the friendly train staff, because even if they don’t speak English, they will try their best to help via gestures, maps and the like. Don’t be shy now 🙂