The smartphone way to tour Japan

The smartphone way to tour Japan
Enjoy scenes like this, a bird sitting on a branch of a blooming cherry blossom tree at a park in Tokyo

Japan’s beautiful cherry blossom season begins this week, making it one of the best times of the year to visit the country.

If you are headed to the Land of the Rising Sun to catch those delicate pink blossoms, be sure to take along your smartphone.

With free Wi-Fi spots easily available and good 4G coverage, using apps as a travel guide in Japan is easy.

For people who do not speak Japanese, apps are useful travel aids, serving as navigation tools and as a concierge you can call on for help at any time.

These indispensable apps will transform your smartphone into an excellent tour guide:

Tokyo Rail Map+
$4.98 (iOS)
*Limited-time sale at 50 per cent off, original price $9.98

The spaghetti-like tangle that is Tokyo’s railway map deters many travellers from navigating the world’s largest metropolis on their own.

With Tokyo Railway Map+, figuring out how to get from one place to another is easy as the app does all the work for you.

Simply enter the names of the start and end stations of your journey, then let the app figure out the shortest route.

Travel directions are beautifully animated and come complete with a list of stations, transfer points and estimated travel time.

Tokyo Rail Map+ falls on the pricey side, but first-timers visiting the city will appreciate the app’s clear and detailed directions.

Similar apps are available for Osaka and Nagoya.

Hyperdia
Free to download, US$2.99/month or US$25.99/year (Android and iOS)
*iOS for US store only

This powerful app can tell you to the minute when your Shinkansen bullet train is expected to arrive at the platform.

Hyperdia gives you access to the timetables of all railway and aviation services in Japan, so planning long distance and inter-city trips are a breeze.

The iOS version of this app is so easy to use; you just need to tell your smartphone where you want to go, using the built-in voice command.

Results displayed include a selection of possible routes, the total fare for each, and the arrival/travel times of each train or plane ride. First-time users may find the text-only results intimidating.

The app is free to download, but using the service will cost you at least US$2.99 a month via an in-app purchase.

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