As the title says, I think a smartphone(preferably online), cash, and an IC card are the 3 things better to have when you travel Japan. In this post, I will share some information related to these 3 items that I think are useful.


1. Smartphone

If you want to keep your smarphone online, get a local SIM card. For more information about prepaid SIM cards in Japan, please check my other post: Everything You Need to Know About Prepaid SIM Cards in Japan

Now these are the apps and websites I suggest you take a look.


To Search the Train Route

Google Map may solve all the problems. In addition to that, I recommend Navitime for Japan Travel (app), especially if you are going to use Japan Rail Pass. This app has an option to “Prioritize Japan Rail Pass routes,” so you can take full advantage of the pass without having to think that much. I don’t think other apps have this function.

The free version looks good enough. It includes the functions below.

  • Train Map and Transit Search
  • Map with GPS
  • Offline Search for Free Wi-Fi Spot (handy if you are not going to get a SIM card)


To Search Restaurants

When you want to check reviews of a certain restaurant or to find a certain type of food in a certain area, the following two websites are helpful; Tabelog and Gurunavi.

I always use Tabelog. From my experiences, when the rating is above 3.3, they are usually oishii restaurants. But this is just my opinion. Gurunavi also has pages in English.


In Case of Emergency

Safety Tips is an official app made by the government for tourists to provide “information about safe travel.” It’s a “push-enabled app pushes alerts about earthquake early warnings, tsunami warnings, and other weather warnings.” You can check the same or similar content on JNTO’s website as well.

Just letting you know that such thing exists in case something happens.


2. YEN Cash

Still a lot of shops and restaurants don’t accept credit card. It is safe to have cash with you all time.

The tricky thing is, ATMs that accept foreign-issued cards are limited in Japan. NOT ALL BANKS ACCEPT FOREIGN-ISSUED DEBIT/CASH/CREDIT CARD. So, look for these ATMs and you will have your cash right away. Seven Eleven’s ATM is the most convenient as they are open 24h.

  • Yucho Bank ATM (Japan Post Office ATM) at any Japan Post Office
  • Seven Bank ATM at Seven Eleven Convenience stores
  • AEON Bank ATM
  • Some ATM at Family Mart


3. IC Card (E-money for public transportation etc.)

IC cards are very convenient. They are rechargeable, credit card size cards you can use to pay not only the public transportation fares but also to pay at the vending machines, convenience stores, and at some fast-food restaurants and shops.

To pay by IC cards, just touch the card on the reader and the amount is automatically deducted from the remaining charged amount.

Make sure you have enough balance on your card when you get on the train! It is very awkward when you try to pass the gate and it suddenly blocks you due to insufficient balance on your card. (And busy Japanese people don’t like people in front of them getting blocked.)

I’m so used to using an IC card that I don’t even think about how much the ticket costs anymore, which is kind of scary. But they are definitely time-saver and convenient for tourists.

There are many IC cards with different names and designs issued in different parts of Japan but these 10 types listed below are compatible with one another. For example, if you get Suica in Tokyo, you can still use it in PiTaPa area in Kansai or manaca area in Nagoya.

  • Suica (Eastern Japan)
  • PASMO (Tokyo)
  • Icoca (Western Japan)
  • PiTaPa (Kansai area)
  • TOICA (Central Japan)
  • manaca (Nagoya)
  • Kitaca (Hokkaido area)
  • SUGOCA (Kyushu)
  • nimoca (Fukuoka)
  • Hayakaken (Fukuoka City)

Keep the card if you are planning to come back to Japan within 10 years. If not, get the 500 JPY deposit and the remaining amount refunded before you leave. Use all the remaining amount before you get the refund as some fee will be deducted from the charged amount, if there’s any. If the card is not used for 10 years, it will be invalid and you will have to renew it.




Written by mochi-tomo