7 essential apps for travel in Japan

Japan Travel Apps

My husband, mother-in-law and I just got back from what our friends refer to as our “epic” trip to Japan. We spent 10 truly amazing days traveling and visiting our son who is studying there this semester. I wrote about planning for this trip using Evernote in this blog post right before I left, and I can say without a doubt that Evernote was indispensable to us in Japan. However, I also used a wide variety of other apps that enabled me to pull together all the information I needed and helped us navigate our way through this fascinating country. I put all these apps into a folder on my iPhone called “Japan” so that they would be in one place and easy to find.

Here are the apps that I found most helpful:


After consulting with Japanese friends, we decided to go with All Nippon Airways (ANA). They have a reputation for great service, great food, and a great all around experience, and they did not disappoint in any way. For our 13-hour flight to Tokyo, we splurged and upgraded to Premium Economy for just a couple hundred dollars extra, which was SO worth the extra money! The ANA app is easy to use and gives you all your flight information, such as e-ticket and flight status, in one place.


For this, I relied mainly on Booking.com. I tried several other hotel booking sites, but as Booking.com allows you to reserve a room with free cancellation almost up to the last day, and does not require pre-payment, I found this was the best for me – especially since I kept changing my mind about where we wanted to stay! It also had great prices. I ended up booking about 12 different hotels, all over Tokyo and Kyoto, before finally settling on my final choice for each city. Having the app on my phone with my bookings easily accessible was very important, since it could display the name of each hotel in Japanese – an essential feature, as many Japanese taxi drivers do not speak English.

Getting Around

We purchased Japan Rail Passes, similar to Eurail Passes, which gave us unlimited access to the JR National Rail and specific Shinkansen Bullet Trains. JR Rail has their own app,  HyperDia by Voice that allows you to find train times and schedules by using voice commands. For instance, I could just say “Last train from Tokyo to Kyoto” and it showed me the exact train number, departure track and arrival time. Another useful app was Navitime Japan Travel, which helps you do everything from finding free wi-fi spots to choosing the right door-to-door route for navigating Japan’s extensive and complicated transportation system. The City Rail Map app was also very useful for offline information on getting around using public transportation, which we did a lot!


English is not widely spoken in Japan, and not a lot of us tourists speak Japanese. Speak & Translate, a free voice and text translator app that lets you communicate in 54 different languages by voice, and 100 languages in writing, was quite useful – although it was a bit strange to speak into the phone and then have a Japanese voice speak back to you!  Scanner & Translator was also helpful in converting photos of Japanese characters into text and then translating them into English, which came in handy when we were trying to read a Japanese menu or identify items in a Japanese supermarket.

I am always amazed at how much easier it is to travel around the world now as compared to when I graduated from college in the 80’s and took my first trip to Europe on my own. How did we ever manage without the Internet and all these great apps? Technology has done a lot to make it much easier to travel to places that one might not otherwise visit, and for that I am grateful!



Planning a trip with Evernote

Planning a trip with Evernote

Evernote and I have been going strong together for over 8 years, and once again, it comes to the rescue in helping me plan a major trip. As I write this, I am just two days away from a trip to Japan that my husband and I have been looking forward to ever since we found out that our son, a junior in college, was going to be studying near Osaka this fall.

I grew up living in Southeast Asia and Africa, and even spent a year in South Korea, but have not been back to this part of the world since 1976 – that’s 40 years! I have traveled extensively since then through Europe and have been comfortable in that part of the world, as I speak French, Spanish and a smattering of Italian, and can at least make myself understood in most European countries. But Japan is a different story. Everything about the country, including its language, customs and culture are completely foreign to me. Planning a trip there felt like planning a trip to Mars. I had a lot of research to do, but now, two days before departure, I feel as if I am finally ready (both mentally and physically) to visit this beautiful country and not feel completely overwhelmed – thanks to Evernote!

As an Evernote power user, I ended up planning pretty much all of my trip in this versatile app. Here’s what I did:

  • Created a notebook in Evernote called “Japan 2016”
  • Forwarded my email confirmations of airline and hotel reservations directly into Evernote, using @Japan 2016 following the subject line of each email
  • Used the Evernote Web Clipper to save all the hotel information from the various booking sites I was using, tagging each note Hotel, so that I could compare prices, dates and locations before making a final selection
  • Clipped websites on the major tourist attractions, including all the temples, shrines, museums and gardens that I would like to visit
  • Clipped websites on such information as Japanese customs (e.g., no tipping, and when to bow), where to exchange money, and restaurant recommendations
  • Created a “Japan Itinerary” note for our 10 day trip with links to the notes pertaining to each day’s activities
  • Set up my Japan 2016 notebook for offline use on my iPhone and iPad, so that I can edit notes while I’m without wifi (such as during the 13 hour plane ride to Tokyo).

I am very excited (and just a tad nervous) about our upcoming trip; but I know that with Evernote’s help, it will be a lot smoother, easier and fun!

I have recently become an Evernote Certified Consultant and would love to help you in person or remotely with all your Evernote needs, both business and personal.

What a “Tiny Wardrobe” means to me

living with a tiny wardrobe

I recently learned about Courtney Carver and her Be More with Less blog, as well as her Project 333 and Tiny Wardrobe Tour through a good friend and client. As a professional organizer and minimalist wanna-be, I was intrigued by the idea of only wearing 33 things for 3 months – the idea behind Project 333. Not being one to indulge in “retail therapy” and never much of a fashionista, I have always worn comfortable flats instead of  heels, only own 3 handbags and wear the same pair of earrings and necklace for weeks on end. “This 33 items thing should be a cinch!” I thought to myself.

But after reading Courtney’s blog posts, I was inspired to really re-examine my closet and my way of dressing. I realized that even I, with my fairly minimal shopping habits, had more than I needed or wore. There are gifts from family members or friends that never quite fit or looked right on me but kept out of guilt, shoes that I thought looked amazing in the store and then never wore again since they gave me blisters, and way more scarves than I really need, because who can resist a cute scarf on sale at TJMaxx for $9.99? But those things all sit in my closet, taking up unneeded space, and I still can’t figure out what to wear when I get up in the morning!

I was therefore thrilled to find out that Courtney was taking Project 333 on the road via her Tiny Wardrobe Tour. When my friend asked if I’d be interested in helping bring Courtney and the tour to DC on October 18th, I jumped on the opportunity. It is now late September, and the next phase of Project 333 begins on October 1st. On October 4th, I’ll be traveling to Japan for 10 days to visit my son who is studying there for the semester. This will be the perfect opportunity to put a Tiny Wardrobe into practice.

This weekend, I’ll start by pulling all my clothes out and really looking hard at what I love, what I wear, and what I’m keeping just because of guilt or neglect. I’ll try everything on, bring a trusted friend to advise me on what really looks good on me, and see if I can winnow my wardrobe down to 33 items from October through December. I’m hoping that having A Tiny Wardrobe will save me money, time and make getting ready in the mornings a joy, rather than a trial.

If you’re in the DC area, come join us  on October 18th to hear Courtney’s story followed by a Q & A session to get all your questions answered about how to implement this into your own life!

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