Finding your bearings in Japan


While technology has definitely helped us navigate ourselves more easily in most countries, it's not the case everywhere.

How do you get to your destinations and navigate yourself in Japan? Do you use gps systems such as google/apple maps?

Are the gps navigational systems updated enough that they provide accurate information and directions?

Is it enough to simply follow road signs in Japan?

Is talking to locals and asking them directions the best way to get around? Are they generally friendly and helpful?

Are there any online resources or other types of resources to help you better understand the road systems, transportation, etc., in order to find your bearings?

What are the steps to take if you get lost?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


When I first moved here five years ago I relied on Maps from the Information centers.  Since I walk daily I did get lost several times and had to rely on stopping a stranger to ask directions.  Most of the young people like to practice their English so I made it back home with no problems.  Today I rely on Google Maps, which is not entirely accurate but gets me to a landmark where I can find my way back.  The biggest problem for me now is navigating the very large train stations in Tokyo.  I have downloaded all the station maps and study them prior to making my trips into the city.  Since Japan is so safe I really am not concerned about getting lost, as most residents are willing to help me out.

I have to say, traveling now using technology like phones and GPS making it much more easy to get around then before.

My first time travelling to Japan, I was able to get around easy, I use travel apps to find where I wanted to go and some travel apps had some built in maps that allow you to see where you are and how far you are from your destination and you can start your travel to get there.

I recall losing my phone during my travel, I normally can hit 3, 4 or 5 spots a day, and i'm talk about spots far apart or going from on city to another city. When I lost my phone I only did 1 yo 2 spots a day and stayed in that one city.

Google was good to use for travel, but I find it very scary how it tell you, if your traveling by foot and not using car. What train platform to get on when to get off. The time to get on and time to get off.  so I didn't use google to much.

I did you my phone GPS camera.  When I travel I saw something I like or wanted to visit later. I would take a picture of the place with the location on.  I did this a lot when I was on the train and shinkansen/bullet train and try to go to the place I took a photo of.

Japan road sign are badly position, most of them.  I recall in Kyoto when trying to make my way to Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple. GPS would kill the phone battery. so I had it pin on the GPS, just to view without the help of the GPS guide and I walk from Kyoto train station to Kinkaku-ji. I wanted to see other things to along my way, so that why I walk. OMG I was going crazy on where they position the road sign. its like in between streets, the sign was not aiming at the street to turn.

I feel that when I was in Japan talking to locals and asking them directions don't help to much because they are too embarrassed of there English.  And they don't use a lot of hand language (I don't mean sign language) to point when directing you.

Anyone traveling have to use  online resources before traveling, its doing your homework before you go. But there is a LOT of  online resources but a lot of them are not use full or don't fit that person travel need.

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