Updated: Jan 9, 2020
While you are in #Japan, there are many ways you can navigate your outings and domestic trips. It can be pretty overwhelming trying to get your bearings when you don't understand any signs and are unfamiliar with the territory.
I can't even say how many times I remembered cool places I went to with friends, but couldn't remember how to get to them, only to find out they were just a couple of train stops away! So definitely take the time to use these resources and don't just go blindly through your time in Japan.
You're probably already thinking of the most obvious choice for navigation in any place:
This is as excellent a resource here as it is anywhere else. There are a few ways it can be useful during your time in Japan.
First, you can use it to scan nearby attractions. Simply open the app on your smartphone, allow it to use your current location, and see what types of places you are surrounded by.
Secondly, you can obviously get directions by typing in the address of your intended destination (which you can google beforehand). Yes, it does actually include the train station you should go to, how to get there, and then which trains to take! It's really awesome! I believe it will load your entire trip's directions so that it will continue to work even if you lose wifi for a few moments.
When you do go to get your directions, be sure to choose the correct method of travel. Do not choose "walking" if you're not because it will indeed think you are walking the entire way. Choose the train/bus icon and you'll see a recommended route.
Here is an example of the entire route from Yokohama Station to Yokohama Chinatown:
In this case, if you select the first route, you will be taken to the screen below. You will use platform 1 for the Minatomirai Line. Board the Motomachi-Chukagai train. The trains are never more than three minutes late so if it is your train's departure time, you can almost guarantee you are on the correct train, even if you didn't see which train it was.
Ride 4 stops, and exit the train at Motomachi-Chukagai Station. Super easy. There are no transfers or anything in this one.
Upon exiting the station, you will walk 6 minutes (yes the directions will become specific during your walk) before you arrive at Yokohama Chinatown.
Google Maps is honestly the most fool proof way to use trains in Japan. You really don't even have to understand how they work if you have reliable access to this app :)
Earlier I mentioned another way to navigate the trains. The second resource is lesser known among people new to the area, but is still very popular.
The other website/app is Hyperdia.
You can access Hyperdia.com from your desktop or phone if you do not want to install the app. You enter the station you plan to leave from, and the one you plan to go to. You can also enter the current time if you are about to leave or leaving shortly, or you can plan ahead and enter another.
It will give you a few different routes you can take, along with the cost, commute time, time of departure/arrival, etc.
We can use the route from Yokosuka Chuo to Shibuya as an example here:
Look in the rectangular box next to "Route 1" and you'll see that the total time or "take time" for this trip is 62 minutes. You will transfer one time and travel a distance of 57.1 km. Your ticket will cost ¥820.
In the next box, you will see that from Yokosuka Chuo, you need to use the Keikyu Line for Sengakuji. You will ride that train for 44 minutes, before arriving at Shinagawa. At Shinagawa, as you can see from the yellow icon, you will make a transfer to the JR Yamanote Line (outer loop) for Osaki. This train will take you all the way to Shibuya.
If you need to use a map, rent a car, find a hotel, or a restaurant, you can find links to those under "useful links." It might take you to an all- Japanese page, but there is an English button.
I really like the links here in Hyperdia, because they easily connect you to nearby restaurants. There are photos from several restaurants. I tend to judge books by their covers, so for me, it's a quick, easy way to see what type of food is closest to you without doing any unnecessary digging.
Your time in Japan doesn't have to be stressful. If you're a military spouse, don't be afraid to leave the base. It's not as hard to navigate as it may seem. Japan is truly the best place to get out and explore! It is clean, safe, and the greater Tokyo area has something for everyone!