If you are living in Japan long term, these apps have been the most helpful to me while I lived here! Here 5 apps that I use daily living in Japan:
LINE is Japan’s messaging app but its way more than that! There is a payment feature in it called LINE Pay as well as coupons, which I use the coupons for Dominos and other places. Most Japanese people seem to use this app for communication with friends and co-workers now a days.
Side note: NEVER pay full price for dominos in Japan! There are ALWAYS coupons to use and its expensive if you don’t use the coupons.
I mostly use LINE for messaging friends but I also use it for work calls/ communicating with co-workers since I work remotely at home and its free with using data/ Wifi instead of regular calling. You don’t have to give the other person your phone number or personal information either, you can read a QR code/ username and add them that way. I actually have a HUGE data plan but have a “pay as I need” call plan with SoftBank, so LINE calls work well for me instead of calling people. I will use the regular phone only when needed and its super helpful.
I personally don’t use the LINE Pay feature that much, even thought its one of the more widespread barcode payment services accepted in Japan, because it requires charging money from a bank account (in which adding your bank account to the system is super hard as a foreigner with Katakana and long names etc. ) or with cash and you can’t connect a credit card to it unless its a LINE credit card… I would rather use my Rakuten Credit Card instead to get Rakuten Points so I don’t use LINE pay very much.
This is the barcode payment service that I use the most because I have a Rakuten Credit Card and I get points for using it from both the app and the credit card. The biggest difference between Rakuten pay and LINE pay is that you can add almost any credit card/ debit to the service to use it and it charges your credit card like you are using a credit card regularly but you don’t have to take our your wallet to use! This service is becoming more widespread, especially as conveience stores and malls, but still not as widespread as Paypay, LINE and QuickPay/ ID.
If I don’t use Rakuten Pay, I will use PayPay instead if they offer it, as it’s used just as much as LINE pay from what I have seen. Just like Rakuten Pay, you can add any credit card/ Debit card, but with the addition of a bank account. You don’t get points with this app, but PayPay cash back credit in yen to use to pay within the app. I also get PayPay cash bonuses every month for using Softbank as my cellphone carrier because Softbank owns PayPay, so thats a nice perk! I normally use it at the convenience store to buy a drink or a snack since the bonus is only about 250 yen a month.
Combini Specific Point Apps
Almost every convenience store in Japan has a point app that you can use, which adds up with all of the purchases that I make at the convenience store. They used to be regular point cards but in the past few years they converted to point apps which is so much easier to deal with! These point cards you can use at other stores as well, so I keep a look out for the Ponta and T-Point labels at stores to scan my card for more points!The 2 that I mostly use are Ponta for Lawson and T-Point for Family Mart. Seven Eleven has a point card as well called Nanaco, but its more of a pre-paid card that you charge instead of a straight up point card. In this case I just use my Rakuten Pay to get Rakuten Points!
NOrIkae annai (or Transit Planner in English)
Japan, especially in the cities, is very public transport centered and it’s helpful to know the exact train times and exact route to get around in. Though google maps is helpful for road and walking instructions, I prefer to use this app called Norikae Annai (Japan Transit in English on the App Store) instead to help me with exact train and bus times. I will use google maps first to tell me what the nearest train station/ bus stop is to my destination and then use that name and put it into Norikae annai to figure out exact details. It tells you details like how much it will cost to get there, what platform the train comes in and out of, as well as the exact train times and how long it will take you to walk from platform to platform. You can even choose the exact time you want to leave or arrive to base your transportation off of that, as well as select the first and last train option to figure out how late you can stay somewhere before you have to get back if you are out late. If you get the premium version it even tells you what train car to get on for the fastest transit time, as well as commuter pass information!
Even for visitors to Japan, this app useful to help plot out your trip to tell you exactly the trains you need to use!
BONU: Starbucks Japan
I’m a huge fan of Starbucks and its been about 3 years since they have launched their rewards program in Japan (separate from the rest of the world!). They have in app ordering for pick up and in store eating, a point system for how much you spend at a time and you can search for locations around you.
During COVID this has been a godsend to order on my phone, skip the lines and go right in and out of the store during the lunch rush or on the weekends when the store is crowded.
And that’s a wrap! If you live in Japan, do you use any of these apps? If you use any other ones comment below and let me know.