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Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

Hobart, Australia
Destination Expert
for Vanuatu
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3,533 posts
100 reviews
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Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

Hi all

During our stay in Japan all our accommodation providers include free wifi which is great to catch up on emails each night etc. My question is do we need to rent a mobile wifi system when we are out touring around both Tokyo and Kyoto during the day? I am not sure how easy it is to navigate the cities and find tourism attractions without google maps or can we just use printed tourist maps to the same effect? In many cases it will be myself and my 15 year old son out and about - and I am wondering if we will have trouble finding places, even railway stations without mobile WIFI?

Thanks for any advice you can provide

Regards

Suzi

Tokyo, Japan
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1. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

A short answer is no. You do not "need" Wi-Fi to get to places where the usual tourists are going to.

Maps and guidebooks are better in print (those in English can be bought through Amazon.com or at airport bookstores in Japan; if you go to a large scale bookstore in Tokyo or Kansai Region like Maruzen+Junkudo or Kinokuniya).

There are tourism information centers in practical any city built on tourism who can communicate with you in English. Hotel clerks can assist you with directions while they are not too busy (they should normally have a copied map of the area as hand-outs). You can also ask people around for the most obvious places like Kiyomizu Temple.

For answer to questions "reaching to the itchy places in the back (痒いところに手が届く)" (as we call it), wi-fi can be useful if you know how to use Google Search and Google Maps as well as the Japanese train schedule/fares search engines Jorudan and Hyperdia. Plus, you can ask questions on this forum. I quite stumble upon people looking complete lost after 30 minutes of so staring at i-phone with uselessly small screens to show a location of some unheard of hostel on a large scale map of Greater Tokyo area. Some preparation ahead of arrival and asking local people for help should solve the issue.

Free Wi-Fi is usually stressful as you need to locate an area with free Wi-Fi (which is not common in Japan as we use high-speed wi-fi already contracted upon purchase of computers or a pocket wi-fi device). Connection might fail easily and low speed is almost assured. I have been using Pocket Wi-Fi almost solely for the past 2-3 years, and have never had any serious complaints regarding connection and speed.

Edited: 25 April 2014, 05:40
Queenstown, New...
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2. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

No, you don't need pocket wifi.

How do you think we got around before wifi?

Do some planning before you leave home. Pick up free brochures at the airport, your hotel, info centres in Japan.

At the train stations there are big maps (with English) that show the local area. Also, in neighbourhoods there are often public 'billboard' maps as well.

Part of the fun of travel, and the best way to see a place, is to wander and get lost, check out the alleyways, se how the residents live their lives. Japan is a predominately safe place.

Enjoy

Hobart, Australia
Destination Expert
for Vanuatu
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3,533 posts
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3. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

Thanks that is great to know. I already have a Lonely Planet guide for Japan with detailed maps and intend to visit tourism information centers. Yes we did survive before wifi but thought if it was going to make my life a lot easier I would fork out the money for a mobile WIFI. It seems from both your advice there is no need. I hear you Yobeekool about the uselessly small screens to show a location! As we are staying in private apartments rather than hotels I am just going to have to search for landmarks! I too love wondering and getting lost in a new city but the fun wears off if I can't find my way back to my accommodation!

Thanks

Regards

Suzi

New Zealand
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4,351 posts
258 reviews
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4. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

There are various offline map apps available. I used Ulmon's CityMaps2Go in Kyoto and Tokyo, and found it worked well on an IPad mini. I suspect that on a mobile phone it wouldn't be so useful because of the small screen.

I also found the walking route maps produced by JNTO very useful, and stored those as PDFs on the IPad.

Queenstown, New...
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5. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

Another top, especially if your staying in private apartments; get the address printed off IN JAPANESE and have a contact phone number for the apartments. Address so that the taxi driver can understand, phone number so they can call for directions if they're still not sure! Make sure the postcode is included in address, these are all useful for taxi drivers to input into their navi systems.

United States
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6. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

I honestly don't think you can get lost if you have free paper maps and the Lonely Planet guide (although I'm not nuts about their maps), but if you're really worried about this, then invest in bilingual atlases for the two cities. These will cover more areas than the free maps, and will cost you a lot less than renting a WiFi router. One problem with the free maps is that they are all different, they aren't coordinated with each other, and they tend to only show the main tourist attractions. But you should definitely pick them up anyway--they are geared towards tourism, and some of them are very useful. I also recommend printing maps of specific areas off the Internet, especially if you have a color printer. When I am researching a trip, I usually download a lot of maps, and then before I leave for the trip I usually print a limited number of these. Another thing you can do is simply photograph printed maps and store them on your camera.

One warning: Japanese maps are not always oriented with North at the top. Usually there will be some sort of directional indicator (compass arrow), but not always. Sometimes you can end up heading off in the wrong direction if you assume that following a map from bottom to top will take you northward...

To lessen your fears about getting lost, there are usually a lot of bilingual orientation maps or at least signs in the popular tourist areas. And you can always get help by asking. (In fact, I have found that Japanese people can be genuine pests about offering help. In Kyoto especially, if you stand in a public area looking at a map you become a magnet for helpful individuals who will come up to you and ask if you need assistance. You almost have to head for a toilet stall if you want to be left alone to consult a map in peace in that city.)

Toronto
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for Tokyo
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7. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

Google maps (or iphone maps) on your smartphone can be cached and function as paper map: you can zoom in, shows you your current position etc. even if you don't have internet access at that time. You just need to load the area you want before you head out. Please search for "google maps offline"

Hobart, Australia
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for Vanuatu
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8. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

Wow everyone - thank you so much for all those helpful tips. that is exactly the information I needed

Regards

Suzi

Auckland Region...
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18 posts
52 reviews
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9. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

check this out,

kirainet.com/english/…

Hobart, Australia
Destination Expert
for Vanuatu
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3,533 posts
100 reviews
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10. Re: Do I need mobile wifi to find places of interest in Tokyo?

I just downloaded Ulmon's CityMaps2Go in Kyoto and Tokyo for my iPad - thanks Selsy - looks absolutely brilliant. Thanks also to kirinlager007 for the free Wi-Fi tip - I will download this as well.

Bearkun I m one of those "annoying" people if I see tourists looking lost in Hobart and looking at a map I always offer to help!

bibimbob I am going to have to keep trying - followed the instructions I found online and nothing happened

Regards

Suzi

Edited: 26 April 2014, 07:24