Travel Guide – Japan: The One about Hyperdia and Google Maps (For Riding the Trains/Subway in Japan)


My first time to Japan, it was during my final year in college.

Having minored in Japanese, I was ready to take my first voyage to the Land of the Rising Sun and felt I was ready.

That was until I reached Narita Airport and didn’t know which train to take.

Back then, there was not much information related to traveling to Japan, just a few blogs about what to pack and what to do and what not to do, but when it came to riding a train or subway, there was hardly anything out there.

Now fastforward to the present and there are numerous apps to help those find a train or subway in Japan in English but also find alternate transportation and also get the exact cost of fare.

While Google Maps needs no introduction, Hyperdia is one app that I highly recommend alongside Google Maps.

Hyperdia is created by Hitachi Systems, Ltd. and is available on Android.

To show you how it works, you type your destination to your android device, but what is important is to know the correct spelling of the location you want to visit.

Let’s start off with Narita Airport.  For those arriving on International Flights, you have Terminal 1 (which for Americans riding on American-based airlines) or Terminal 2 (for those riding airlines from another country like Japan Air Lines (JAL).

Type Narita and it will ask which terminal you want.  Then select the destination, which I chose the uber-trendy city, Shibuya.

As you can see there are multiple routes.  Riding the Kesei Skyliner 58 or the the Narita Sky Access Exp.  The fare is about the same but the difference is Keisei Skyliner is faster by 20 minutes.  So, you know how much your fare would be as you would arrive on Nippori and then take the JR Yamanote Line (Inner Loop) to Shibuya.  And you are set!

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.07.28 PM

Let’s take a look at Google Maps and it is similar:

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.13.29 PM

As you can see, its similar but remember to check on the transit on the top (making sure car or walking is not selected) and it gives you additional details as well.

I recommend having both Hyperdia and Google Maps installed.  As Hyperdia is great of giving you the information of how to reach your destination, Google Maps is your GPS that will get you from point A to point B (assuming you rented a wi-fi device, which I will do a write up this week) because it can get a bit confusing.

Now Hyperdia and Google Maps can be used on your Android device.  iOS users can use the website for Hyperdia and also download Google Maps as well.

But if you have certain tablets that is not 3G or 4G compatible, you may get an error that Hyperdia does not work.  I have a Slate 17 tablet and in order to make it work, you need to download the app 1Mobile Market which makes your tablet “mobile friendly”.

Once installing it, you can now install Hyperdia on your tablet.

Overall, these are two excellent apps to have with you if you intend to go to Japan.  They are free and easy to use (assuming you get the spelling of the city correct) and are recommended!


After thorough testing, I decided that Google Maps was my favorite to use to get to various locations.  I will say that one should not expect things to be perfect as things can get a bit wonky at times.

For example, I was going to Shinjuku to find the Japanese sports store, Selection.  Located in a neighborhood area, after leaving one station, it told me to go 300 meters west.  Which I did.  So far so good.  But then it told me to go north and then another 300 meters east.  I was confused because I already came from that direction, why didn’t it just tell me to go north?

So, then Google Maps was telling me to go back west 300 west, after going east and I was back to where I came from.  And then it got me to the right coordinates.

Sometimes when it picks things up and displays information, when you hope it would work right, it sometimes doesn’t.

But 9/10 it does get things right…just that one time, it gets a bit unnerving.

The other thing I recommend is to not use Google Maps in a busy train station (such as Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station) to get from one area to the other inside the station.  It’s best to follow the signs and ask the station attendant (many speak English).  Because at Tokyo Station, Google Maps was going crazy and it doesn’t fully map out a station as well.