Essential Apps on the go in Tokyo

by Shana Graves

Whether you’re new to the world of mobile devices or you’re a long-time resident, it can be difficult to decide which applications to install and which to leave behind.

For social media gurus the essentials—think Twitter, Facebook and the like—are necessary additions to your application family but for those who have a lot to say but little time to say it, there is HootSuite. Through this application users can schedule updates for most social media applications hours, days, even years in advance.

Living in Tokyo, what we all need is a little more organization and a lot less stress. In the words of Apple, “there’s an app for that”… In fact, there are several apps to perform any and all functions you need them to.

There’s a good chance that, right now, you’re holding at least ten business cards (probably more) in your wallet. Wallets just aren’t made to hold the amount of business cards that one manages to collect living in Japan. You could invest in a cute cardholder but honestly, what are the chances that you are going to remember who Mr. Yamamoto from XYZ Design is or where you met him? That’s where Shoeboxed Business Card Reader comes in. With Shoeboxed you can organize all of your business cards into one convenient location for free. Granted it will be time consuming scanning all of the existing cards you’re in possession of but once you download the application you can immediately start organizing with the card scanning function. Shoeboxed (currently iPhone only) also allows you to input additional information about your contact such as where you met which might help trigger a mental image and prevent embarrassing second encounters.


Many people in Tokyo don’t hold typical 9-to-5 jobs, in fact many ex-pats spread their time and skills over several different companies and clients. When you perform different jobs in different places for different people you need to be able to organize your time and life accordingly.

OmniFocus allows you to input all of your current and upcoming jobs or tasks then categorize them accordingly. Although at ¥1700 it seems overpriced compared to other task management applications, it boasts a highly intuitive structure and once you have conquered the learning curve, you will never need another organization application. OmniFocus is available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Mac OS and can easily be synced to all your devices.

If you become an OmniFocus user you’ll also want to download Evernote, if you haven’t already. With Evernote users can attach specific notes to related tasks in OmniFocus, which comes in handy when a project you’re working on also requires research. Evernote is free and is available for iOS, Mac OS, Windows and online.

Before you get your work and tasks organized, organize your thoughts. While some people like to use bulleted lists to arrange their thoughts into something cohesive, others need visuals. MindJet is one of many mind-mapping apps available to mobile device users but, unlike others, it is completely free. MindJet is not exclusive to iOS, those connecting with the Android OS can also map their minds for free.

If your job takes you around the world, or even just around Asia, being able to keep track of currency exchange rates can be a little frustrating, especially with the uncertainty of the economic direction at any given time. Fortunately, there are people who’s job it is to keep track of these fluctuations for us – and then there are people who make that information easy to understand and even easier to access in mobile form.

The great thing about XE Currency is that it is made to be as complex or as simple as your lifestyle and work obligations necessitate. XE Currency saves the most recent exchange rates offline so even if you have no online access you can still find out how much the Korean won is worth.

Jetsetters not only need to be able to convert local currency but they also need to find worldwide deals on flights (unless the company is paying). Skyscanner is especially useful to frequent flyers if dates or locations are flexible. This multi-platform application can be used in 28 languages and has the option of displaying flight prices in 61 different currencies. Skyscanner also appeals due to its availability not only on iOS, but mobile devices operating Android and Windows OS as well.

While you’re travelling or working out of coffee shops throughout the city, it’s nice to know which locations (if any) offer wi-fi services without having to step foot in any establishment. Finding wi-fi in Tokyo is pretty tough sometimes. Wi-Fi Finder uses your phones GPS function to find any surrounding wi-fi hotspots. This handy application also tells you whether the wi-fi connections it has discovered are free or paid and in what sort of establishment they are located. The map function allows you to easily find your way to the nearest hotspots as well as conduct worldwide wi-fi searches.

PulseNews app

After you find your perfect wi-fi connection spot but before you get down to business, you might want to catch up on news from around the world. If you’re anything like me, you are subscribed to a number of newsfeeds as well as having at least three different news applications on your mobile device. The mobile answer to all that confusion is PulseNews. PulseNews combines all your favorite news and entertainment sources in one easy application, eliminating the need for multiple news applications.

With PulseNews users are able to import their RSS feeds from Reader so access to all of your regular blogs is hassle-free. BBC News, Al Jazeera Top News, Bloomberg News top the business and news sections while Gawker, BoingBoing and Gizmodo are a few of the more popular entertainment and technology feeds. As PulseNews continues to grow in popularity the number of available feeds also increases so keep an eye on the What’s New page. PulseNews is available for iOS, for free.

As you run from the office to meetings and back to the office it can be a challenge to make sure you’re eating right. Free multi-platform application, MyFitnessPal tracks your calorie intake with a substantial nutritional database that also includes many Japanese foods and allows users to input their own entries. Users can also input any cardiovascular and strength exercises they have completed throughout the day MyFitnessPal will then calculate calories accordingly.

Users can then share their progress online for increased motivation. Although not as complex as MyFitnessPal, the MapMyFitness family of applications trace your running, walking and biking routes while tracking time, calories burned and pace. All the information is then stored within the application and online so users can easily retrace their paths and challenge themselves to beat their previous record. Both applications are available for free on iOS, BlackBerry and Android devices while MyFitnessPal is also available to Windows devices.

There are a few helpful ways to organize your hectic Tokyo life. Whether you are a freelance writer, a business tycoon or a teacher there really is an app for everyone and everything.