how to.. find your way in Japan; navigation by GPS

Japanese GPS by Japan Experience

Japanese GPS by Japan Experience

Losing your way is okay, these adventures can turn out to be highlights of your trip.

But not all the time. Combine maps, GPS and this local knowledge to arrive anywhere you wish.

In this article you will learn:

  • about using GPS in your rental camper

  • easy tricks to use a japanese language GPS

  • what to prepare at home

  • when everything fails…maps


In short, rent a GPS

There is always the option to rent a GPS. If not already included. Often you pay extra to have an English guiding system. You need to decide but although not a must, it will be worth it to have a more relaxed, and with that a safer, driving experience.


Japanese GPS; input phone numbers

A GPS in Japanese language and set-up works fine too. After you get used to it, which takes a while. And the voice guidance does sound more exotic! You can avoid typing destination names and searching by entering the phone number of the location you are heading for into the GPS. Good guidebooks mention these, or pick the number of something obviously local as a tourism office.


And coordinates

These days more and more GPS coordinated are mentioned. These are convenient to input too. It is my preferred method. For both phone and coordinates-input it is worth zooming out to check if indeed the destination is what you expected. Instead of a typo leading you many miles in the wrong direction. Speaking of miles, you can set them to kilometers. And speaking of setting; make sure the GPS is set to English for both sound as data input, by the rental company. Check it! And make sure there is an English manual, usually a simple summary will do.

See a short and simple video on how it works by ‘Japan Experience.’


Sometimes a GPS fails to work. The screen is frozen, or black or the setting jumped to Japanese by accident. Of course you should try to figure it out before calling your rental company for help. From personal experience, you can also ask at a local car dealer or car rental station. There are many, mostly near stations or in the outskirts. Good chance they will be able to help you out if you ask nicely with a helpless smile. Of course they might not speak English, but together you will figure it out!


Bringing your own GPS

It is hard to advise on all models and systems. Advantage is convenience; you know what you have and how it works. And you can input your trip already in advance. When it works it will be great. When it does not… So better to rent at least a Japanese GPS as back-up. If at all you can rent without these days.


Maps; bring from home or..

In many countries you can buy decent Japanese road maps. Personally I would always carry a map as backup to the electronical systems. Also I like looking on maps! The best maps are for sale in Japan. If you have time, allow 30 minutes or so, head into a bookshop while you are still in Tokyo or Osaka. There are many map-options so you can pick what feels best.

The best ones are in Japanese, sometimes with some English added. Best are the book-style maps, in various scales, which show the whole country in great detail. One area, one book. Depending on the scale you like, you will need a few. Since you have GPS, don’t get carried away, costs add up quickly.


Have fun, don’t get lost all the time! Go Camper Japan!



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