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One thing I was always wanted to be able to do with my old phone in Japan was check train times. Yes, you can do that with Japanese phones already, but the interface is enough to put off anyone who finds Kanji challenging.

Ekitan for the iPhone has changed all of that. Whilst it stills works primarily in Japanese (a recent update means you can now enter station names in Romaji, but the search results are still only displayed in Kanji), the interface is so beautifully intuitive that it doesn’t really require much bravery to use.

It will not only tell you what time the trains are leaving – it also gives you the price, number of changes, time taken, alternative routes and the status of all railways (useful to find out it there’s any serious delays).

The update to version 2.1.1 (iTunes Link) brought significant improvements, with the addition of GPS support. Not sure which station you’re at? Ekitan will use GPS to figure it out! There’s also bookmarks for those regular commutes, and a detailed search history.

The recent introduction of an English keyboard is a clear attempt to better serve the many iPhone-wielding foreigners in Japan, so my guess is that we can only see further improvements there in due course, such as the introduction of romaji names for all stations.

Ekitan is 350 yen and available from the App Store (Japan).

Developer’s website

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