Imiwa (Formerly Kotoba) – The only app you need in Japan

EDIT: Since I posted this Kotaba has been taken down from the app store due to what I have heard were copyright infringements. However as of 26/08/12 it is back up and has changed its name to “Imiwa”.

So for all of you new guys that have been surviving without kotaba for the past couple weeks the wait is over!The new version (renamed imiwa) was released this morning so get your download on!!! Also the app is 185mb so your going to need a wifi connection.

Here is the link below to the app store:


(the new title screen)

Dear new JETs, want to know the one thing you can bring to Japan than is going to help you more in your day to day life than all that comfort food, western toiletries and your lucky pair of undies combined?!

The best part is that it weighs and costs nothing!!! This is because it’s an app!!
Personally I use Kotaba I would say on average several hundred times a day (may this also serve as an indication of just how much I use my phone).
It’s basically a English-Japanese Jisho 辞書 (dictionary).


But why must you bring this with you and not simply download it once you have arrived? Well simply this app is something like 850mb as it offers the the complete database offline.
Now when you arrive in Japan its extremely likely you will have no Internet access for your first 6-8 weeks like I did and since you can’t download apps over 50mb without wifi (which you wont have) you will find yourself spending those 2 months with no Kotaba which is essential to get trough your day to day life!!

The features include the ability to enter text in English or Japanese (romanji, kana or kanji) and Kotaba will deliver you the answers in kanji, kana and romanji with its conjugations (if its a verb i.e. te-form, etc) and several examples said word how said works are used in a sentences!
It also states whether a word is a na or i adjective. But best of all is that it’s free and requires no Internet connection so you can use it anywhere!!!


As a fun added bonus included is also a list of which kanji are included in each of the 5 JLPT levels and which are taught at each level of the Japanese school system up to JHS!
Finally there is also a favorite button to help you remember done of those more allusive kanji!

Honestly though every time I see a sign I don’t understand or something written on a board and especially when I’m shopping this app helps me every step of the way.
Also if you have some knowledge of Japanese grammar, you can use Kotoba to help put together sentences by slotting in the words you just looked up to make it seem like you know way more Japanese than you actually do =p


Q. But Daniel I don’t want to get an iPhone, they suck!!

A. I hate apple as much as the next person who knows how to assemble a computer from scratch. That said 95% of JETs have iPhones, as basically there is an array of apps, features and compatibility that comes with the iPhone that is going to make your life in a country of who’s language you do not speak fluently 10x easier. So please don’t be one of those douchebags who insists on getting an android, as it will inhibit your social life. (NO LONGER TRUE)

For all of you new guys that have been surviving without kotaba the wait is over!
The new version (renamed imiwa) was released this morning so get your download on!!! Also the app is 185mb so your going to need a wifi connection.


Summer 2014 EDIT

Basically all this info is a little dated now as I wrote it 2 years ago, no iPhone’s aren’t really the way to go any more, personally I know use a Galaxy S5 and it runs circles around my old iPhone. Once you go Android you never go back.

There is another app I switched to about a year into having my iphone simply called Japanese


I would recommend this over Imiwa if your happy to dish out the 8$ for it, however every now and then it does go up for free for a day so keep an eye out for that


The App’s I now use from the Google play store are JED and Kanji Recognizer they arnt as easy to use as what the iTunes store has to offer but they get the job done.






21 thoughts on “Imiwa (Formerly Kotoba) – The only app you need in Japan

  1. Geh, I didn’t see this post until just now… now that I’m already in Japan is there no way I can download this? I’m still waiting on my gaijin card so neither Yamada Denki nor the Softbank store will give me a damn phone, lol. Ive never had an iphone before (or a smartphone at all, for that matter), so please, teach me the ways of these things, O wise senpai…

    • Oh well actually you don’t need your gaijin card to get an iPhone from SoftBank, a receipt saying that you have applied for it is sufficient.
      I got mine on my second day in Japan as did the rest of the Group A arrivals last Friday.

      For the love of god get the iPhone with SoftBank though, there’s a deal atm where you get an 1man refund on a future bill if you sign up now.

      The app however your only option in the meantime is to make a friend who will let you borrow their Internet and download it onto your PC via iTunes or straight onto your phone if they have Wifi 🙂

      Hope that helps

      • I’ve heard of people getting their phones right away, including another group A alt in my prefecture. I have the stamp in my passport that says the card is to come, and some form from city hall, and my bank book. But softbank said there should be some other paper, maybe one I should have received at the airport? Is that the receipt you’re talking about? All I have from there is that embarkation card. Anyway, they said it wasnt enough. I hear that Softbank is very ESID, but pretty much all the alts in my prefecture use them, so. yeah.

        But thanks for the advice re: kotoba!

      • Mmmm yeah it was deffs a form you should have received at the ward office.

        Come to think of it though what your saying does ring true. I have a friend who’s a hyogo JET (as oposed to a Kobe JET) who lives 200m from my apartment and teaches in my ward and was in the same predicament when he arrived.

        It’s gona be tough so 頑張って!

  2. Can I ask where did you downloaded it? I’m trying to get it from iTunes but it says it’s not available at the time. Can you pass me a link or anything. I would really appreciate it.

    • Mmmmm I downloaded my copy off iTunes a couple months ago, just had a look and it gone so I dunno >_<

      If your willing to pay and need it asap there's a better app that's just called 'Japanese'.

      • I can’t pay for now but thanks anyway. See ya and good luck.

  3. You know, it’s a great app, but I don’t own iPhone, my iPod’s too old for this, and all those iPhones and non-Apple smart phones suck. Nothing beats good “old” PC stuffed with RAM, terabytes of storage, and super easy multi access. I got android and it is as disappointing as Apple. Yuck >___<

  4. The app is the best for people learning japanese and/or living in Japan. But I dont like the iPhone and I am not going to give up my Galaxy for an app.

  5. I m trying to download it for hours …. ITS SAY: your request could not be completed, WHY?
    please help…

  6. ohhh come on
    i had an iphone some weeks before and now i got (FINALY!!) an android
    it was sooo much time waste (4 years!!) with the iphone…
    i loved the app imiwa and i miss it realy in the android store…

  7. Thank for the info! This app is wonderful. On a different note, do you know if there is a similar PC based application for Imiwa? At my work place, IPhone is not allowed. So, I am forced to use Google Translate/other resources.

    • JED and Imiwa use the same database, the only difference is the platform they are available on. That said Imiwa is much more polished looking than any Android apps.

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