The most frequent problem we have encountered in China and Taiwan is deciding what to eat. This sounds relatively simple but when faced with a menu in an entirely unfamiliar language it can be daunting.
We have overcome this problem with an iPhone app called Waygo. Waygo is a translation app designed to read menus in Chinese. It also does menu translations for Japanese but obviously having not travelled there we can’t comment on whether it works as well for Japanese.
Waygo runs without an internet connection and you simply point the phone at the characters and it translates them to English and Pinyin instantly. If you like the menu item you then can save it to your favourites. Then when ordering you can either try to pronounce the Pinyin (Chinese written using Latin characters) or simply show the waitress the phone’s screen.
The app has a huge advantage over Google translate due to its speed of translation and ability to work offline from the camera. This makes its simple to scan a menu to find what you want to eat. For us it was well worth buying.