English Navigation Systems


When purchasing a used car from the Japanese domestic market, regardless of the make or model, a high proportion of vehicles sold today have some sort of navigation unit pre-installed. As and when navigation units gained popularity in Japan is hard to say, however vehicles manufactured in the late nineties can still be bought and sold today with an on-dash DVD navigation unit.

Rather ugly in how they protrude from the dashboard, later models from the early-to-mid noughties combined slim, in-dash units that enabled users to put the screen away when not in use. Similar to their predecessors, these too utilised remote control and DVD software.

Xanavi English Navigation System

Popular among the foreign community many years ago was the Xanavi – a joint venture between Nissan and Hitachi, in part due to the fact that it was one of the first ‘English compatible’ systems in Japan, with users having access to an English menu and voice guidance. Search functions were limited however to telephone numbers and postcodes, as the map software was in Japanese only.

Portable Navigation Units

In addition to the Xanavi, a selection of portable units were available such as the 4.3" Garmin Nuvi 3770V and the 3.5" SHAKE 350, both retailing for around JPY39,500. Similar to the Xanavi in there user interface, the biggest flaw with the portable units was a weak signal strength in built-up areas.

Unfortunately, both the Xanavi and the portable navigation systems are no longer commercially available, leaving a sizeable hole in the market for the foreign community.

In-Dash Navigation Units

With technological advances, touch-screen navigation units are now standard across all manufacturers, with basic dealer option units costing anywhere from JPY110,000 upwards. The more sophisticated built-in HDD units (factory option) are also common, however come with a much higher price tag, starting at around JPY300,000.

Sanyo english-navigation

Much simplier to use than their predecossors, there are also many more options available for the non-Japanese speaker. In addition to most of the foreign manufacturers, some of the domestic manufacturers also offer units supporting English menu and voice guidance as of late 2009.

NB: English compatibilty is usually limited to dealer-option after market units only. Check with each manufacturer for details.

At the time of writing, BMW are the only manufacturer to offer a complete English support in there i-Drive navigation, with English maps, menu and voice navigation.