Finding Your Way: the Challenging Japanese Addresses

  • HOW TO
  • Have you ever gotten lost or confused when searching for an address in Japan? You may be thinking this is because you were new in Japan. But there might be a glitch in the address itself. Actually some streets in Japan do not have any names. Only major streets, crossings, and landmarks have names and thus it is better to have a clear information of the address and possibly a GPS with you. Also, the ‘named places’ in Japan are sometimes ignored in mentioning an address and are used only on special occasions like if a festival or a ceremony is taking place nearby. So, extra care is advised.

    Japanese addressing system

    Japanese addressing system is entirely opposite to that of Western addressing system. In Western addresses, the street numbers are followed by the names of larger areas while in Japan, it is fairly ambiguous due to the vastness of its urban growth. Japanese addresses are started with the name of the prefecture (ken) followed by the city (shi) and further broken down into ward (ku) or village (mura) or a small town (cho). So, the order is from the largest entity to the smallest. In some places of Japan such as Kyoto and Sapporo, there are additional entities called Grids or Lands. So, do not be confused when you are in those places. If you want to mail a letter or a package from abroad to Japan and if you are confused with the addressing system, you can simply write the address in any order in Romaji. Usually, the Postal System in Japan is very effective and is flexible in their delivery terms. The other countries with similar addressing system as that of Japan are South and North Korea, and China. However, recently, South Korea has changed its addressing system to Western style in major cities like Seoul.