Do you want to send someone a letter or a package in Japan, but you aren't sure how to write Japanese addresses? It might look difficult at first, but don't worry we've got you covered!
In today's post, we will talk about how to learn Japanese addresses and be able to read and write them yourself! So, if you are ready, let's dive right into it!
In Japanese, the addressing system is based on an order from the largest unit to the smallest unit. That being said, the addressing system is very different in Japan compared to that of Western countries. For example, buildings are not numbered in a consecutive way, but, instead, they are numbered based on the time they were constructed in.
What's interesting is that the addressing system can also vary within Japan, for instance, the systems used in Kyoto and Sapporo are not the same as the other cities in Japan.
Basically, we can divide the official national address system in Japan into eight parts to make it easier. Let's have a look at them one by one to understand the pattern of the system.
The first part is the postal code, which is relatively easy to remember. While western countries usually put the ZIP code at the end of the address, it is the opposite in Japan. So, the address begins with the postal code which is written with the symbol 〒.
The largest settlement type in Japan is called prefecture. In case you don't know what a prefecture is, keep reading.
Prefectures are the administrative bodies of Japan and they are larger than cities. It is similar to the individual states in the United States, for example.
Currently, there are 47 prefectures in Japan.
The third part of the address is the municipality. These municipalities may have different names based on their status, which is given to them by their prefectural administrations.
Note: Tokyo has its own special system of wards which is called ''ku.''
The fourth part of the address is subdivision or subarea. A municipality might be divided into subdivisions. Every subdivision has numbered districts called 丁目 (chome). Each chome is made of numbered blocks known as 番 (ban). There are actual building numbers within these bans which are called 号 (go).
The fifth part of the address system is block numbers. We can define a block number as a square or rectangular area surrounded by streets with a number of buildings.
If you haven't learned Japanese numbers yet, maybe it is time to have a look at them!
Finally, we come to the apartments. Usually, every building and apartment in Japan has a name, but, if not, you can just write the building number.
At the end, don't forget to write the full name of the person.
If the person has a title, such as in association with their job or to indicate seniority, then you should add that as well. The most common title is 様 (sama) which means Mr. and Mrs. You should add the title if you can.
Here is an example of a typical Japanese address and its equivalence in English:
Romaji: Tōkyōtobunkyōku Honkomagome 2-chōme 28-ban 8-gō
English: Tokyo Prefecture/Bunkyo-ku/Honkomagome (town name)/District 2/Block 28/House number 8
|1. Postal symbol (〒)|
|2. Postal code (7 digits)|
|3. Prefecture name|
|4. City, town, village, city ward|
|6. Further subdivision number, city block number, and apartment number|
|7. Last name|
|8. First name|
Japanese people who live in Kyoto use a different and unofficial addressing system among themselves. This is because they have a lot of small divisions. In addition, there is oftentimes more than one chō with the same name within a single ward so when all of these come together it becomes confusing for residents.
Locals in Kyoto use a system based on street names. After some time, this system began to gain recognization by the post offices and government agencies in Kyoto.
If more than one house shares the same land number, you have to specify the name of the house or building which is usually displayed in front of the house on a 表札 (name-plate).
The system works by looking at the intersection of two streets and then indicating whether the address is above (上ル - agaru), below (下ル - sagaru), east (東入ル - higashi), or west (西入ル - nishi) of the intersection point. It is like naming a nearby cross street and then specifying the address relative to the cross street.
Here are the different alternatives for the address of Kyoto Tower:
• 京都市下京区烏丸通七条下ル 東塩小路町 721-1
Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Karasuma-Shichijō-sagaru, Higashi-Shiokōji 721-1
This address means "south of the intersection of Karasuma and Shichijō streets" – more precisely, "on Karasuma, below (south of) Shichijō" (Karasuma lies on a north-south, while Shichijō lies on an east-west cross-street).
Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Shimogyō-ku, Karasuma-Shiokōji-agaru
(On) Karasuma (street), above (north of) Shiokōji (street)
Sapporo's addressing system differs from regular Japanese addresses in terms of structure. The city center is divided into quadrants by two intersecting roads, Kita-Ichijo and Soseigawa Dori; so blocks are named based on their distance from this point. The east-west distance is shown by chōme, while the north-south distance is shown by jō.
For example the address of Sapporo JR Tower:
Sapporo-shi, Chūō-ku, kita-5-jō-nishi 2-chōme 5-banchi
This address shows that it is the fifth building on a block located on 5 jō north and 2 chōme west of the center, named with the actual cardinal names of kita (north), minami (south), nishi (west), and higashi (east).
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