Japanese addressing system

From Academic Kids

The Japanese addressing system is used to identify a specific location in Japan.


Address elements

The system, based on areas, starts from the biggest division, prefectures. They are suffixed with to (都, 'capital'), for Tokyo, fu (府, 'urban prefecture') for Osaka and Kyoto, (道, 'circuit') for Hokkaidō and ken (県, 'prefecture') for the rest. Conventionally, the cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are almost always referenced without to or fu, while Hokkaido is always with do; without it, Hokkai means simply 'North Sea'.

Prefectures are then divided into shi (市, 'city') and gun (郡, 'district'). Unlike countries such as the US, cities belong directly to prefectures, while towns and villages are under districts. Big cities are usually divided into ku (区, 'ward'), which in turn are divided into machi and chō (both written 町, 'town'). Rural districts are subdivided into mura (村, 'village'). See also Municipality of Japan.

The final three elements of the address are the city district (chōme 丁目), the city block (banchi 番地) and finally the house number (ban 番). As these are all numbers, they are usually simply written as a string, 1-2-3, starting with the chōme and ending in the ban. In sparsely populated rural areas, one or more of these may be missing, with some addresses having only the ban. In urban apartment buildings, on the other hand, it is not unusual to add the apartment number as a fourth element.

It is worth noting that street names are not used in postal addresses, and that the numbers in the address are usually assigned by order of construction, meaning that especially in older areas of the city they will not run in linear order.

In addition to the address itself, all locations in Japan have a postal code. After the reform of 1998, this is a seven-digit number written in the format 〒 DDD-DDDD, where the symbol 〒 (yūbin) means 'post code'.

Address order

In Japanese, the address is written in order from largest unit to smallest, with the addressee's name last of all. For example, the address of the Apple Store in Ginza, Tokyo is:

Apple Store

However, the order is usually reversed when writing in Roman letters, to better suit Western conventions. The format recommended by Japan Post is:

Apple Store
Sayegusa Honkan
5-12, Ginza 3-Chome,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061

where Tokyo is a prefecture, Chuo-ku is a special ward, 3-Chome Ginza is the name of a city district, 5-12 is the city block and building number, and Sayegusa Honkan is the name of the building at which the store resides. In practice it is common for the chōme to be prefixed, as in Japanese, resulting in the somewhat shorter

Apple Store
Sayegusa Honkan
Ginza 3-5-12 Chuo-ku
Tokyo 104-0061


For historical reasons, names quite frequently conflict. In Hokkaido many place names are identical to names found in the rest of Japan; this is largely the result of past immigration into Hokkaido of people from mainland Japan. Historians note that there are also significant similarities between place names in Kinki region and some of those in northern Kyushu. See Japanese place name.

The current scheme was established after World War II as a slight modification of the scheme used since the Meiji era.



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