The Japanese addressing system is based on areas, subdivided from big
to small. The largest division is called a "Prefecture" in
English. There are 47 prefectures in Japan. A prefecture can be one of
four things in Japanese, To (
The Ken are divided into counties, Gun (
Wards are divided into Chō (
The buildings within a block are either numbered in the order that they were built, so they jump all around, or numbered in clockwise order around the block. In this clockwise numbering there is sometimes skipping of several numbers for later assignment, where future construction between existing buildings is possible.
YUUBINBANGOU (Zip/Postal Code) ^ / \ ,---------------' '-----------, / | | TO FU (Metropolis) KEN or DO (Prefecture) \ \ / \ \ \ / \ \ \ / \ \----------------------------, | \ \ / \| \ \/ V \ SHI (City) GUN (Rural area) \ /| | \ / | | \ / | /| \ / |_________/ | \ / / | KU (Ward) / | \ / | \ / | \ / | \/ | CHOU=MACHI (Town) MURA (Village) \ / \ / *CHOUME (District) / \ / \/ /\ / \ / \ *BANCHI (Block) *BAN (Block) | | | | \ *GO (Building) \ / \ / V | | Building name | | *GO (Room/Apt #, etc.)
〒150-2345 東京都渋谷区本町2丁目4-7サニーマンション203The first number is the postal code, "2" is the subdivision of the "chō", "4" is the block number and "7" is the building number.
150-2345 Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Hommachi 2 choume, 4-7, Sunny Mansion 203.
Written in English, it would look like this (if you follow the Japan P.O. guidelines):
Sunny Mansion #203However, most folks abbreviate it like this:
4-7 Hommachi 2-choume
Shibuya-ku, TOKYO 150-2345
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-2345
For addresses in large cities (Yokohama, for example) many people omit the larger division (Kanagawa-ken, in the case of Yokohama).
The ken, to, etc., can always be omitted if the postal code is correct. The city name should be capable of omission then too, but that isn't ordinarily done.
There can't be a ku name directly below a fu (since Kyoto
and Osaka are both shi), but this is a technicality which the
Post Office is sure to overlook. In addition to gun, there are
As far as the address after shi, ku, machi/Chō or mura/son is concerned, trying to reach a consensus on what is what may well be an exercise in hair-splitting.
There's a problem with duplicate terminology where the part about
Chō (under shi, ku, machi/Chō or
mura/son) is concerned. There doesn't seem to be a
consistent term for these smaller divisions (they seem to be called
The chōme part is not present in many addresses, and in this
case the address may either end in banchi (
Extremely detailed maps are published for all urban areas. Anyone who can read Japanese may be able to identify any address within a 2 or 3 minute walk. The most detailed bilingual ones are not as good. Of course even a bilingual map as detailed as the Japanese ones would still be very hard for foreigners to use, because the signs are in Japanese only.
All postal codes conform to a 7 digit format XXX-XXXX. This was introduced by Japan Post on February 2, 1998. It is theoretically possible to put the postal code followed by the address from chōme "downwards", although in some areas the postal code may go over chōme boundaries. Before the introduction of the 3-4 system country areas and large city areas had sub-codes, eg. 316-0002 or 150-0001, but now all codes comply. The large area encompassed by 100 (central Tokyo) is now split into up to 9999 sub-areas. A book was put out so people could look up the new code from the old address.
Edited from posts by JimmieJenkins, Norman Diamond, Peter Dunning and Miller to the
fj.life.in-japan newsgroup. The correction concerning the new
postal codes was contributed by Mike Lyford.
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