Japan, Where the Streets Have No Name

March 4, 2023

japan streets

Most streets in Japan have no name. They use a different addressing system than what is used in Western countries.

Imagine strolling through a city street and having no street names to find the place you are going to. It sounds like a confusing nightmare, but that’s the way things operate in Japan. Most of the streets in the country don’t have a name, but there is a method to how things are arranged that wouldn’t be familiar to Westerners.

Addresses in Japan start with large divisions in the country called prefecture. From there, they are broken down to cities. Some larger cities are then broken into wards. Tokyo, for example, has 23 wards. These areas are next divided into districts and even smaller areas called Chome.

An address goes from the largest area to the smallest, which is the opposite of how a Western address would be. But the big difference is that you won’t see a street name in Japan. This is sometimes reversed to look like a Western address. An example in this format would look like this:

1–5–1, Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Tokyo is the prefecture, Chuo-ku is the ward in Tokyo, Yaesu is the district in the city, the first number 1 is the Chome, 5 is the block number, and the last number 1 is the building number. It’s as easy as that and all without street names.

While this seems relatively straightforward as each place gets smaller and smaller, zeroing in on a building number can be tricky since buildings are sometimes not numbered in order. So, it seems that the area between buildings is viewed as nothing but empty space in Japan, which is different from what is thought in the West. And of course, these addresses wouldn’t be written in English but would have Japanese characters, making a simple trip even more difficult if you couldn’t read Japanese.

So the system to get around to a specific location in Japan makes sense but requires a unique way of thinking. It also requires a lot of practice, though being fluent in Japanese wouldn’t hurt.

Sources: Planet Tokyo, A Geek in Japan, Sivers.org

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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