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Japanese Addresses--Explained!

3 Jan 2017

I remember almost 3 years ago, when I had my first experience in Japan. With no knowledge of the language and a 10MB data limit, I figured I could search for addresses within the wifi comfort of my hotel room and just logically follow an address system to get to my destination. Of course, I was really, really wrong.

Unlike America, the system does not use street names and numbers that run up and down the street. Much unlike NYC, there is obviously no easy, numbered grid system. The best way for me to explain it is that it is that it is a big system of regions, which are broken down to smaller regions, then smaller, then smaller. In my experience, I haven't found a logical way to go around finding addresses without heavily relying on Google maps, but perhaps one exists. In the meantime though, really consider a data plan that can use Google maps wherever you go. Don't hesitate to use apps such as NaviTravel and websites like Jorudan as well for trains!

Many people have a tendency to assume that the addressing system is just like America's, which I believe is what confuses people when people say that Omotesando or Harajuku is in Shibuya, which is in Tokyo, as they're often mentioned in equal frequencies as if they're all cities, or locations within cities, like Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, when in reality, it's more like saying East Village and Hell's Kitchen is in Manhattan, which is in New York City. It was quite difficult for me to wrap my head around, honestly, so I hope that example even made sense!

As I explained in the video, or hope I did, Tokyo is the only prefecture designated with a -to ending, which means metropolis. Within it is 23 special wards (Shibuya and Shinjuku being 2 of them), 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages. Tokyo's special wards are, as implied, special, in that they're generally looked upon as not being part of a larger incorporated city, and have their own council, as compared to wards in other parts of Japan. I personally spent most of my time in these wards, versus the cities and others, as the wards dominate the eastern part of Tokyo prefecture, which houses a large portion of the tourism. Thus, not all of the Tokyo prefecture is the big city you may know it to be! I used a little Wikipedia for some of this, so feel free to read up there!

I lived in the Chiba prefecture, which neighbors Tokyo and is relatively close to these wards, as it is also on the east of Tokyo prefecture, as compared to Yamanishi prefecture, which is on the Western side, meaning you'd have to travel longer to get to the wards on the east.

I hope this clears up any confusion! Happy Google mapping and travelling!

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