When I studied in London, I had a chat with my classmate Leonard. He was a very charming French man. I can remember the moment I was explainning him how Japanese addresses are designated. He was extremely surprised to hear that our addresses were not specified by the street name.
He asked me,
“If that’s the case, how is your address specified ?” He asked me while raising his eyebrows.
After telling him how it is named, I said to him, “Do you understand?”
He replied “This is a big surprise. Isn’t it very confusing? “
Of course, in some cases, the addresses are specified by the adjacent street name, especially, in the areas built in the grid pattern.
However, there are only a few places where addresses are named by street names in Japan.
Usually, we name areas first and divide the area into several smaller areas. Then, number each of them.
Each of the divided areas is again divided into a few smaller pieces and numbered.
Zipcode, Prefecture Name, City Name, town or village name, number-number-number
162-0042 Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae, 4(chome)-3-2
Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to tell where the number (chome) is located with this method. Very confusing as Leonard pointed out!
Actually, I often get lost in case that I did’t check with the map or someone.
This is probably because most of the modern Japanese cities were built without grand urban planning.
People had to develop the land quickly after the Second World War.
Now we see jumbled houses and buildings in Tokyo.