It’s really hard to navigate around Japan! Most small streets have no name, addresses refer to a series of concentric areas, streets are sometimes numbered according to when they were built rather than their location, and taxi drivers respond to landmarks not street numbers! Even with GPS assistance, I got lost countless times. I shouldn’t feel so bad though, because even locals need to ask for directions! Here’s an example of how complicated just reading it can be:
東京都 千代田区 丸の内二丁目 7番 2号
Apparently it encodes the:
- Postal code
- Prefecture: 都 (to) for Tokyo, 道 (dō) for Hokkaidō and 府 (fu) for Osaka and Kyoto.
- Municipality: Large cities use 市 (shi), most cities have wards 区 (ku), which can be further divided up into 町 (chō / machi) or village 村 (mura / son)
- City district: 丁目 (chōme)
- City block #: 番地 (banchi)
- House #: 号 (gō) Based on when the house / building was built or assigned in clockwise order around the city block.
- Name of place
What makes this even more difficult for a foreigner like me is searching Google Maps with Romaji (alphabets) and not getting exact matches! It can be very frustrating not understanding Japanese!
A bit of history — the symbol of a post office in Japan resembles a capital letter T with a bar over it, 〒. The mark is stylized katakana syllable te (テ), from the word teishin (逓信 communications). The mark dates from the pre-World War II era, when literacy was less complete, the katakana symbol being more easily recognized than a kanji.
FOUND Below are some photos of post mailboxes around the Toda Koen area (near Tokyo). Mr. Ishida and I were passing out fliers to promote Saikyo Hope Church’s English community outreach classes…I think we went through over 200 mailboxes that day! Like each uniquely styled mailbox, I am reminded each household is uniquely special — and even though we’ve never met any of them before, sometimes it just takes one simple flier to change the course of a person’s life! =)