Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Japanese addresses: No street names. Block numbers.

Source: Derek Sivers

I love learning something that flips my head upside down. So, let’s look at one of the coolest head-flippers I’ve found: Japanese addresses.

Imagine you’re standing in Chicago and a Japanese man asks you, “What’s the name of this block?”

Mailing addresses in Japan, after naming the province and city, are a series of three numbers: district number, block number, building number. That’s how the building is found. No street names.

Thinking you’ve misunderstood the question, you say, “This is Erie Street. We’re between Wabash Ave and Rush Street.”

But the man asks you again, “No. Not the streets. This. (Pointing to the middle question mark on the map, below.) What’s the name of this block?”

You say, “Uh. That’s the block between Huron and Erie, between Wabash and Rush.”

(Blocks don’t have names! Streets have names! Blocks are just the chunks of land in-between streets. Duh!)

He leaves disappointed.


Now imagine you’re standing in Tokyo. You ask someone, “What’s the name of this street?”

Thinking she’s misunderstood the question, she says, “This is block 5. That is block 8.”

But you ask again, “Huh? No. This. (Pointing to one of the question marks on the map, below.) What’s the name of this street?”

She says again, “Uh. This is block 5. That is block 8.” (See the map, below.)

See: in (most of) Japan, streets don’t have names! Blocks have numbers! Streets are just the empty space in-between blocks. Duh!

And the buildings on the block are numbered in order of age. The first building built there is #1. The second is #2, even if it’s on the opposite side. So you end up with house numbers that look like this:

Cool Huh?

It's even cooler in Vietnam.. It's blocks and streets!

A Vietnamese address would look like this:

267/56/70/25 Area XXX, District XXX, Street XXX

Go to Area XXX, then District XXX then Street XXX then block 56, turn at block 70 and turn at block 25 and find house number 267 :)


Keith said...

Man, and I thought the Japanese system was hard to remember. Is there any rhyme or reason to the numbers in the Vietnamese system?

lucky6666 said...

when i lived in japan, i needed my GPS to find anything. tye in phone number GPS will take you to the house. otherwise...it is impossible

Kitty said...

The Japanese system is crazy! I could never find anything. The only city that ever made sense to me was Sapporo, which is based on a grid (American designed), with Odori Park as it's 0 point. From there you can go one block North and one East and the location is simply North 1 East 1. Simple! (and helpful when you've drunk too much at the summer beer festival held in the park)

Degenerasian said...

Keith: In Vietnam they keep making more streets and building more houses so they add on to the address.

For example a hotel in Ho Chi Minh city would have the address 18-19-20 Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1

Bascially go to taht street, find intersection 20... then go to intersection 19 of that and find house 18.

Roger Williams said...

When I was in Japan, it was just easier to remember everything by X landmarks and proximity to Y train station, and then look for the building number if necessary.