Sunday, January 13, 2013

How to locate an address in Japan?

One of my first problems that I have encountered in Japan is how to locate an address. In most western countries, if not in all of them, this is not a big challenge. However, in Japan this is a serious issue due to the fact that many, or most, of the streets don't have a name. Yes, this is crazy, but true.

So how does it work?  Let's take this sign that I have found  in a house around here:

The first  2 Kanji ideograms from the first line represent the word "Akasaka".  
In the second line, from left to right, the first character is a number in Kanji  ( ) that equals to "2". These 3 Kanji characteres together (赤坂    二)  identify  a city district
( "丁目") -  in this case "Akasaka 2 that is part  of the Minato ward or municipality of Tokyo.

The numeral "17" represents an area that may encompass several street blocks, as can be barely seen in the picture at the right.

And finally "15" is the number of the house that is unique inside the area "17". 
As you can see, in this simple example, we find numerals in both Kanji and Arabic. Simple, isn't it ?

If you have an address in Latin characters you can copy it in Google Maps, and most probably it can find the location (sometimes you need to add or subtract a dash from the name to make it work). However, as happened to me in my first attempt to locate a small store in a small street with no name, I failed miserably to locate it physically. 

I succeeded to get to the right  place due to a common Japanese behaviour. A man have seen me wandering around  and approached me asking ,using universal hand signs, where do I need to go. I have shown him the address, and after consulting with somebody inside his working place, he returned to me, and insisted in taking me to the right place that was located two streets away.  Not only that, he took me to the elevator, and made sure that I arrived to the correct place. I was astonished from this guy politeness. By the way, I have  already experienced  similar behaviour in other occasions - this seems to be the rule and not the exception!

I am sure that even for Japanese  people, it is confusing to find a specific address in a small street. Just take a look in one of the maps that you can find in a store website.

This is a map of  Akihabara - the geek's paradise. But, this deserves an additional post, or rather several ones.

See you !

No comments: