If you have a friend or family member that lives in Japan, say you want to send them a surprise birthday card but you don’t know how to write the address for mailing. Fear not! We will show you how to write an address correctly so that letter can get to Japan!
Japanese addresses are very different than addresses in the United States, or anywhere else in the world really. US addresses are typically given the street name, city, state, and zip code. In Japan, the setup is much different, due to the special wards, prefectures, blocks, etc. that are used in the addressing system. You can write the address in two ways, either in the Japanese format, or the western format, in English or in Japanese. The Japanese mailing system are familiar with both formats, so as long as you get your details right, then your post will be delivered.
Before we begin, here’s a brief summary of what a typical Japanese address looks like, for this example, I used the AirBnB building that I stayed in Akasaka as an example:
レックス赤坂レジデンス (English: Rex Akasaka Residence)
〒107-0052 Tōkyō-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka, 2 Chome-13-3
First is the symbol (〒) that indicates this is a postage, followed by the postal code (107-0052), the prefecture (Tōkyō-to), the special ward or city (Minato-ku), the district (Akasaka), the district code (2 “chome”), block number and finally building number (13-3).
Basically, the addressing system starts from largest (prefecture) to smallest (building) in a typical Japanese address.
How to write the address
So here’s how to write an address using the western format, I find this easier as it is more successful for me living in the US.
First, write the recipient name, it’s preferred to give an honorific title (Mr. Mrs. Ms.) to the recipient as I believe this is a cultural thing.
Second, write the building name along with the room number of the recipient (#000)
Third, write the district code, block and building number together, followed by the district name and special ward. You don’t have to write “chome” following the district code.
Fourth, write the prefecture and postal code
Finally, write the country name.
You can write the return address on the back of the envelope if you want to prevent any confusion when it arrives in the Japanese post office, and of course to return the letter if it becomes unsuccessful.
A few things to note:
- The words "-ku" and "-to" help distinguish the city and prefecture, but they are optional to write
- This works so far for the Tokyo prefecture, I'm uncertain for any other prefectures as of now
- The numbers 2-13-3 will always indicate first the district code, block number, and finally the building number
- Pricing is more when you're sending letters to Japan, in the US it's currently $1.15 for a standard envelope.
And there you have it! Now start sending those letters to your friends and family in Japan!