How to Navigate the Nameless Streets of Japan

How to Navigate the Nameless Streets of Japan

  • Navigating the streets of Japan can be tricky.
    But with patience and a little know-how, you will become a pro in no time.
    Whether you are in a big city or out in the rural area, here are some tips to help you navigate more effectively.

  • Understanding the layout of the city

    In Japan, very few streets have actual names.
    This can make navigating both interesting and infuriating.
    When cities were laid out in Japan, most didn’t use a grid system so streets sometimes veer off at weird angles, and split or merge with seemingly little forethought.
    Couple this with tiny streets and no clear signages and things get tricky.

  • All streets are numbered

    The size of roads varies greatly – from a road with barely enough room for one car to multiple lane highways.
    Sometimes, you have to take the eerie-looking alley to get to your destination.
    Streets define blocks similarly to other places in the world but an important distinction in Japan is that these blocks all have their own names or numbers.

  • The address

    An address will tell you a lot about where you are going but rarely exactly where it is.
    Japanese addresses tell you the prefecture, city, neighborhood, and block number.
    This is the best way to narrow down your location.
    After that, things get trickier yet again.
    The address will also tell you either the name of the building or a number.
    Building addresses or numbers aren’t sequential, making them nearly impossible to find if you’re not from the area.

  • So what is the solution?

    Landmarks, spoken or written directions, and patience!
    The best option is to ask for either written or verbal directions.
    It’s likely that the person you ask will point you to landmarks in the area and tell you what to look out for.

    In the absence of people or language skills, you can use a map or navigation system.
    Most brochures or pamphlets will have a small simple map included.
    These are designed to help you once you are in the right neighborhood but can sometimes have a skewed scale.
    Whether using a physical map or an online one, look specifically for landmarks or identifying features of buildings – a red sign or a collection of vending machines, for example.
    This will make it much easier to find your specific building!