Japan: Where the Streets Have No Names

July 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm 5 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

The U2 song, “Where the Streets Have No Name” refers to the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the streets actually do have names. Bono wishes they didn’t have names because they can be used to determine the class and religion of some people.

In Japan; however, a majority of the streets do not have names.

So, how do you find a location? Instead of the streets being named, the blocks between the streets are numbered.

The houses and units inside a block are also numbered. The blocks are inside a named district, the district is within a city or town. So, other than the block numbers and street names, it’s quite similar to the Western address system.

In Japan, directions to a location often include references to visual landmarks or subway stations. The block numbers could also be good for driving directions; if someone told you to turn right at the end of block 4, you’d see block 4 on a utility pole and know that the next turn is yours. In the Western system, you rarely know when your street is next, unless you’re in one of the few cities that are built on a perfect grid and have incrementally named streets.

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Sources: songfacts, goabroad.com, Wikipedia (Japanese Address System)

Entry filed under: Automotive, Travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. janec  |  July 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I spent some time in Osaka, Japan — I was amazed at how easy it was to get around on foot in such a large city, while knowing nothing of the language. There are colour-coded “you are here” maps absolutely everywhere. If I got lost, I’d just go down to a subway platform: I knew that my apartment was two doors down from the orange and purple transfer.

    Reply
    • 2. Sedra  |  July 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Really that’s good :)

      Reply
  • 3. Jen  |  July 18, 2011 at 7:45 am

    It’s singular: “Where the Streets Have No Name”

    Reply
  • 4. James  |  November 6, 2011 at 4:59 am

    I was in Japan too and was suprised how easy it was to find everything there. I live in vancouver now but it compared to vancouver streets, streets in japan are cake walk. I dont know why north american cities do something like that.

    Reply
  • 5. Seokso  |  December 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Korea was the same, but they’ve recently added numbered street names to many places. Another challenge for westerners: the house numbers are not in order by location, but by date of designation. So while my building was 53, my neighbor was 38.

    Reply

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