Mapping Japan in English

Jun 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Travel

Once you have familiarized yourself with with the variety of options for getting around in Japan the next issue that you will need to tackle is how to find everything.  While finding English maps online is not impossible, it can be a challenge especially if you are nowt following a predetermined route from a guidebook or tourism website.

The independent traveler may want to visit an out of the way place and travelers with special interests may want to locate a specific store or attraction that is only mentioned in passing online or in print media.  The ability to map your own travel route in Japan is a plus and two websites can help you do just that – with easy to use interface is in English.

tokyo street signs

The Japanese address system can be very confusing to foreigners.  A typical Japanese address looks like this one for Wakafuku near the Kameido Shrine in Tokyo:

3-6-4 Kameido, Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-0071 OR 6-4 Kameido 3-chome, Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-0071

It’s just an address you might say, but where is the street name?  And the street address?  So let’s break down the format of a Japanese address:

3 (Chome)-6 (City Block)-4 (Building number) Kameido (Area)
6 (City Block)-4 (Building number), Kameido 3-chome
Koto-ku (Ward), Tokyo (Prefecture) 136-0071 (Postal Code)

While Japan does have street names they do not come into play in their address system.  Finding the address above or any other one for that matter can be a challenge.  Buildings can be tightly packed together, streets narrow and curvy with street signs in English will probably help you find the right chome or district but from then it can be a bit challenging…


That’s where tools like diddlefinger come in.  With an easy to use interface in either English or Japanese you simply enter the various components of an address and presto you have a map!  Print it out and you can find almost any place in Japan and locate the closest train station to your destination.

Here is a link to the access map for Kameido Shrine on diddlefinger.  If you zoom out on this map you will see that the closest station to Kameido Shrine is Kameido.   Click on the station name and you will see that the shrine is .13 kilometers from the station as the crow flies.  Print the map for walking directions or show it to a taxi driver and you are ready to go!


A similar tool is MapFan which is very handy for the tourist but less so at finding a specific address.  MapFan allows your to search by point of interest or train station and returns results that include nearby tourist attractions, stores, restaurants and even hospitals within a search area that can be as wide as ten kilometers or as small as 500 meters.

The map of the Kameido Station area shows that there are nine difference dining option near the Kameido Shrine and two conveniently located hotels.

If you are planning a day in one area of Japan, use MapFan to find nearby places to add to your itinerary or simply to figure out where you might want to eat lunch!

Either of these tools will help make navigating Japan a lot easier and are a valuable tool to have on your trip planning bag of tricks.

Image Credit:  Tokyo Street Signs on Flickr by Timothy Lloyd

WP Greet Box icon
Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates.

Join JapanSoc Today!
The #1 social bookmarking site for Japan-related blogs, news and people.

Japanese Street Art

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment »

  1. your example address, in japanese, would read:
    東京都江東区亀戸3丁目6番地4号(the last part is commonly written simply as3−6−4)right?
    in which case, “kameido 3” is the neighborhood chome/district, 6 the city block and 4 the building number…

    also, as a side note, i’ve found that regardless of the order you write the address (japanese style, city down, or american style, street up) as long as all the numbers are somewhere on the envelope, it gets there. a little thank you to the japanese postal workers. :)

  2. Just wondering if you get lost a lot. When all three numbers are used without specifying the chome, the chome number is first. For instance, if the address you listed above were written 3-6 Kameido, 4 Chome
    Koto-ku, Tokyo 136-0071, you would be correct. But when it’s written 3-6-4 Kameido, 3 is the chome number. Wiki and my own experience in Tokyo support my opinion.

  3. @Jenn I don’t get lost very often at all – a little disoriented at times though but I’m sure that’s the case with pretty much everyone navigating an area that is unfamiliar. The tools I mentioned help a lot when heading out to different places though and save you from trying to decide which format the address is in. I have never really relied much on addresses when navigating the city – primarily maps and directions from friends citing landmarks.

    Thank you for the link to Wikipedia – it just confirms that the address system is confusing don’t you think? I will take a detailed read through the article and adjust this one so as to not confuse people even more.

  4. No big deal, the numbers were mixed up. We get the point though – addresses in Japan are very confusing. Nice post!

  5. i’ve also found that it helps a lot to just map things out for yourself beforehand. Websites such as Google Maps make it very easy to find an address or location on the web. From there it’s trivial to map out your route to/from the nearest station. On my first trip to Japan I went so far as to draw an outline of the various train routes I needed to take, followed by a sketch of the surrounding area.

Leave Comment