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How To Read Out The Things That Aren’t Written Explicitly In Japanese: Postal Addresses

One of my continuing sub-interests in Japanese has been how to read things that aren’t explicitly written in Japanese. These things are a part of the Japanese language, and there are widely accepted ways as to how to read them, but for whatever reason they’re so obvious or so unnecessary to write that everyone seems to overlook them.

In learning Japanese, I’m sure you’ve wanted to know — hey, how do you read out the pauses between a phone number? How do you say “model number” just before you read out the make and model of your brand new electronic dictionary? How do you read out the zip code in an address? How? How? How?

Today, let’s cover postal addresses by way of a real example taken off the internets.

This address is taken from the Minato-Ku (Minato Ward) official site. As you probably already know, a Japanese postal address can all go on one line, since kanji (都/道/府/県, 市区町村), rather than whitespace, breaks it up.

■〒105-8511 東京都港区芝公園1丁目5番25号.

OK, let’s take this address and break it up.

■〒 (reading: ゆう・びん・ばん・ごう) . “〒” is the general symbol for Japan Post. In this case (as often) it’s being used to denote that what follows it is no ordinary number, but a postal code.

■105-8511 (reading: いち・まる・ご・の・はち・ご・いち・いち). Notice how “0” can be read as “まる”. This is analogous to reading “0” as “oh” in English. You could also say “零”(reading: れい) or ゼロ; I never say ゼロ because I believe in speaking Japanese when using Japanese ;), pedantic sonofagun that I am. Notice also how the dash/breaker between the two groups of digits is read as “の” — just like with phone numbers.

OK, skip a few parts and go down to here. There are at least three different ways of writing (and about 5 ways of saying) what follows:

■1丁目5番地25号 (reading: いっ・ちょう・め ご・ばんち に・じゅう・ご・ごう)

■1丁目5番25号 (reading: いっ・ちょう・め ご・ばん・(ち) に・じゅう・ご・ごう). I would usually read this address with “ばん・ち”(番地) rather than just “ばん”(番), even though only 番 is written out. It’s like pronouncing “No. 1” as “number one”, even though it’s so heavily abbreviated.

■1-5-25 (reading: いち・の・いち・の・に・じゅうご OR いっ・ちょう・め ご・ばん・ち に・じゅう・ご・ごう). The first way is more common since it’s easier/shorter.

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you! So there it is — for more postal fun, check out Japan Post’s official site of web.

  5 comments for “How To Read Out The Things That Aren’t Written Explicitly In Japanese: Postal Addresses

  1. Alec
    June 9, 2007 at 06:05

    Useful post. It’s true that these things are overlooked!

  2. Kuri
    March 5, 2009 at 22:18

    Very helpful, been wondering about this but no course book/dictionary ever goes there. Every time someone asks my address when I’m in Japane I show them a card… pathetic 😛

    I bet the locals will be far more convinced of my good intentions if I can actually TELL them correctly where I am staying.

  3. Kaiwen
    March 25, 2010 at 18:02

    I learned how to do this well in Chinese by ordering delivery to my residence. If you order something tasty, getting it right is its own reward!

    Also, “1-5-25 (reading: いち・の・いち・の・に・じゅうご”

    Your middle いち should be a ご ^^

  4. Kazuau
    March 31, 2010 at 21:08

    Precisely speaking, the explanation of “番地” and “番” above is not correct.
    Please take a look at the following explanation:

    Every lot in a residential area has a “番地” which is the number to uniquely identify the piece of land.
    And only when the area is subject to “住居表示” , as defined in “住居表示に関する法律”,
    a “番” associated with a “号” is issued to each building in the area.
    So, usually different “番-号” and “番地” are assigned to the very same place and there may be two “番-号”s in a “番地” and V.V.

    Since “港区芝公園” is definitely subject to “住居表示”, technically you cannot write “5番地” in place of “5番” for this address.
    But, many native Japanese are ignorant about this distinction and there are no real-life issues brought up here.  Therefore, my argument is indeed pedantic 🙂

  5. May 11, 2011 at 05:22

    Anyone want to advise how to say ( )?

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