Whether it’s in 漢字 or in romaji/English, there are a few particularities to the Japanese address system. The best way to learn how is to first understand the parts that make up the address.
The Parts of a Japanese Address
This is the 7-digit code in the address, often found following the 〒 (postal service) symbol.
The name of the prefecture will include one of four kanji (都道府県). In romaji, these suffixes are written as -to, -do, -fu, and -ken.
The name of the city, town, village, or ward will include one of another set of four kanji (区市町村). These suffixes are written as -ku, -shi, -chou/-machi, and -son/-mura (-machi and -mura are alternate readings of -chou and -son, respectively).
This is the next section of the address and varies in length, sometimes including information such as relative geographical location, or further subdivisions called 字 (aza), depending on the region.
烏丸通七条下ル 東塩小路町 (Karasuma-Shichijo-sagaru Higashi-Shiokoji-chou; lit. Below Karasuma-Shichijo intersection, in East Shiokoji-chou)
雄和椿川字奥椿岱 (Yuwa-Tsubakigawa Aza-Okutsubakidai)
District, Block, and Building numbers
These numbers — usually a set of two or three — typically refer to the district number, block number, and building number (丁目・番・号; -chome, -ban, and -go, respectively). Can be formally written out using kanji, but is more commonly written out simply as numbers, or a combination of the two.
6-chome 3-ban 2-go
Building Name and Floor or Room Number
This last part usually only pertains to larger buildings (ビル, or biru, in Japanese) which include multiple offices, stores, or apartments. For commercial buildings or other buildings in which each floor is a separate tenant, only a floor number will usually be used with the kanji 階 (kai), or the letter F. Apartment buildings (the large variety of which are called “mansion” in Japan) and other buildings in which there are many tenants per floor will list a room number, often with the kanji 室号 (shitsugo). Stand-alone family houses will not usually include this information.
After understanding all the parts, the next step is to put them together. The order in which they are placed depends on whether the address is being written in 漢字 or romaji/English.
A Japanese address that is written in 漢字 (kanji) will follow the order of postal code first, followed by the largest to the smallest unit of size. (Essentially, the order in which the various parts are listed above.) For example, the address of the Ghibli Museum here in Tokyo is as follows:
Separated, these are the individual parts:
Postal code: 〒181–0013
District, block, and building numbers: 1丁目1−83
To help comply with international standards, Japanese addresses that are written in romaji (i.e., the romanized alphabet) follow a different order. Basically speaking, each of the blocks is reversed. The same address for the Ghibli Museum in romaji is as follows:
The address consists of the same blocks listed for the kanji version, but simply in a reversed order: district, block, and building numbers, neighborhood, city/ward, prefecture, postal code.
With the simplicity of a largest-to-smallest/smallest-to-largest address order, it can’t get much easier.