How to Write a Japanese Address on an Envelope
Every once in a while, there are cases where you’ll find yourself needing to write out a Japanese address on an envelope, often for one of the following reasons:
Business and personal city office-related procedures that require mail-in processes
Nengajo or other seasonal greetings to friends or acquaintances
Shipping items domestically (Merukari or other second-hand sales)
Today, we’re covering just the essentials of what you need to know to confidently write to a colleague or mail in that form to the ward office. Let’s get started.
What’s the difference between the Japanese address format vs. international address format?
Image: Example of a typical Japanese address, Midori Japan
Domestically, the Japanese address system follows this order, moving from top to bottom and then from right to left:
Town or village
Street, block number, house number
Building name and building number, if applicable
Apartment number, if applicable
Name of addressee
In the Japanese addressing system, the stamp goes in the upper left-hand corner (if the address is written vertically) and the sender’s name and address go on the back of the envelope.
Basically, the Japanese official national address system is largely the opposite of how you address an envelope internationally.
Image: Japan Post
The international address format, from top to bottom:
Name of addressee
Name of the building and room number (if applicable)
House number, street address, town/village
Postal codes, country
The stamp position for Western countries is the right-hand corner with the sender’s name and address on the front of the envelope.
How to write Japanese addresses on an oblong envelope 和封筒
The standard Japanese envelope is a vertical envelope that is oblong in shape and is often referred to as 和封筒= wafuutou or長形封筒= nagagata fuutou. These envelopes generally have postal code boxes for you to write the postal code at the top.
For this type of envelope, the recipient's address is meant to be written vertically, top to bottom and right to left, in the Japanese postal format described above.
Midori-Japan, a popular stationary seller, provides the following guidance in the letter-writing etiquette section on their website, which we’ve summarized below.
Image: Midori Japan
The stamp goes in the top left corner.
Leave 1 character space between the postal code box and the placement of the address.
Write numerals using Japanese characters (kanji).
If you are writing to a superior or for a formal occasion, then write out the building and apartment name in full (no abbreviations).
The name of the person you are writing to should be written one character lower than the postal code in the center. Write the name in larger letters than the address.
If the addressee is living with someone else or staying in a boarding house, write their name on a separate line, slightly to the upper right, in smaller letters than the addressee’s name.
Write your name and address in the center of the envelope.
After sealing the envelope, write one of the following characters: 「〆」「封」「緘」over the envelop lip. 「〆」is the most common character to use. For celebratory occasions, use 「寿」or「賀」. Stickers or stamps can be used in place of a sealing character.
If you want to add the date the envelope was sealed, write it on the left side. Placing the date on the back of the letterhead is good etiquette, as well as writing the date on the envelope as well.
How to write a Japanese address on a Western envelope 洋封筒
The traditional Western envelope 洋封筒 = youfuutou doesn’t have the length needed to write horizontally. But that’s OK. When using a Western envelope, write the Japanese address horizontally instead of vertically.
Image: Midori Japan
Here are the key points to remember when using a Western envelope (horizontal envelope) and shipping from Japan, according to Midori Japan:
Put the stamp in the upper right corner.
To avoid writing your address too close to the edge of the page, start by leaving a space of about two characters from the left edge.
When writing an address horizontally, use arithmetic numbers.
The recipient's name should be written in the center of the letter, slightly larger than the address.
The sender information should be written underneath the envelope lip. (See image for where to align each row of text.
Western envelopes do not need to be sealed (although, if you wish to, you can). You can also use a sealing sticker or stamp.
If you want to include the date the letter was sealed, write it on the left side. Placing the date on the back of the letterhead is good etiquette, as well as writing the date on the envelope as well.
How to write a Japanese address in English
If you would prefer to write the Japanese address in English, you would follow international postal protocol. With the address starting with the addressee’s name and ending with the postal code.
Here’s an example of a Japanese address (see address on the left) and the English address following the international postal system (see address listed on the right).
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