Japanese Suffixes:
Clues to Locations


While we don't need a passport, the Internet allows us to enter the realm of another country. Simply due to the nature of the undertaking, genealogical researchers often must venture beyond the boundaries of their current country of residence. They are quite naturally apt to interact with residents of the country being researched. In fact, we often must depend on people in another country for help. In English there is a proverb that goes When in Rome do as the Romans do. Japanese has a similar saying, Gou ni itte wa gou ni shitagae, meaning if one goes to a village, they should follow the customs of that village. While we're all still in the comfort of our homes, this page may provide the opportunity to be in Japan - if not in body then in spirit and in words.

Some will argue that using the following Japanese suffixes in conjunction with the roughly equivalent English word is redundant. Indeed, it may be. Using both suffixes and English words, however, will not only help us in perhaps capturing the attention of people from, in, or around a given village, more importantly being overly specific may go a long way toward helping Japanese people help us in our search.


Those familiar with, for example, the United States' system of addressing letters where the address follows the format of going from specific (recipient followed by recipient's house number and street) to general (city followed by state) will note that the Japanese format is quite the opposite. The format of a typical Japanese address usually goes from the prefectural or general area, down to the county, town, or village level, and finally terminates in the name of the small neighborhood as well as the individual's name. The name of the small neighborhood is often shown alongside numbers which can be likened to coordinates which represent clusters of houses in a neighborhood. These numbers are similar to house numbers in that occasionally a house posts a sign stating these coordinates. Most houses however (and unfortunately) don't post these numbers which makes pinpointing a house a bit of a social event (it often requires asking directions). Japanese neighborhoods do not have street names but rather local addresses refer to groups of houses or apartments.

From most general to most specific the following suffixes should be helpful in providing you with clues about place names:
-to, -do, -fu, -ken are all suffixes used for prefectures
-gun is the suffix used to represent a county
-shi is the suffix used for a city
-cho is the suffix used to identify a town
-mura or -son are the suffixes used to denote a village
-ku represents a ward
-chome often represents a block or area number
-ban can be translated to mean number

Take me to the list of regions, prefectures, and capitals on the island of:

Let me see that detailed slow loading map. (Takes about 7 1/2 minutes to load.)
Take me to the list of emperor reign years and their corresponding Western years.

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Thanks to Debbie McMillan-Ito for creating this page!
Last updated July 9, 1998