Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The American GeniusThe American Genius

Opinion Editorials

Why streets don’t have names in Japan

What we take for granted

map of japanWe recently watched an interesting TED Talk that spent a moment on how neighborhoods are set up here versus in Japan and I had no idea that we took for granted how a neighborhood is structured. Of course here, we have streets, ideally on a grid, and each home is numbered so that driving down a street, homes are in order.

This is not so in Japan where streets don’t have names. Seriously. The spaces in between streets are named and house numbers are given according to when they were built. Derek Sivers explains:

In college, I studied English Literature and Spanish language, both of which required me to take a LOT of courses about culture. I’m relatively well versed in Western culture, but Eastern culture is very difficult for me to understand, even though it is simple to spell out on paper.

In our culture, we focus on goal setting, but Eastern cultures focus more on the journey. In our culture, the focus is on self, but Eastern cultures focus on the universe and their relationship with it. They control their emotions through meditation, we control through analysis.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

See, it is easy to write down but it’s very hard to put yourself in another culture’s shoes, the same way it is hard to walk the streets of Japan and understand why there are no street names and why the numbering system is important to each culture.

These cultural differences are important to try to understand not only because studying other cultures helps us in a transaction (when you’re across the table from someone from another culture) but because it helps us to understand our own culture, especially the things we take for granted.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Sasutan

    April 19, 2010 at 5:07 am

    I live in Tokyo and while the different neighborhood systems is a nice difference to highlight – the tough reality is Japanese system is essentially useless. Addresses are meaningless unless you have a map.

  2. Jim Duncan

    April 19, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I saw this video a couple of weeks ago and showed it to my daughter – perspective is everything.

    Just because we believe our cultural perspectives to be “right” doesn’t mean that they’re “right” for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


American Genius
news neatly in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list for news sent straight to your email inbox.



The American Genius is a strong news voice in the entrepreneur and tech world, offering meaningful, concise insight into emerging technologies, the digital economy, best practices, and a shifting business culture. We refuse to publish fluff, and our readers rely on us for inspiring action. Copyright © 2005-2022, The American Genius, LLC.