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Japanese Street Addresses and Other Cultural Opposites


(YouTube Link)


This video by musician and entrepreneur Derek Sivers provides several examples of American cultural norms that are counterintuitive in other societies. For example, Americans navigate roads with street addresses, but Japanese streets don't have names. So how do travelers in Japan find a particular place?

via Urlesque | Sivers' Website

So many people don't realize that much of what they think to be logical or even instinctual behavior is actually learned cultural behavior. It is what separates us and what makes the world such an interesting place.
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I'd heard that about Japanese house numbers, but I still don't see how one finds an address. Is everyone supposed to know the construction sequence for every block?
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@Baba

My wife and I spent our honeymoon there and it's not particularly frustrating or anything, just exceptionally confusing to westerners. The only thing that really messed us up was that the signage on intersections says the same thing for both streets. As long as you're in the city though they have maps everywhere, so it's not too bad.
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I love how in the monologued conversation between the westerner and the Japanese person, the narrators Japanese accent sounds like a mildly-English, polite gentleman.
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Many thousands of blocks of Japan homes were destroyed in WWII, so numbering houses by date of construction (or reconstruction) is haphazard, at best. And that's why Cartesian coordinates were not invented in Japan.
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The have a very impractical system of language.
The have a very impractical cartography system.
The have a very impractical system of cutlery.
I'm surprised they can get anything done.
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@caveman

They do just fine from what I've seen.

You don't automatically know street name do you? You only learn the ones you need to get to. Streets are the same, you only learn the ones you need to take. Same with comparing a phonetic language to a pictographic one... you simply cannot compare the two.

Impractical cultery? Are you referring to chopsticks? It took a while for me to learn to how use them effectively as a kid, but I did, and still use them today when I have Asian food at lunch.

If you can't adapt to thinking differently, you're probably better off not trying.
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Directions are given by compass, distance and by referencing landmarks. "Take the east exit and turn left. Go three blocks. Turn right at the Takoyaki shop. Wait for the tatoo'd man." That's if your traveling by foot or train. If you have a car then you likely also possess a GPS and needn't worry.

AS for cutlery I side with caveman. Chopsticks are delicate and require practice. They are so designed to enable a person to delicately select a single serving of food and gently place it in ones mouth. A fork/spoon allows anyone (on their first try) to shovel large amounts of virtually anything into the mouth. You don't even have to pay attention to what your eating. Heck with practice you can skip the chewing part altogether... much more efficient.
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I design housing developments (in America, and as part of that process blocks and individual house lots are indeed numbered. So it is possible to ind your house by block and lot number. Usually late in the development process, the city takes over and assigns addresses to the house lots, which becomes it's mailing address. But my tax records lists my property as Fairchild addition section 11, block 13, lot 6.
much more similiar to the japanese style.
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