Writing an address in Japanese can be tedious at best, and end disastrously at worst. We have compiled an easy-to-follow guide to help you.
First, let’s go over postcards. There are two general types. Standard blank postcards can be purchased at any convenience store or stationery store. You can also purchase proprietary cardstock to print your own postcards.
Whether you purchase or print your postcard, you will have to address it at some point. Here is an example of what that will look like:
To the untrained eye, this is just a mess of disorganized kanji characters in a puzzle-like configuration. The following image and explanations will help you make sense of how addressing should be done.
In the event you have to address an envelope to more than one person, it should be formatted as below:
The given names should start at the same level, and the 様 should end at the same level, even if the given names are of different lengths.
When addressing an envelope, the rules for the recipient’s name and address are the same as above. The sender’s name and address, however, should go on the back of the envelope. Finally, a simple X (or 〆) mark should be drawn over the sealed envelope flap to assure the recipient that their envelope has not been opened:
When addressing an envelope, 様 is not always used. There are many cases when a different form of official address is used in 様’s place. The table below explains situations in which the following should be used instead of 様.
|Kanji||How to read||Meaning / When to use|
|様||sama||When sending to one or two people.|
|御中||onchuu||When sending to a company, hospital, school, or other type of business or organization.|
|各位||kakui||When sending to a large group of people, such as a group’s entire membership or an entire team.|
|行||iki||This is the default that will appear in the formal address placement on pre-printed or pre-written envelopes (for the purpose of sending documentation back etc.). It is the responsibility of the sender of the pre-printed envelope to cross this out and replace it with the appropriate address from this chart. Example: On a pre-printed envelope from your bank requesting you to send documents for review, cross out 行 with two diagonal slashes and write 御中 either beside or below it.|
|宛||ate||This is the same as 行 above, but when sending to a single person rather than an organization or company.|
|ご一同様||Goichidou sama||When sending to an entire company, organization, or family.|
Mailing your postcard or envelope is quite easy. You can opt to either drop your mail into a public mailbox or take it inside the post office directly.
If you opt for a mailbox, you will notice that most Japanese mailboxes have different slots indicated for different types of mail. Many mailboxes have English available, but some (such as in the countryside) may not.
Slots indicated for small letters and postcards will be labeled with 手紙・はがき. Larger envelopes may be placed in the larger その他郵便物. If you are not sure of the postage required, it is always better to stop inside the post office and mail your item directly.
If you cannot find a mailbox nearby, your local Lawson convenience store will have a mailbox located near the front of the store.
年賀状 are traditional New Year’s cards sent to your friends, extended or married family members, and perhaps your coworkers. They are sent as well-wishes and good luck charms to welcome in the new year. It is generally seen as bad taste to not send 年賀状. 年賀状 can be given to your local post office any time in December, and they will be delivered on New Year’s Day.
If you receive a 年賀状 from someone you did not send one too, it is customary to send them one back the following year. However, if you receive a 喪中 (number 2 below), it is very important that you do NOT send a 年賀状 to that person or family.
喪中 are grief cards that are sent out to the people you typically receive 年賀状 from. The purpose of these cards is to inform the recipients that there has been a death in the family that year, so there is no need to send 年賀状 that year. It is considered very poor taste to send 年賀状 to a person or family from whom you have received 喪中, so it is important to adhere to this social norm.
If you are to receive one, it will be delivered between mid-November and early December, so you can begin planning your 年賀状 around mid-December.
|エアメール||Ea meeru||Air Mail|
|船便（ふなびん）||hunabin||Shipping by boat|
|日数（にっすう）||nissuu||Number of days|
|郵便番号（ゆうびんばんごう）||yuubin bangou||Postal code/ zip code|
|国際郵便（こくさいゆうびん）||Kokusai yuubin||International mail|
|EMS||-||EMS (international express mail)|
|電話番号（でんわばんごう）||Denwa bangou||Phone number|
|個数（こすう）||kosuu||Number of packages|
|価格（かかく）||kakaku||Value of contents|
|損害補償（そんがいほしょう）||Songai hoshou||Shipping insurance|