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Meaning of the endings -ku -shi at city names

Discussion in 'Travelling in Japan' started by ggaribaldi, Oct 9, 2007.

  1. ggaribaldi

    ggaribaldi 後輩

    Oct 8, 2007

    What kind of a meaning do the endings like "-ku" or "-shi" at city names have?
    Are they important? I am currently formatting a list of Japanese wifi-hotspots and wonder that sometimes a cities name is expanded with such abbreviations.

    Thanks for helping!

  2. JimmySeal

    JimmySeal Tubthumper

    Mar 5, 2006
    -shi is the suffix for a city
    -ku (ward) is the suffix for a subsection of a large city
  3. ggaribaldi

    ggaribaldi 後輩

    Oct 8, 2007
    Thanks, but it is still not clear for me.

    In the database I have entries like
    Is Arakawa-ku a district of Arakawa or are Arakawa and Arakawa-ku both districts of a not mentioned city?

    Would it lead to untderstanding problems for Japanese users if I unify these entries?
  4. ajmd20

    ajmd20 先輩

    Aug 30, 2007
    From wikipedia: Arakawa (荒川区, Arakawa-ku) is a special ward located in Tokyo, Japan. In English, the ward calls itself Arakawa City.
  5. nice gaijin

    nice gaijin Resident Realist

    Aug 8, 2005
    are you saying that you have identical entries except for the suffix, or that your entry is just "arakawa" and "arakawa-ku"? Arakawa is a trolley line, a river, and a Tokyo ward. It covers a big area, so if that's the only information you have for a hotspot, it's already pretty useless.

    Generally, the ward suffix can be omitted without changing the meaning. An address in Shinjuku and Shinjuku-ku are the same place.
  6. epigene

    epigene 相変わらず不束者です

    Nov 10, 2004
    Usually, a "ku" is a subsection of a city, such as Naka-ku in Hiroshima City.

    For Tokyo, however, the 23 "kus" (wards) in Tokyo, including Arakawa, are regarded "cities" in English, therefore the confusion. In terms of Japanese political/administrative structure, Tokyo is called a "metropolis (-to)" and Arakawa or any other ward is a "city."

    So, I think you should always add "-ku." For "-shi", I suggest you either use it or replace it with "City."
    Omitting either of them may cause confusion.
  7. nanook

    nanook Wolf

    Jun 10, 2007
    In my list of postcodes, there is an entry for (in the form of Postcode, Prefecture, City, Town)
    116-0002 Toukyouto Arakawaku Arakawa.
    So, a town named Arakawa in the City (Ward) of Arakawaku in the Prefecture Tokyouto (Tokio) seems to exist. There are some other towns in Arakawaku ward, according to my little list.

    And there seem to be lots and lots of other "Arakawa" all over Japan, though.

    Hope, this helps (to further confuse you :) )
  8. Chris K

    Chris K 先輩

    Dec 28, 2006
    i guess its a case of a wider area or -ku being named after the central section that shares the same name. Shibyaku coveres areas like ebisu, harajuku and the specific area we all know as Shibuya.
    Much like where I live is part of the borough of Haringey there is a part of the borough, or ward, itself called haringey even though the borough itself is many times bigger and covers many other wards such as muswell hill, wood green etc. On a larger scale Northhamton is a small town in a much larger Northhamptonshire.
  9. ggaribaldi

    ggaribaldi 後輩

    Oct 8, 2007
    Thanks guys for helping! Yes, I am still a little confused but at least I am not alone ;).

    I saw another ending that appears quite often: -gun.
    What es the meaning of that one?
  10. nanook

    nanook Wolf

    Jun 10, 2007
    OK, I try the science of the obscurity of Japanese addresses :)

    Usually, an address has 4 levels:
    1st level is the prefecture "ken". Exceptions are Tokyo, which is named "to", as well as Osaka and Kyoto, which would be named "fu".

    2nd level is the city "shi", town or village like Nagoya-shi. If there is no city, but just countryside, it would be named "gun". If the city is big, there is a "ku" to slice and dice it further, as in "Nagoya-shi Minatou-ku". Smaller towns are not -shi but chou or "machi". Small villages are "mura".

    3rd level is the town or final place name, like the name of a village or town within a city.

    4th level would be block nr (chome) and house number (banchi)

    So your Arakawa would be in Tokyou Prefecture (Tokyouto), Second level would be Arakawaku, and the third level would be Arakawa town.

    I hope, I got this right...
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2007
  11. JimmySeal

    JimmySeal Tubthumper

    Mar 5, 2006
    Tokyo prefecture is Tokyo-to (short O at the end).
    The one other municipality that does not get a -ken designation is Hokkaido(u), which is just that.
  12. nanook

    nanook Wolf

    Jun 10, 2007
    Thanks, JimmySeal. I edited the short "o" into my post.
  13. Mike Cash

    Mike Cash Delusions of Adequacy

    Mar 15, 2002
    "gun" is a subdivision of a prefecture and may contain several cities, towns, or villages. (The distinction between city, town, and village is based on population in Japan). It is roughly equivalent to a "county" in the US.

    A big difference, though, is that there are governmental bodies at the county level in the US, while the "gun" is largely a meaningless and archaic term these days. One may drop it entirely from an address with no ill-effect whatsoever.

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