Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

April 25, 2011

Kyoto Files: Kyoto addresses

In the long and difficult address system of Kyoto you often find the terms "agaru" and "sagaru." "Agaru" of course means "to go up" and "sagaru" "to go down." This is symbolically measured from the old imperial palace which originally was situated in the northern-most part of Kyoto, as one explanation tells us. Or, less poetically, it refers to the geographical situation that the Kyoto basin gradually slopes upward - when you stand in northern Kyoto, you are on the same level as the top of the pagoda of Toji! So, in translation, "agaru" means "north of" and "sagaru" "south of."

What about east and west? Here we have the terms "Nishi-iru" and "Higashi-iru" which are self-explanatory ("iru" means "to turn into"). This form of addressing is of course at all possible because the old city of Kyoto was laid out like a go-board.

So here is the test: "Kawaramachi-dori Sanjo Agaru" means "north from the crossing of Kawaramachi-dori and Sanjo(-dori)."

And "Shijodori Yamato-oji Higashi-iru" means "east from the crossing of Shijodori and Yamato-oji."