Japanese

How to Say Town in Japanese – There are Several Ways

Today I’d like to spend a little bit time teaching you how to say town in Japanese. As it turns out, there are actually quite a few different ways to do so, and the particular word that you will want to use depends primarily on what kind of town it is.

In addition to showing the kanji for each one, I’d also like to provide a few example sentences so that you can get a better understanding of each one.

Let’s start off this lesson by starting with the most common ones first.

The Japanese Word for Town is Machi – まち

The first word you should know is まち (machi) which typically use the kanji 町 when it is written in books, manga, newspapers and so forth.

However, there is actually another kanji (this one → 街) with the same reading and meaning that you will sometimes see.

So the big question that a lot of people have is: “what’s the difference between 町 and 街?” And the answer is that they primarily refer to different types of towns.

町 is typically used for smaller towns, whereas 街 would be used for bigger ones that have been more developed, have more streets and such established.

However, having said that I wouldn’t worry about the fine details too much since the context in which they appear will usually be enough to help you understand the nuances.

ここは町の中心です。
This is the center of town.

街を歩いているあの男は叔父です。
That man who is walking around the town is my uncle.

Something else you should know is that 街 is often used to mean street or road in Japanese, and even one of the definitions of 街 says exactly this:

  • 「街」 町中を区切る通り。
  • 「まち」A street that separates the town.

Also, something to be aware of is that 街 gets used in compound words a lot, such as 商店街「しょうてんがい」 which means shopping district in Japanese. You can see that it is simply a combination of the word for shop 商店 and street/town 街.

この辺には商店街がありますか?
Is there a shopping district around this area?

Alright, I think that’s probably enough information on まち. Let’s move on to some other words that can also mean town.

Other Words You Might See

First of all you will probably see the word 都市 「とし」 at some point, which can be interpreted as town, but is really more like a city.

私は大都市が好きです。
I like big cities.

Another word is 村「むら」 which (again) is sometimes translated into English as town, but it’s other possible translation of village gives you a much better feeling for it.

もし世界が百人の村だったら…
If the world was a village of 100 people…

And actually, the kanji 村 is a pretty common one that appears in Japanese last names such as the following:

  • 田村 = Tamura
  • 木村 = Kimura
  • 中村 = Nakamura
  • 村田 = Murata

Did you notice how that last name is just a reverse of the first name? That’s something that you will occasionally see pairs of kanji do in order to create a new word. It can be easy to mix them up if you’re not paying close attention. 日本 and 本日 for example, still get me sometimes.

Let’s rattle off a few more useful words.

市街 「しがい」can mean town, but usually it’s more like an urban area.

タウン is the English loan word for town, and it doesn’t really have and special meaning for the type of town it’s used for, but rather, it is very often used in the name of the town. You know, using katakana gives it that cool vibe.

ベースボールタウンへようこそ!
Welcome to Baseball Town!

Honestly, it seems like there is practically an English loan word for everything in Japanese! I actually get a little confused when I come across a new load word, but it’s from a different language like French or Portuguese.

Some Cool Related Words

To finish up this lesson, I thought that it would be a good idea to go over a few words that have a different meaning, but are still kind of related to towns.

The first one is 地元「じもと」which means home area or home town and is used to refer to the place where you grew up when you were a kid, and where your parents and such probably still live.

地元の福島県だね。
It’s my local area, Fukushima prefecture.

A word that pops up a lot if you read fantasy light novels in Japanese is 城下町「じょうかまち」which means castle town and refers to the houses and shops that typically surround the castle, but are still within the outer walls for protection.

俺達は城下町の方へ戻るのだった。
We were going back to the castle town.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for you this time. I hope you enjoyed!


Do you know any other Japanese words for town? What about some cool related words you’ve encountered? Let me know with a comment below!

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