Looking at Google Maps I noticed when translating to Japanese some names are hyphenated and others are not. It seems to be arbitrary but maybe there's some Japanese rule I'm unaware of

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The first example I noticed is "Daikan-Yama" which at first I thought, "Okay, that's strange" but then I thought, "well, I guess if you think of it as Mount Daikan then it might make sense".

But there's is apparently no rhyme or reason as to when something is hyphenated. Followed the "Daikan-Yama" example I'd expect "Sangu-bashi" as in "Sangu Bridge" or "Aka-saka" as in "Red Hill" or "Shibu-Ya" as in "Shibu Valley". We see "Higashi-Kitazawa" for "East Kitazawa" but we don't see "Shimo-Kitazawa" for "Lower Kitazawa".

Is there any actual rule or is it just arbitrary?

  • Very possibly Daikan-Yama is to make it clear that it's だいかんやま (daikan'yama) and not だいかにゃま (daikanyama, with a 'nya'), but that doesn't explain any of the others.
    – hobbs
    Aug 28, 2016 at 15:58
  • Google is mother of all the probabilistic computation. If they referred any source, 駒場東大前 wouldn't be separated as Komabatodai-Mae, because it's historically two stations Komaba and Todaimae merged together. keio.co.jp/train/station/57_komabatodaimae Sep 17, 2016 at 5:29

2 Answers 2


Seeing Ikeno-Ue I'll venture a guess and say that there is no reason why Google Maps hyphenates some place names and not others.

Here ノ is the particle の and I would say that hyphenation of 池ノ上 ike no ue based on the Japanese language should be one of the following

  1. Ikenoue
  2. Ike-no-Ue (or Ike-No-Ue)
  3. Ike no Ue (or Ike No Ue)

although I'd definitely choose the first (it a single name).

In some cases (e.g. Shimbashi) Google Maps seems to use the romanization given by the train company, but in this case Keio Corporation has romanized 池ノ上 as Ikenoue


Some hyphens seem to be placed appropriately, separating a name from a prefix (Shin-Daita) or from a suffix (Meidai-Mae).

Maybe the hyphen in Daikan-Yama was put to distinguish n'ya (two morae) and nya (one mora). Here 山 yama should be part of the name and not a suffix. (And, by the way "Mount Daikan" would be Daikan-San.)

I agree that the hyphenation of Shimokitazawa and Higashi-Kitazawa is inconsistent, as is the (non-)hyphenation of Higashishinbashi (where Higashi should be a prefix)



Is there any Japanese language reason why Google Maps hyphenates some names and not others?


  • I like your "tl;dr"... the universal rule in these cases is that there is no rule. Aug 28, 2016 at 14:48
  • 1
    @BrianChandler Of course there are no rules, but one could certainly cook up a consistent set of rules. However, it seems that this hasn't been done (and I guess it doesn't really matter).
    – Earthliŋ
    Aug 28, 2016 at 16:29

( Map and train companies, and English-language newspapers must have stylebooks and style guides for these things.)

Akasaka and Shibuya (like Ginza) are among the most famous places in Tokyo, and Jp people are used to seeing them in Roman alphabet, so they wouldn't be written as "Aka-saka" or "Shibu-Ya" -- except for some particular effect.

The same for "Shimokitazawa" ( not "Shimo-Kitazawa" ) --- https://taiken.co/uploads/2016/01/21418829858_22386637eb_o-medium.jpg

find-travel.jp -- 下北沢はグルメ、カルチャーのホットスポット!音楽、ファッション、サブカルの最先端を常に発信し続ける、個性豊かな街。 カフェもレストランもユニークなお店が集まっていて、散策しているだけで楽しいです。 また、ライブハウスや劇場も多く、 ...

Shin-Daita ... There may be historical reasons for preferring Shin- with hyphen. (for this and for other names) (or just to avoid Shinyokohama しにょ ...)

They seem to use [School name]-Mae.

Elsewhere too "... -cho" is usu. connected without a hyphen. (e.g. Yurakucho)

Naka-Meguro -- maybe this is because Meguro is so historically famous. ... 目黒のさんま

I've seen several Jp Web pages discussing this and related matters. Train stations tend to insert more hyphens to improve readability, and each train company has its own rules and conventions.

The following page contains partial summaries of rules followed by JR東日本, 東京メトロ, and つくばエクスプレス


  • Are you saying the more famous a place name is, the less likely it is to separate prefix (like Shimo or Kami or Higashi) with a hyphen?
    – Earthliŋ
    Aug 30, 2016 at 19:34
  • -- or that if a hyphen-less name is already common, that convention is followed.
    – HizHa
    Aug 30, 2016 at 21:07
  • How about Higashishinbashi? The famous part is Shinbashi and elsewhere Higashi is usually connected with a hyphen.
    – Earthliŋ
    Aug 31, 2016 at 6:03
  • 1
    Well you'd be wrong about shimokitazawa. I just went by and the station signs say "shimo-kitazawa". I didn't get my phone out in time to snap it but you can see it in the Keio line map. Seems clear it's just random. goo.gl/images/6PL6ru
    – gman
    Sep 1, 2016 at 7:24

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