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北谷町 and 下町 The first one is pronounced Chatanchou and the second is Shitamachi. The second term is within an area of the the first one. Is a machi smaller than a chou? In the past was the term ノ・の used in between the kanji to indicate a machi, for example shita no machi?

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    The tendency chou vs machi seems to be dependent on area (western vs eastern) link 1 link 2. Size is irrelevant; there is no way to tell which is correct for a particular city. – Yosh Aug 10 at 15:08
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In the east of Japan, Machi is used more often.
In the west, Cho is used more often.
Google “まち ちょう” and you will find a good picture.

  • I'm not sure I agree with this assessment. Having lived in western Japan, usage in my experience was about 50/50. More populated areas tended to be read machi, and less populated areas tended to be read chou, but exceptions were common. – ajsmart Aug 19 at 13:46
  • @ajsmart I was confused by this as well. I live in Kochi which is categorized as having 17 ちょう and no まち even though I can think of a bunch of まち all around town. Upon further inspection it turns out this is specifically referring to 自治体. Forgive me if I'm telling you something you already knew. Since the question is about reading of the character and is not limited to 自治体, I don't think it can qualify as an answer to this question. – By137 Aug 19 at 14:04
  • @By137 I never actually made that connection before, but it totally fits! In terms 自治体, that is probably a difference between east and west Japan, but having very limited time in the east, I don't know... – ajsmart Aug 19 at 14:31
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If you study kanji more, you'll realize that both readings are acceptable depending on the circumstances. Learning what reading is correct in each situation is something that you will have to practice a lot before you get the feel for it.

In general, more populated areas tended to be read まち, and less populated areas tended to be read ちょう, but exceptions were very common. Additionally, as @Yosh as pointed out in the comments, size of the region doesn't necessarily affect the reading either.

For the purpose of addresses, in my experience a まちand a ちょうare mutually exclusive since they mean the same thing. So no, a まちcannot be in a ちょう, and the opposite is also true.

  • I think it depends on the size of the area. – JACK Aug 10 at 13:55
  • Yes and no. You go to rural cities, and it appears that the more rural areas are generally chou, but that's not always the case. – ajsmart Aug 10 at 13:58

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