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Data Quality Spotlight: Japan

Date: June, 2014 --


Despite its relatively small geographic size, Japan is well known as an accessible, receptive and hugely viable marketplace for products and services from both domestic and international marketers. The natural result of the aforementioned environment means competition, and an effective data management strategy accounting for all the key regional nuances is a key component to successful Japanese data-driven campaigns. With that in mind, here we’ll profile Japan as a marketplace and detail the data management best practices you’ll need to succeed in working with address databases incorporating both Roman and native-language multi-byte character sets.

Key Geographic & Economic Factors

Japan is a nation of islands, 6,852 to be exact, but its four main islands, Honshu (where Tokyo is located), Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, make up 97% of the country’s total land area, are home to the country’s largest cities, and are likely to be the areas of primary focus for most international marketers. Also good to note that the totality of Japan is divided into 47 ‘prefectures’, which are the regional equivalent to states or provinces.

Despite having the world’s 10th largest population, Japan is home to the world’s third largest economy, behind only China, which took over the second position in 2010, and the United States. Japan’s population, at least when compared to the US, is strikingly homogenous, with approximately 98.5% of its roughly 127.6 million people classified as Ethnic Japanese.

Potential Data Management Challenges

1)    The Language and Multi-Byte Data Challenge

Japan originally borrowed its written language from China. The Chinese characters, called Kanji, were later supplemented by two additional character sets based on the way Japanese syllables sounded when they were pronounced. These two additional character sets, Katakana and Hiragana, sound the same but are written differently and used for different purposes; just as a lower case ‘a’ and an upper case ‘A’ sound the same in English, but are written completely differently. Romanji (or Romaji) is a Romanized version of the Katakana or Hiragana character sets. Because these characters are encoded in two or more bytes, hence the double-byte and multi-byte data terminology, native-language Japanese address databases can present a challenge for traditional North American and European data processing systems.

2)    The Japanese Postal Challenge

Until contemporary improvements were implemented, Japanese homes were numbered not by geographic sequence, but according to when they were built. A setup where the next-higher number than a given residence not necessarily being next-door, but possibly several blocks away created obvious issues. The good news is that Japanese postmen apparently have very good memories given that the mail delivery service from Japan Post, even when the former organizational system was commonplace and while the current system is still characterized by certain irregularities, is excellent.

Standardizing Japanese Address Data

When processing address data for Japan, Data Services, Inc. leverages a comprehensive process involving sophisticated proprietary address standardization routines developed over decades of working with international address data. Keep in mind this pre-processing takes place before any data hits our Japanese address validation software, and is done to ensure records are properly standardized and optimally formatted in such a way that guarantees the best possible outcome in the correction/validation phase, which incorporates matching up against the postal database for Japan.

Roman & Multi-Byte Character Address Validation for Japan

While Data Services, Inc. is able to standardize and ensure proper formatting for addresses from 240 countries and territories, we employ an alpha scale, ranging from A – E, in order to denote the level to which we are able to validate the individual elements within a postal address record for a given country. This will range from ‘Level A’ countries, where full delivery point verification is possible, to ‘Level E’ countries where no postal data is available and DSI is only able to assist with assuring proper formatting of the addresses on your file (For a complete list of countries with corresponding codes, see here). Japan falls under ‘Level C’ meaning validation takes place at the City & Post Code Level.

Effective Data Quality Management with Japan-Complete

With Japan-Complete, Data Services offers organizations working with postal address data for Japan a complete solution to manage both Roman and all local-language character sets, including:

  • Address and Postal Code validation and correction using the Japanese Postal Database
  • Isolation or assignment of city names, postal codes, and prefectures for address normalization
  • Assignment of a processing code for each record indicating validation or correction levels
  • Table matching to determine name sequence for normalization
  • Gender Coding 
  • Individual, Household, or Residential level merge/purge processing
  • Japanese Character set to Romanji matching to eliminate duplication across character sets
  • Detailed reports provided by key code summarizing data hygiene and merge/purge results
  • Roman & Multi-Byte data warehousing and online access for advanced segmentation and database analytics via MarketView data management platform.


Keep in mind that Data Services does not employ a one-size-fits all model to our clients and routinely customizes individual processing methodologies to ensure quality output purposed for your country-specific marketing programs and/or related data management initiatives. This approach is integral to client success in working with Japanese and other international data. Reach out to schedule a no-obligation consultation regarding your data management needs and/or request a Free Data Hygiene Test to see firsthand how your data will benefit from our benchmark international data quality services.