I'm struggling to understand the difference between the verb suffix ～方【かた】 and the noun 方法【ほうほう】. As an example, the difference between 遊び方 (which seems to mean something like "manner in which someone is playing") and 遊ぶ方法 (which seems to mean something like "means by which someone is playing"). I'm also not sure whether the former is the same as 遊びの仕方 (and if so, this page answers my question). Can anyone help me to clear these up? Thanks!
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From the excellent A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
The important part below:
Isn't the difference between 〜方 & 方法 much the same as the difference between "way" and "method" in English (basically a way is method but method is usually used when describing a more complicated, systematic process).
If you take a look at the definitions in English you will find the same difference between the two Japanese expressions in the others' explanations:
You can experiment with different expressions in Japanese (eg やり方 vs やり方法）but it might be more productive to get on top these and then comeback when you have more practical experience using the two expressions.
From your comment:
Maybe someone has a habit of letting his soup cool before drinking, and he always has his soup in this manner because he doesn't like it piping hot. This is his way of drinking soup. Or he always stirs the soup exactly 3 times before drinking. This is his way of drinking soup. I believe this corresponds to 飲み方, a rather generic "way of doing".
Now for 方法, I believe that this refers to a more methodical, didactic type of "way of doing". For example, the 方法 of drinking soup could be something like: