I've been in Japan for the summer and noticed that the announcement for the closing doors (in the Kansai area, at least) on trains is always 扉が閉まります. However, the equivalent announcement on buses appears to be a toss-up between 扉が閉まります and ドアが閉まります.

Is there an accepted distinction between 扉 and ドア? jisho.org gives ドア as a Western-style door and 扉 as a (generic) door. Are there any other distinguishing nuances?

  • 3
    Try a Google Image Search test. It doesn't always give you the right answer, but take a look... Compare the results for 扉 to the results for ドア. – snailcar Aug 23 '13 at 1:32
  • See also here for some general remarks on loan words. : Loanwords may acquire a narrower, more specific, meaning in Japanese than they have in their language of origin, or in their Japanese equivalent term. [...] Loanwords are often associated with a sophisticated, Western lifestyle, and may be used in place of Japanese words of equivalent meaning because of their foreign appeal. Their modern image often makes them preferable to domestic equivalents, where these exist. – blutorange Aug 23 '13 at 6:50
  • In the Kantou area I always heard ドアが閉まります on the trains. Others may have had different experiences, though. – ThisSuitIsBlackNot Aug 28 '13 at 21:24
  • In my feeling, no difference. I have a image like yu-ominae's answer. So ドア is gairaigo, the meaning get closer to 扉. – Takahiro Waki Jun 7 '16 at 17:05

I always think of 扉 as sliding doors (as also usual in trains and buses), and of ドア as a door with hinges (or some other more modern/Western construction, like elevator doors).

See 類語例解辞典《小学館1994,2003》

① 「扉」は、[蝶番]{ちょうつがい}などを軸に回転するようにして開閉する機構のものも左右に開閉するものもいう。

(「扉」 is used for both doors with hinges and sliding doors)


(「ドア」: mainly for doors with hinges; except for automatic doors, here it is common for sliding doors as well; only used for entrances/exits)

I suppose, when thinking of a western-style door, one associates it with ドア first, as it has got the more specific term ドア. Thus, 扉 is associated especially with sliding doors, in contrast to ドア. But as a general term, 扉 may refer to other kinds of doors, as evidenced by the [広辞苑]{こうじえん} definition [開]{ひら}き[戸]{ど}の[戸]{と}, and 扉 comes from [戸片]{とひら}.

  • I agree with this, but I have no reasoning. It just seems intuitively correct. – istrasci Aug 23 '13 at 5:27
  • @blutorange Usually we don't approve major edits like this; see this summary on MSO for what is usually acceptable. But I think Earthling welcomes this sort of community collaboration, so I picked "Approve" in this particular case. (Earthling, please let me know if I did the wrong thing :-) – snailcar Aug 23 '13 at 6:40
  • Alright, I'll keep that in mind, thanka for pointing that out. So in these cases, it is better to add a new answer, except when it is in the community wiki? – blutorange Aug 23 '13 at 6:54
  • @blutorange Yeah, I think the reason is that when it's not CW the original author still has their name on it, so you don't want to change what they're saying unless you know it's okay with them. (You can fix formatting, typos, merge in comments that don't substantially change the answer or where the author has acknowledged them, and so on.) – snailcar Aug 23 '13 at 6:57
  • @blutorange Thanks for the extensive addition to my post (and thanks for approving it, snailplane). – Earthliŋ Aug 23 '13 at 9:15

ドア is about equivalent to 戸, and (usually) has just one pane.

扉 is (usually) two panes.

But, I think they can be used interchangeably.


Thinking longer about it, I am now more fond of the explanation that a 扉 opens from the middle (with two moving parts) and a ドア opens from one side only.

Expressions like 心の扉, 夢の扉 and a picture search seem to corroborate this hypothesis.

This also would explain why trains (with two doors sliding open from the middle) and buses (with two doors swinging out from the middle) use 扉, but a bus with a single sliding door might still use ドア.

Sliding doors in a 和室 have their own names anyway (襖, 障子).


This page had some interesting comments, especially this one:

扉は日本式の戸だと思います。 ドアは外来語なので、西洋式の戸だと思います。 戸(出入口や門に使う板などの総称) 今はあまり使い分けがはっきりしてませんね。 日本人は無意識に使い分けていると思うので、違いを発見したらご報告しますね

Which would mean that 扉 was used for Japanese-style sliding doors, whilst ドア was used for western-style hinged doors. But nowadays the distinction has become blurred, with people using the term they feel is appropriate or which they are more used to.


I'm japanese. Most japanese don't consciously use these words properly in daily coversation. And I don't, either.

  • 1
    Are you saying that native speakers use these interchangeably? – Earthliŋ Jun 3 '16 at 11:20
  • @Earthliŋ, Exactly what she is saying and I tend to agree to a certain extent, especially as she says in daily conversation ( and would add , in the younger generation). I don't know why someone would down vote this, but I am up voting it. – KyloRen Jun 4 '16 at 6:57
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    @yoko "don't consciously use (意識して使ってない)" のではなく、むしろ「無意識に(unconsciously)使い分けてる」んだと思いますが… – Chocolate Jun 4 '16 at 6:58

When you are in a tram they will almost always say ドア.
In an elevator --> ドア / 扉
In a bus --> ドア / 扉
For a wardrobe / closet --> 扉
Or maybe 「未来への扉」

The difference may be that people pass through ドア but they don't pass through 扉

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    What I've observed on trains and buses in Kyoto contradicts this answer. See original question. – Jiahao Chen Aug 22 '13 at 10:09
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    ... I don't believe there is a strict clarification made for distinguishing the two words. If you are determined to know when a door is ドア and when it's 扉, you'd better make your own definition through experience. – hello all Aug 22 '13 at 15:15
  • 1
    'you'd better make your own definition through experience.' >> 日本にうん十年住んでるけどわかりませんわw – Chocolate Jun 4 '16 at 6:54

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