I've seen nakama used in One Piece a lot, but I've learned tomodachi in my text book. Is there a different in usage?


5 Answers 5


仲間: People who share the same goal and work/struggle/fight together in a group or organization. They often can be your close friends, too, but that's not necessary. A person whom you personally dislike, or whom you don't even know, can sometimes be your 仲間. In One Piece it sounds dramatic because it's about people who share the same destiny, literally in the same boat. That won't happen often in real life. 仲間になってくれ means "Join us," but not "Be my (personal) friend."

友達: A friend. Something based on personal feelings of intimacy or affection. You don't have to do something special with your 友達. They can be someone you haven't met for a long time.


It's a question of degree. 友達 is pretty much anyone you hang out with on a regular basis; 仲間 is a much closer relationship, almost like 'someone you choose to share your life with'. 仲間 also seems to have a sense of 'doing things together' or 'working towards a common goal' which is absent from 友達.

The context of shounen manga gives a nice demonstration of one boundary between the two. The protagonist's 仲間 are in effect the other main characters - the people that travel with him and work together with him to do whatever it is he's doing. His 友達 are all the other people he knows and likes - the ones that he'll hang out with if he comes across them, but they're not constantly with him and they're off doing their own things.

It's a distinction English doesn't make, so it's hard to think about when you're not used to it.

  • 4
    This is like the exact "opposite" of what I think the two words mean to us native speakers and, naturally, of what the webpage @blutorange linked to above says as well.
    – user4032
    Feb 26, 2015 at 0:17
  • 1
    I'm glad to have been corrected then!
    – Sjiveru
    Feb 26, 2015 at 4:04

In addition to blutorange's link, there's also a discussion here. Since it is in Japanese, let me just roughly translate the last part, which gives dictionary definitions of each term:

Tomodachi - A person with whom one reciprocates trust, and treats as an equal. Someone close that one hangs out with and chats with.

Nakama (first 3 entries)

  1. a relationship of doing things together, or such a person
  2. people of the same occupation, status, etc
  3. things of the same kind/category

I think the word "Tomodachi" often represents people the person is close with who are of (approximately) the same age.

By contrast, the word "Nakama" often represents someone with whom the person shares a goal or an acquaintance.

  • 1
    Best answer so far IMHO although your English is unfortunately preventing it from looking that way.
    – user4032
    Feb 26, 2015 at 0:22
  • I tried to change only what I could get to clearer English. That leaves one bit that I don't follow. As a suggestion, maybe you could add that ともだち is thus used to refer to classmates in say 幼稚園 ("school friends") whereas Luffy's "friends" in piracy are 仲間 due to their common goal.
    – virmaior
    Feb 26, 2015 at 3:08
  • @5th while that edit improves silversky's English, it may also change or remove something the answerer was trying to say ...
    – virmaior
    Mar 5, 2015 at 15:20

As far as I can see, 仲間 is used more as company or partnership. For example

あの 人たちは 釣り 仲間 です。Remarking their role as fishing partners, and that you often fish with them.

  • The word "company" (伴い) is right under definition but wrong under several others (会社など).
    – virmaior
    Feb 26, 2015 at 3:09

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