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I've had trouble communicating the concept of 'doing something on the floor/ground' in Japanese. I've seemed to miss the mark by whichever word I used for the situation during several short conversations. In addition, when the other party referred to the floor I couldn't grasp what exactly they used so I can't learn from it (I'm not good at listening comprehension in general).

Examples while talking about games for children:

Q 'Do you need any tables or ..?' A 'No, this game should be played on the ground.'

'When you hear the signal, everyone needs to [activity] on the floor.'

I have found the following words, but I simply don't know anything about their actual usage.

  • 床 {ゆか}
  • 床面 {ゆかめん}
  • 地上 {ちじょう}

床面 and 地上 seem to earn some luke-warm smiles when trying to use them, whereas 床 is usually not understood at all after which I switch to one of the other two.

I also feel that Japanese people tend to use other terms as well when they refer to what I said. I just can't acoustically retain these to look them up later. These are not conversations where I have the leisure to ask for clarification either, due to time constraints mostly.

So with that, is there any general-purpose word for floor/ground that is appropriate whether you may be in a building or outside, in a tatami room or in a swimming pool, etc.? If not, what are the most common terms for these kinda things?

This question and answer seems to suggest 床 is nothing unsual, but since it doesn't match my experience I felt the need to ask anyway.

  • 1
    Is there a general-purpose word for floor/ground that is appropriate whether you may be in a building or outside, in a swimming pool, etc. in English? – Chocolate Feb 7 '18 at 13:58
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    ground って「地上」より「地面」とか「地べた」とか・・ – Chocolate Feb 7 '18 at 14:14
  • @Schokolade English isn't my first language, so I'm actually not sure. There is one in my native language, German, though: 'Boden'. And thank you for those suggestions. – vruvre Feb 7 '18 at 16:41
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I think that there is no common Japanese word equivalent to "floor" or "ground".
Actually, as shown in the following examples, words are used properly according to the situation.

As for this theme, there is only one thing important as Japanese language. In Japan, as you know, there is a custom to take off footwear in the house in general, so even if we don't remove shoes in the office there is a sense perception that the floor of the office is cleaner than the outside ground of the office, and in the wording equivalent to the floor or in the representation of phrases including floor there might also have some effect according to this custom, though I couldn't introduce good examples.

  1. In case of "[板の間]{いたのま} a wooden floor"

    • 板の間に座{すわ}る
    • 板の間に座ると冷{つめ}たい。
    • 板の間に直{じか}に座ると冷たい。
  2. In case of "畳{たたみ} tatami mat"

    • 畳の上{うえ}に座る = 畳に座る
    • 畳に座布団{ざぶとん}を敷{し}いて座る
    • 畳に直{じか}に座る
  3. In case of a carpet/rug

    • 絨毯{じゅうたん}/カーペットの上に水{みず}をこぼした
  4. In case of not minding the material of the floor

    • 床{ゆか}に座る = 床の上{うえ}に座る
    • 床に物{もの}を置{お}く = 床の上に物を置く
    • 通行{つうこう}の邪魔{じゃま}になるので床の上に直{じか}に物を置かないでください
    • "床暖房{ゆかだんぼう} floor heating" は暖{あたた}かさが自然{しぜん}で良{よ}い
    • 床暖房は足元{あしもと}から温{あたた}まる
  5. on the groud of the park or roads not paved

    • 子供{こども}の頃{ころ}、地面{じめん}に線{せん}を書{か}いて遊{あそ}んだ
    • 土{つち}の上/地{じ}べた/地面{じめん}に直{じか}に座{すわ}ると服{ふく}が汚{よご}れるよ
  6. a paved park or roads

    • 財布{さいふ}が地面{じめん}に落{お}ちていた
    • 道{みち}で財布{さいふ}を拾{ひろ}った
    • 日本{にほん}では、道路{どうろ}にゴミを捨{す}てる人{ひと}はほとんでいない
    • 舗装{ほそう}している道路{どうろ}でおしっこ/立小便{たしょうべん}したらこちらに流{なが}れてきて困{こま}ったよ
    • 夏{なつ}は公園{こうえん}のアスファルトが融{と}けそうなほど暑{あつ}い
  7. a school playground or a park square

    • 学校{がっこう}の運動場{うんどうじょう}でサッカーをした
    • 公園{こうえん}の広場{ひろば}で犬{いぬ}が走{はし}っていた
    • サッカー場{じょう}のグラウンドに水{みず}を撒{ま}いている
  • Thank you very much for this elaborate answer. It's sure to be of use to me. In German we also take off shoes inside so we have a similar mindset to what you described. Inside we usually call it 'Fußboden' and outside only 'Boden'. Though the latter can be used anywhere. – vruvre Feb 8 '18 at 7:46
  • I accepted your answer as I feel that out of the one's given it has the most long-term value for anyone stumbling upon this question. – vruvre Feb 9 '18 at 0:20
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When outside I think we normally use [地面]{じめん} (or colloquial/slangy [地]{じ}べた), when inside a building, [床]{ゆか}(の上), and in a tatami room, [畳]{たたみ}(の上). In a swimming pool, you'd use (プールの)[底]{そこ}.

Boden
地面 ▷auf dem Boden sitzen 地面〈床〉の上に座っている
wird der Boden unter den Füßen zu heiß ~の足元に火がつく*
、底面 ▷der Boden des Meeres 海底
(三修社『アクセス独和辞典』)
*I think it's a literal translation. It seems the phrase is an idiomatic expression that figuratively means 「状況が悪くなって、そこにいづらい・いたたまれない」("things got too hot and you can't keep standing / can't stay there")

Boden
2 地面 er verlor den Boden unter den Füßen 彼は足元がぐらついた.
5 (海、船、樽などの)
(郁文堂『独和辞典』)

I don't think we have a general-purpose word for floor and ground (+ tatami room and the bottom of a swimming pool)... That said, in casual/colloquial conversation, I think we sometimes use 地べた for floor as well when you're inside a building, especially where you wear shoes (though this might be just in Kansai??). And depending on the context, I think you can also use [下]{した} or [足元]{あしもと}, as in 「カバンは[下]{した}に/[足元]{あしもと}に[置]{お}いてね。」

「[机]{つくえ}か[何]{なに}か[要]{い}る?」
'Do you need any tables or ..?'
「いや、このゲームは[地面]{じめん} (or [地]{じ}べた or maybe [下]{した}) でやるやつだから。」
'No, this game should be played on the ground.'

「[合図]{あいず}が[鳴]{な}ったら、[床]{ゆか} (or [下]{した}) で/に~~ましょう。」
'When you hear the signal, everyone needs to [activity] on the floor.'

  • Thank you very much for this answer. I learned Japanese mostly through English so far so it didn't occur to me to check any German-Japanese dictionaries. You are right about the idiomatic expression. – vruvre Feb 8 '18 at 7:36
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If you are unsure of the correct word you should always use the most common or most convenient word until you do. If inside a building the most common word would be 床{ゆか}. If outside 地面{じめん} or グラウンド can be used. Your students will overlook any mistakes you might make as long as you learn from them.

I would advise you ask your children what they would call the ground you are talking about. You can make a warm-up game out of it. Students are always happy to help you learn Japanese.

  • I wish I could. Unfortunately I'm only the occasional visitor so I rarely have the opportunity to really ask. I mean, there are lots of questions I have for them, not just the floor one ;-) Thanks for the answer. – vruvre Feb 8 '18 at 7:48

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