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!

  • 1
    方法 sounds more "rough" and procedural to me.
    – istrasci
    Sep 15, 2012 at 20:17
  • @istrasci: can you explain what you mean by "rough"?
    – Billy
    Sep 16, 2012 at 5:59
  • Like in the most "by-the-book", formal manner. Not really sure what I'm trying to say... :/
    – istrasci
    Sep 16, 2012 at 21:45

4 Answers 4


From the excellent A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

Vmasu+方 means either "way" or "manner". Thus 飲み方が大事です means either "The way of drinking is important" or "The manner in which one drinks is important" so you have to provide additional context. To put into context:

  • この[薬]{くすり}は[飲]{の}み[方]{かた}が[大事]{だいじ}。[必]{かなら}ず[食前]{しょくぜん}に[飲]{の}んでください。[It is important to know how to take this medicine. Be sure to take it before every meal]

  • スープは[飲]{の}み[方]{かた}が[大事]{だいじ}です。[In eating soup the manner (in which one eats it) is important]

The important part below:

方 can be replaced by 方法 but only when 方 means "a way of doing something". 方法 roughly corresponds to the English word "method"; it means a relatively complicated way of doing something

  • 2
    Sorry, but I don't really see the difference between "the way of drinking" and "the manner in which one drinks". They sound the same to me. Can you give an example where the distinction is clearer, or elaborate?
    – Billy
    Sep 15, 2012 at 12:31
  • @Billy I added an example where you can see the difference
    – buskila
    Sep 15, 2012 at 14:17
  • 2
    Sorry, Oleg, but I still don't understand. (I've already read this section of this book; I find this book's explanations unhelpful in general.) What exactly is the difference between "how to eat soup", "way of eating soup" and "manner in which one eats soup"? And which of these corresponds to 方法? What is the difference between my 遊ぶ-examples?
    – Billy
    Sep 15, 2012 at 14:30
  • "but only when 方 means 'a way or doing something'? What are it's other meanings? Do you mean like, as opposed to "direction" etc? In other words: All definitions for 方法 mean "method", but not all definitions of かた mean "method". Sep 16, 2012 at 3:46

From your comment:

What exactly is the difference between "how to eat soup", "way of eating soup" and "manner in which one eats soup"?

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:

  1. Apply hand to spoon
  2. Raise spoon
  3. Approach soup
  4. Slowly push down at the soup with the spoon
  5. Stop when spoon (but not hand) is covered with soup
  6. Raise the spoon
  7. If nothing happens, turn the spoon over and repeat steps 3 to 6
  8. If nothing happens, hold the other end of the spoon and repeat steps 3 to 7.
  9. Approach mouth with spoon
  10. Close mouth when spoon(but not all of it) is inside, and remove the soup from the spoon.
  11. Swallow
  12. Repeat steps 3 to 11 until desired quantity of soup has been consumed.
  • Hmm. So, from your answer, I understand that (in some sense) the やり方 answers the question 「どのように?」, and the やる方法 answers the question 「どうやって?」. Is this right? (I think this roughly corresponds with my previous intuition, too.) (Edit: ah, but やり方 also encompasses the meaning of やる方法 as an added bonus.)
    – Billy
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:21
  • 1
    やる方法 sounds a bit odd, like "a technique for giving it a shot".
    – Zhen Lin
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:37
  • @Billy for example you can say 座り方(すわりかた)which translates to "way of sitting". You can say 座り方が悪い(すわりかたがわるい) which would mean "not sitting properly". You can't use 方法 in this context. Its roughly saying "your method of sitting is not proper" in English.
    – buskila
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:39
  • @ZhenLin: yeah, I was using やる as a generic verb. I suppose "a technique for ~ing" is exactly what I had understood by it. So, for example: a 勉強の仕方 is the answer to "how do you study?", and a 勉強をする方法 is the answer to "I've never studied before; how's it meant to be done?". Is this accurate?
    – Billy
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:52
  • 1
    @OlegLevy: sorry, but giving me 'rough' English equivalents that I can't distinguish between (except that one sounds clumsy) is still not useful...
    – Billy
    Sep 15, 2012 at 15:54

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:

way (noun) a method, style, or manner of doing something : worry was their way of showing how much they cared | there are two ways of approaching this problem.

• a person's characteristic or habitual manner of behavior or expression : it was not his way to wait passively for things to happen.

• ( ways) the customary modes of behavior or practices of a group : foreigners who adopt French ways.

• [in sing. ] the typical manner in which something happens or in which someone or something behaves : he was showing off, as is the way with adolescent boys.

By contrast:

method (noun) a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, esp. a systematic or established one : a method for software maintenance | labor-intensive production methods.
• orderliness of thought or behavior; systematic planning or action : historical study is the rigorous combination of knowledge and method.

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.


To try to provide a very clear explanation based on what I've read above, in case I understood it right...

〜方 : This is someone's idiomatic way of doing something. Manner, style... Not 'method' or 'means'.

方法 : This is "how something can be accomplished", "a way to get to the desired outcome" with no regard for any personal style or idiom.

There are probably cases where it's a bit muddy as tends to be the case with anything.

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