What is the difference between these words? Which one is the most common?

  • I don't think I've ever seen 沿海 in my 25 yrs in Japan. 沿岸 and 海岸 are common, at least in my line of work and in the weather news. Definitions are given here --> jma.go.jp/jma/kishou/know/yougo_hp/chiiki.html
    – DXV
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 2:38
  • @DXV 「沿海」 is actually frequently used. Such as by national TV NHK. Foe example. 「日本沿海に北朝鮮の漁船が多数出没しています」。Translated "Around the Japanese coast, many North Korean fishing ships have been begun to spotted". Though as naturo says, "How far" is hard to define between 沿岸 and 沿海 very technically.
    – user7644
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 11:22
  • @Kentaro that must be it then, because I don't watch NHK. :D But really, I haven't heard/read it before. I would hear 日本沿岸に北朝鮮・・・maybe just me (and naruto in his answer below).
    – DXV
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 5:23
  • 1
    @DXV That 沿海 is basically jargon used by marine-related authorities and experts, and they have strict distinctions between 沿岸/沿海/近海 (see this page for details). Laypeople are not good at such distinctions, but still have chances to hear the word 沿海 used in reports by such entities. Outside technical contexts 沿海 is actually fairly uncommon.
    – naruto
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 5:39
  • @naruto still doesn't change my experience. Anyway thanks to you and Kentaro for the info.
    – DXV
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


岸 means "shore", or the land along the edge of a sea, lake, etc. Therefore 海岸 is "seashore", the land along the sea. There is also 河岸 "riverside". 海岸 filled with sand is called 砂浜 "beach".

沿岸 literally means "along-the-shore", and it vaguely refers to the area (both the land and the sea) near 海岸. We say both 沿岸農業 "coastal agriculture" and 沿岸漁業 "coastal fishery".

沿海 is a much more uncommon word. The "dictionary" definition is not different from that of 沿岸, but it has some specific uses in some fields. For example, in the airline industry, 沿海区域 is defined as the sea area within 20 nautical miles from the coast.

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