I've been communicating back and forth with my host family in Japan.

We recently talked about a picture that I sent involving my backyard and my host mom used the kanji 庭(にわ) which means garden or yard.

My yard actually has a garden in it though. Is she talking about the yard as a whole or the garden in it? Is this an ambiguous case? How would I ask if she meant the garden explicitly or the yard as a whole?

EDIT 0: In the US, yard typically means the region in back of a house, whereas garden typically means a region for growing food.

  • 6
    You may want to clarify what's the difference in English first, because many non-native English users answer here (especially Japanese natives) and it seems tricky. In British English, yard and garden are pretty much the same. What does mean "My yard actually has a garden in it though" ?
    – Arzar
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 5:18
  • I think the primary difference in English is that yard is an enclosed space typically in the back of a house, whereas garden is a place (usually enclosed) region for growing vegetables. Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 18:17
  • @SarahSzabo Oh, so the word you need is 家庭菜園 :) Can I ask how do you call 花壇 in English?
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 18:29
  • @naruto I would say that is a flower bed :) Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 1:03
  • In the English language today, the meanings of both "yard" and "garden" seem to vary greatly depending on where one lives. I am American and think of my "garden" as the area filled with aesthetically designed trees, shrubs, flowers, etc.— no vegetables. When I told English and Belgian friends that I was converting my "yard," which among every American I know means a largely flat grass-covered area, to more "garden," they were baffled. The Englishman told me that to him "yard" means a place for cows to wander and eat.
    – NattoYum
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 3:11

1 Answer 1


庭 refers to a (wide but usually enclosed) place adjacent to a house. Assuming your yard looks like this, 庭 refers to everything in this picture, including the brick-paved part.

enter image description here

Your "garden" may be 花壇, 家庭菜園, 庭園, ガーデン or 植木 in Japanese. It's possible to explain the difference in sentences, but perhaps it's best to see images, so please check the links.

  • 花壇 is a “flower bed” in English, or sometimes a “flower box”.
    – Ragaroni
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 18:53
  • 2
    I think a better definition of the American “yard” is an area near a house for growing mowed grass. If it’s in the back of a house, it is a “back yard”, if in the front of the house, it is a “front yard”. Neither need be enclosed, although backyards are typically more private and more likely to be enclosed. Yards can contain things other than just grass, for example gardens. Gardens cannot contain grass unless by accident.
    – Ragaroni
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 18:55
  • @Ragaroni Thank you. In Japanese ガーデニング includes creating small flower beds near your house, too, but looks like "gardening" in English is a narrower term. As for "yard", Wikipedia says "A yard will typically consist mostly of lawn or play area". Interestingly, the image search results of "garden" and "家庭菜園" are very different, but I can see almost no difference between the image search results of "backyard" and "庭".
    – naruto
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 1:26

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