Both words can be translated as feeling. However, after referring to some online dictionaries and websites, it is suggested that one refers to a physical feeling and the other refers to a psychological feeling.

The reason for this question is that some of these materials are in conflict with each other. Some say:

気分: physical feeling

気持ち: psychological feeling

and others say:

気分: psychological feeling

気持ち: physical feeling

Which is correct? Or, alternatively, can both words refer to either a psychological and physical feeling depending on context?

  • Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/q/15472/5010 (気分 can also refer to something related to health condition, but it's not covered in this...) – naruto May 15 '20 at 10:28
  • Maybe I'm just philosophizing here but, aren't all feelings phsychological? Could you possibly mean sense vs feeling? – jarmanso7 May 15 '20 at 12:06
  • I mean: feeling healthy/sick or happy/sad – billzt May 16 '20 at 0:05

Both 気持ち and 気分 primarily refer to something psychological, and the difference is explained in this question. In short, 気持ち tends to refer to a concrete "feeling" or "thoughts" about something, whereas 気分 refers to more abstract, temporary and uncontrollable "mood".

  • 彼の気持ちを知りたい。
    I want to know how he feels (about me/this).
  • 今日は踊りたい気分だ。
    I'm in the mood of dancing.

However, both 気持ち and 気分 sometimes refer to something physical (i.e., related to body), too.

  • 気持ちが悪い (or single-word 気持ち悪い) primarily means "I'm disgusted", but it can mean "I feel sick/nauseous", too. Seasickness typically causes this symptom.
  • 気分が良い primarily means "to be in a good mood (psychologically)", but it can also mean "to feel better (physically)" when you are ill. Unless you have a mental disorder, if a physician said 今日のご気分はどうですか to you, it's about your physical condition, not your mental state.

If you mean "physical feeling" in the sense of "touch/texture", neither 気持ち nor 気分 refers to that, but you can use 手触り (てざわり). For example 滑らかな手触りのハンカチ means "handkerchief with a smooth texture".

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