There are 方, 方向, 方面, 向き, 方角, and 方位.

My current understanding is:

方位 specifically refers to the points on a compass

方角 refers to east/west/south/north

向き refers to an orientation/direction of an object

However, I don't really understand the distinction between 方, 方向, and 方面, other than the fact that 方 seems the most common/casual, and 方面 can also be used to refer to field of study/walk of life. What are the distinction between these?

1 Answer 1


Mostly it is a matter of collocations and difficult to give a comprehensive answer, but generally

  • 方向・方角・方位 are 1-dimensional; the specificity increases in this order.
  • 向き is mostly 0-dimensional (which way something is facing).
  • 方面 is rather like around and 2-dimensional; 方 is similar but its usage is much more diverse.

Some random samples:

  • 方位 is used only when you determine a precise direction. {北方向,北の方角}に向かう are fine, but 方位 cannot be used here. (It may be possible for ships or planes though.)
  • When the verb is static, 方 may be better. スーパーが北方向にある is less natural than スーパーが北のほうにある= There is a supermarket to the north.
  • For maps, 新宿方面 may be more common because the direction is usually just towards, not necessarily leading to. 新宿方向 is fine if you are on a line where 新宿 is on it (e.g. Chuo-Sobu Line).
  • 向き usually talks about which way the subject is facing. 北向き=facing to the north.
  • For a figurative area meaning, 方面 is most regular, but 方 can be used and even 方向 to a lesser extent. E.g., 医学{方面, の方, ?方向}に進んだ;医学{方面, の方, ×方向}に興味がある.

FYI. There is a known confusion when talking about directions of winds. If one says 北向きの風, logically it is a wind facing to the north, so coming from the south. But it does not give a warm impression at all. Some people on the web claim that 北風 is the only option, but at least I believe 北向きの風 does NOT sound outright wrong to most speakers and sounds like cold wind.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .