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There are several words for walls, fences and hedges and I can't get clear in my mind what's what.

First let me clarify the English meanings (at least as I think of them):

  1. A hedge is a boundary to a garden, field or property made from plants/trees/shrubs.
  2. A fence is a boundary to a garden, field or property typically made from wood or wire mesh.
  3. A wall is a boundary to a garden, field or property made from brick/stone/concrete.
  4. A wall is also a side of a building or of a room in a building.

With those definitions in mind could someone please classify the following words: 壁, 塀, 垣, 生垣, any other words that spring to mind.

I'm assuming that 生垣 unambiguously means 'hedge' given the 生 kanji implying life, but I'm very confused about the others.

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    Image search will give you some ideas. You might want to add 柵 and フェンス to that...
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Jan 21, 2023 at 16:07

1 Answer 1

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Generally, 壁 is used for rooms or buildings and 塀/垣 for boundaries.

  • 垣 is usually made of something 'natural'.
  • 塀 is more wall-like (typically, top two in the first picture below or the second pic called ブロック塀{べい} - source 1, source 2).

垣根 in modern speech is synonymous with 垣, which has subtypes 生垣, 竹垣 etc. A typical 生垣 is as the bottom right one below, and 竹垣 is the bottom left. I think 生垣 is more or less a patch of shrubs. This can be a boundary between a property and outside, or between a path and fields in a park, for example.

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柵/フェンス is typically like below (often seen in schools; source). A wire mesh fence would be called フェンス or 柵, but wood fence may be called 垣(根) as well.

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Lastly, walls like Hadrian's Wall is called 長城. The (English) name should sound odd to most Japanese (at least to me), because it is too short (vertically) for 壁 (the translation for wall).

An aside: as above suggests, 塀 is usually shorter than 壁, but the wall surrounding a prison is still a 塀. As such 塀の中 is a euphemism for in(side of) jail.

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