Directions like NW, NE, SE, SW

So here’s a thing I’m curious about: At first I was surprised that wanikani had southeast is「南東」, and northwest is「北西」, which is the same order English puts them in but northeast「東北」is in the other order (and I can’t find south-west in wani-kani’s vocabulary set all all.) Then I looked on jisho and started to look like both orders are allowed for all four diagonal directions (except some orders like 「東北」 seem to get used for specific place names.) So now my question is (aside from those place names) can you just order the characters in these diagonal directions freely, or are there other connotations? Like are people more likely to put the west first if it’s slightly more west than south (or vise versa)? Or are some of the orders super-rare in speech despite being on jisho and would make you look like a foreigner?


Maybe this helps?

Got that from here.


I believe Japanese following the English order is a (relatively) recent development.

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Also I found this:

北東 NE ほくとう
南東 SE なんとう
南西 SW なんせい
北西 NW ほくせい

東北 TOHOKU region “East North”
西北 “West North” SEIHOKU
西南 “West South” SEINAN
東南 “East South” TONAN

Those I put in “ “ are not commonly used to describe directions, but may be seen as names of town, area etc.

For example, in Japanese Southeast Asia is 東南アジア (East south Asia/notice the order of east and south is switched)


東北 does mean northeast, but it is more commonly used for the region in Japan, and 北東 is more commonly used for the direction.

Edit: I see this was already covered. Carry on.


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