Donburi (丼 どんぶり) x Chawan (茶碗 ちゃわん): What's the difference?


I came into these two words (どんぶり and 茶碗ちゃわん) and I’m not sure about the meaning and difference.

Is 丼 the bowl itself or is it a dish consisting of rice and meat or other ingredient?
Is 茶碗 a bowl used to drink tea while 丼 is used to eat rice?


A chawan, whilst the meaning comes from ‘tea bowl’, can also be used for rice.

Some differences are:

Chawan Donburi
Smaller, around 10-12cm in diameter Larger, around 18-22cm in diameter
Intended for tea - but not exclusive Intended for rice/meals
Shallower Deeper
Usually don’t have lids included* More common to have lids

* not common, but there are variants out there which have lids.

But I think the main defining difference is the size. What you put in them I’d say is generally down to preference (it’s quite common for people to use chawans as rice bowls), but it would be a bit strange to use a donburi for tea, since it’s so large.


I feel like donburi is the meal, and chawan is the dish, but I haven’t thought a whole lot about it.


There is that dish when you pour tea over rice also, chazuke/ochazuke. :eyes:

I guess, this is a donburi bowl though? :thinking:

But I also associate donburi with various Japanese dishes served in a bowl.


No, there’s definitely a size difference. Essentially, a chawan can be held in one hand quite easily, while a donburi is more easily held with two.


Ah okay, thanks!

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+ donburi is both a bowl and a meal-type!

it’s one of those things in english that has been translated slightly weirdly “donburi bowl” kinda means “bowl bowl” (like shiba inu dog = shiba dog dog and ATM machine = automatic teller machine machine)


Indeed, but you wouldn’t serve a donburi meal in a chawan bowl. Not unless you wanted lots of rice on the table. :stuck_out_tongue:

I swear, everywhere you go in Japan, all of the official English signage says things like “Sotobori Moat” and “Arakawa River” and “Yashajin Touge Pass”.


very true! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: stating the obvious - the donburi (food) is designed to go in donburi (bowl) – or vice versa, i’m not actually sure which came first :grin:



So it’s correct to say 「店で食器を買いに行って、丼か茶碗かどちらにすると考えていた」?

not sure about the sentence you’re asking about, but a quick note:

when used with さん, i think it’s spelt (みな)さん but on its own, you use みんな


Or my favourite, edamame beans. (Soy bean beans!)

Or naan bread. (Bread bread.)

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Also chai tea


Now I want a chai latte!

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