Locations ending in 場: ば or じょう?

There are many words for locations ending in 場: 1170 hits in https://jisho.org/search/*場
Am I the only one to always hesitate between the two readings and, more often than not, choose the wrong one?

Has someone a good rule of thumb to find the correct one?


じょう basically always attaches to things that use onyomi.

ば can go either way, but I feel like there is a tendency for it to attach to kunyomi.


Well, ば is kun’yomi and じょう is on’yomi, so if you just remember kun-with-kun and on-with-on, you’ll be right most of the time.


I’ve been wondering about this as well for some time now I realize! :eyes: Thanks @Leebo @Belthazar for the tips. I’ll try to be more conscious of which readings are on/kun in the future to make the right connection. ^>^


This is an interesting topic!

There are 23 pieces of vocab in Wanikani using 場, so I tried to come up with a set of rules that apply to these.
Rule No. 1: when 場 is the first kanji, it’s pronounces ば
Examples, 場面、場合、場所
Rule No. 2: A field, hall, or sprawling site (large space) is じょう
Examples: 工場、斎場、劇場、駐車場、農場、牧場、戦場 (yes there are small funeral halls and small theatres, just imagine big ones)
Rule No. 3: Smaller spaces are ば
Examples: 役場、踊り場、職場(just imagine a small town hall, small dance hall and small workplace, okay?), 置き場、穴場、乗り場
If you think about the difference between 駐輪場 (bicycle parking area using じょう) and 自転車置き場 (bicycle parking spot using ば) you might know what I mean.
With these rules your only exceptions in WK are abstract ideas, that you need to memorise: 入場 (じょう),株式市場 (じょう) and 磁場/電磁場 (ば)
That should get you through WK use of 場 at least.
Another consistent rule is verbs followed by okurigana are followed by ば (置き場, 乗り場,), which is Belthazar’s “kun follows kun” rule, and seems to work fine. I personally find “on-follows on” is a rule with too many on-kun exceptions (役場, 現場 etc).


That will work fine for just doing reviews, but unless they apply to all 場 words generally, it gets a little dicey, doesn’t it? Unless you’re just saying that no matter what the typical shape of a place is, always imagine it big if it’s じょう and always imagine it small if it’s ば?

As an aside, there are ones like 牧場 and 市場 which can be either (ぼくじょう・まきば, しじょう・いちば, respectively), and the general nuance changes with them.


Yes, I’m not 100% confident about the rule, but it seems to hold up. I would say しじょう is larger than いちば. A workshop is a さぎょうば,
whereas a factory is a こうじょう.
If a place can be large or small, imagining memorable images while memorising might be the solution. It’s what WK uses with the mnemonics and the hints. Imagine a large どうじょう where the entire highschool team trains in kendo, rather than a small exercise room (michiba? :thinking:) with a few people in it.
まきば would be a small meadow where your goat grazes, where as ぼくじょう is the entrie ranch. I can’t hink of any examples where this absolutely won’t work, can you?

My point was mostly that you wouldn’t necessarily know that it shouldn’t be しば or まきじょう, etc.

And as you mentioned, there can be small じょう’s and large ば’s, but if it works for someone, it works for them.

Yes you’re right, the rule big = じょう, small = ば is more useful for memorising the readings once you know them, not so great for knowing what they are at sight!

I found a discussion in Japanese that makes the large/small distinction too:

And here is a person who thinks ば was common before the Meiji period, and じょう is more common for words introduced after (due to industrialisation and internationalisation of Japan). Japan has had graveyards, baths and small markets for ages, those are ば, but factories, soccer stadiums and the stock market are recent introductions, so those are じょう).

Also, I think sports grounds/halls use じょう as a rule, regardless of size (case in point ビリヤード場)


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