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I've noticed that there are 2 ways (at least, maybe more) of writing ふるさと (home town, birthplace):

  • 古里

  • 故郷

Am I correct? Are they interchangeable? Is one used more often than another?

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[故里/故郷]{ふるさと}:訓読み  古里:常用漢字  故郷 seems more lyric –  Yang Muye Apr 13 at 12:35
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I tend to read 故郷 as こきょう –  ssb Apr 13 at 12:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I am going to say that this is more a matter of personal preference than anything.

I hate to disappoint the (many) kanji-lovers on here but 「ふるさと」 in kana would be the most-often used way to write the word. 「故郷」 may be used just as often but it is read 「こきょう」 instead at least half the time.

「古里」 looks pretty corny and you will not see it as often as you will the two above these days. If you are from a big or even a mid-size city like I am, this word would look and feel "off" in referring to your hometown.

The latest "official" term containing the word in question is 「ふるさと[納税]{のうぜい}」. This new system allows you to make a donation to any prefecture, city, town, village, etc. of your choice and do so tax-deductibly.

http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%81%B5%E3%82%8B%E3%81%95%E3%81%A8%E7%B4%8D%E7%A8%8E

In case anyone is mistaken, I want to add that 「ふるさと」, however it is written, is NOT the word native speakers usually use in sentences like "Where is your hometown?" or "My hometown is ~~~." We use 「[出身]{しゅっしん}」、「いなか」 and 「[生]{う}まれ」 for that.

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When my cohort of exchange students was doing introductions with the president of the school, I decided to make a small joke about how my West Virginia college town was 中々田舎. It didn't go over well... –  Kaji Apr 14 at 3:51
    
@Kaji 中々田舎<--「なかなかいなか」? –  Choko Apr 14 at 5:40
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@Chocolate Yep! I was rather proud of my bit of wordplay, but all I got in return was a distinctly Japanese unamused scowl... –  Kaji Apr 14 at 5:41

Just to confuse things, there is a compilation series released by Columbia Records Japan that seem to use all 3 spellings (I assume deliberately). Although the original album used the spelling 故郷 so read into that what you will. I have mainly come across it as ふるさと personally.

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