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The word 【くら】 can be written with any of the kanji 蔵, 倉, or 庫. However, WWWJDIC lists them all under one entry, defined as:

(n) warehouse; cellar; magazine; granary; godown; depository; treasury; elevator;

Is there a difference in nuance or usage between these three kanji, and if so, what?

Update: @istrasci points out that:

[When] 蔵 is used as【〜ぞう】in compounds, it's used to denote ownership or possession.

Whereas compounds with 庫 seem to refer more to a physical storage facility.

Does anybody know about different nuances of the word 【くら】 itself?

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3 Answers 3

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Here's what a person who's been immersed in the Japanese culture for 22 years imagine when she sees them without much context.

picture of 蔵

  • Where it can be found: In the estate of an old family, or as a cellar of a sake brewery. Usually in a place crowded with other buildings (hence the backside of the kura is blurred in the picture).
  • What's inside: Something valuable, treasures, or simply old and unused things for special occassions.
  • Height: 2-3 stories.

picture of 倉

  • Where: In the rural districts.
  • What's inside: Farming tools, stored rice and unused things (of everyday use).
  • Height: 1-2 stories.

picture of 庫

Note: I didn't know 庫 can be read as くら. These are the impressions I have about the kanji itself.

  • Where: In a house or any other building, or as a part of one.
  • What's inside: Something valuable, or other trinkets. Usually contains a single type of things.
  • Height: Can vary in size. Usually box-shaped and smaller than 倉.
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  • Did you draw all by yourself? Neat! It's not plain MS-Paint.
    – syockit
    Aug 25, 2011 at 6:16
  • I see you got some inspiration from Google image search ;)
    – ssb
    Jun 25, 2014 at 15:34
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As far as using them strictly for the word 【くら】, I'm not sure of any nuances. But when 蔵 is used as【〜ぞう】in compounds, it's used to denote ownership or possession.

私蔵 【しぞう】 → Private collection
家蔵 【かぞう】 → Household collections
所蔵 【しょぞう】→ To have in your possession (== 所有)
蔵書 【ぞうしょ】→ Collection of books / a library

Whereas compounds with 庫 seem to refer more to a physical storage facility.

車庫 【しゃこ】 → Garage
金庫 【きんこ/かねぐら】 → Vault/treasury
武器庫【ぶきこ】 → Armory

Still the meanings seem to overlap even in a lot of compound words.

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  • Very interesting. I hadn't noticed the compound-based meanings... but you're right, it's not entirely straight-forward with compounds, especially with words like 冷蔵庫【れいぞうこ】.
    – rintaun
    Jul 1, 2011 at 1:51
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新選漢和辞典第六版付録同訓異義要覧八七頁

【くら】

〔倉〕

米【こめ】ぐら。穀物【こくもつ】ぐら。

〔蔵〕

大切【たいせつ】なものをしまっておく所【ところ】。

〔庫〕

武器【ぶき】や車【くるま】をおさめる所【ところ】。

〔府〕

金【かね】や品物【しなもの】をしまう所【ところ】。

〔廩〕

米【こめ】ぐら。屋根【やね】のあるくら。

I still think it should be called 同義異訓要覧.

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