4

When I visited Nara, I noticed that on the bus stop lists, the Nara Craft Museum's name did not use Kanji for "Nara" but spelled out with hiragana, as "なら工藝館". As it turns out, in almost all other references to this place (Google Maps, museum website, etc) it's written the same way. However, this doesn't happen to the other places with "Nara" in the name, such as Nara National Museum ("奈良国立博物館") or Nara City Museum of Art ("奈良市美術館"). Any reason for this?

From Nara city's website:

奈良市はシルクロード東の終着駅と言われ、古来より日本の文化と伝統工芸の発祥の地として栄えてきました。

なら工藝館は、ならまちの古い町並み保存と町の活性化を図るために平成4年に策定された「ならまち賑わい構想」を実現するため、平成12年に開館しました。長い歴史の中で研ぎ澄まされてきた奈良工芸の一層の振興発展を図るために、「(1)受け継ぐ(2)創作する(3)開放する」の三つを基本理念として建てられた施設です。

My suspicion is that it has something to do with "奈良町【ならまち】", versus "奈良市" or "奈良県", as the former isn't a name of an official administrative region. See how the title is written in this Wikipedia article:

ならまち(奈良町)は、奈良県奈良市の中心市街地東南部に位置する、歴史的町並みが残る地域の通称。「奈良町」という行政地名はない。狭い街路に、江戸時代以降の町屋が数多く建ち並ぶ。ほぼ全域が元興寺の旧境内にあたる。周辺を含む49.3ヘクタールが奈良市により奈良町都市景観形成地区に指定されている。

  • 3
    It's a proper name. Branding, distinction, someone wrote it this way and nobody dared to oppose... Possibilities are endless. And it's quite common so probably there are no deep reasons behind. – macraf Jun 9 '16 at 5:43
  • 4
    Japanese-learners have weird ideas about the Japanese writing systems and so do we the native speakers. data-max.co.jp/assets_c/2011/04/… – l'électeur Jun 9 '16 at 7:56
  • 1
    「奈良」を平仮名にしながら、「芸」を「藝」にするって・・・ (^^?) – Chocolate Jun 9 '16 at 8:42
  • 1
    @chocolate ゲージュツをやってる人たちは結構気にするっぽいですよ。「東京藝術大学」とか。(そもそも芸の字は本来ウンって読むし…) – broccoli forest Jun 9 '16 at 14:09
  • 1
    As a loosely related reference here you can see the reasons for Saitama city name being written in hiragana: differentiation, promotion (long history), popular vote, a general perception of softness. – macraf Jun 9 '16 at 23:39
4

First of all, なら工藝館 is a proper noun. Because it's a proper noun, the founder is at liberty to use either hiragana or kanji (or even katakana, English alphabet, etc) as the name of their institution. It could have been even NARA工藝館 had they wanted such an official name.

The next (and probably more interesting) question is this: Why did they think なら is the better name than 奈良?

Unfortunately, this is the matter of stylistic choice. It's impossible to give a definitive answer unless a staff of なら工藝館 explains this. But these questions on this site may help:

When we native speakers see なら used in a proper noun, we vaguely feel it looks more friendly, informal, casual, modern, etc. I think the impression is not too far from that of all-lowercase branding in English.

Some local governments even officially adopted hiragana names as the name of their city/town (eg. つくば市, 東かがわ市), although there are many people who hate this trend.

2

In general, we feel more affinity and softness for hiragana than kanji. So the name of expected candidates for politics is often written in hiragana as the link in above comment.

I think なら in なら工藝館 is written in hiragana for the same reason.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.