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:



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:


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    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, 2016 at 5:43
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    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/…
    – user4032
    Jun 9, 2016 at 7:56
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    「奈良」を平仮名にしながら、「芸」を「藝」にするって・・・ (^^?)
    – chocolate
    Jun 9, 2016 at 8:42
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    @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…) Jun 9, 2016 at 14:09
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    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, 2016 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


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.


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.

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