Word of the Week: ふるさと

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last time we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘hi’ (ひ), and focussed on the phrase 久しぶりです (hisashiburi desu), meaning ‘long time no see’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘fu’ (ふ). A big thank you those of you who joined in with their suggestions this week:

Kay suggested ‘fushigi’ (ふしぎ), ‘mysterious’, ‘wonderful’, ‘curious’, ‘strange’; and Japan Australia suggested ‘fukeru’ (ふける), ‘to play hooky’; and ‘Fukkatsu-sai omedetō gozaimasu’ (復活祭おめでとうございます), ‘Happy Easter!’.

These were great suggestions (I had no idea there was a word for Easter in Japanese that wasn’t just in katakana!), but in the end I decided to write about something else…

ふるさと

(furusato)

Firstly, yes, I know ‘furusato’ is a noun and this game is supposed to have a no nouns rule. However, what I really want to talk about this week is phrases and poems using the word ‘furusato’, and it’s such a lovely word that I couldn’t resist bending the rules slightly.

Many of you may know the word ‘furusato’, which means ‘home town’ from the children’s song, ‘Furusato’. Here it is, courtesy of JapanesePod101.com:

And here are the lyrics, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Standard Hiragana Romaji Translation
兎追ひし 彼の山
小鮒釣りし 彼の川
夢は今も 巡りて
忘れ難き 故郷如何にいます 父母
恙無しや 友がき
雨に風に つけても
思ひ出づる 故郷志を 果たして
いつの日にか 帰らん
山は靑き 故郷
水は淸き 故郷
うさぎおひし かのやま
こぶなつりし かのかわ
ゆめはいまも めぐりて
わすれがたき ふるさといかにいます ちちはは
つつがなしや ともがき
あめにかぜに つけても
おもひいづる ふるさとこころざしを はたして
いつのひにか かえらん
やまはあおき ふるさと
みずはきよき ふるさと
usagi oishi ka no yama
ko-buna tsurishi ka no kawa
yume wa ima mo megurite
wasure-gataki furusato
ika ni imasu chichi-haha
tsutsuganashi ya tomogaki
ame ni, kaze ni tsukete mo
omoi-izuru furusato
kokorozashi o hata shite
itsu no hi ni ka kaeran
yama wa aoki furusato
mizu wa kiyoki furusato
I chased after rabbits on that mountain.
I fished for minnow in that river.
I still dream of those days even now
Oh, how I miss my old country home.Father and mother―are they doing well?
Is everything well with my old friends?
When the rain falls, when the wind blows,
I stop and recall of my old country home.Some day when I have done what I set out to do,
I’ll return home one of these days
Where the mountains are green, my old country home,
Where the waters are clear, my old country home.

The word ‘furusato’ means more than just ‘home town’, as you might be able to tell from the song. It encapsulates a nostalgic feeling of ‘home’, similar to ‘natsukashii’ which we looked at a few weeks ago.

Poet and novelist Muro Saisei (室生 犀星) wrote:

ふるさとは遠きにありて思ふもの / そして悲しくうたふもの
furusato wa tooki ni arite omofu mono
Soshite kanashiku uta fumo no

which Wikipedia translates as:

Home is where you reminisce when you are far away
and sing with sorrow

I suppose it’s similar to ‘home is where your heart is’.

I found an article online called ‘Home of the Heart: the Modern Origins of Furusato’ by Lindsay R Morrison, which says:

There are several well-known Japanese idioms that emphasize the emotional component of furusato: for example, “kokyō bōji gatashi” (the home is difficult to forget), “furusato wa tooki ni arite omou mono” (home is something that one yearns for from far away), and “hito wa kokyō wo hanarete tattoshi” (people cherish the home after they have left it). These idioms show that furusato is not just an individual’s home; rather, it represents all the feelings that accompany the idea of home.

Interestingly, ‘furusato’ tends to refer to a rural home rather than an urban home. I wonder if people who grew up in big cities like Tokyo still have a sense of ‘furusato’ or if it can only ever refer to one’s rural home, or a home of the past. Because ‘furusato’ is more than just the place one was born, we can use ‘furusato’ to be about our spiritual ‘home town’ as well as our actual home town. Personally, I feel the word has too much of a rural feeling attached to it for me to use it about Nagoya, but if I had lived in the countryside in Japan perhaps I would say that place was my ‘furusato’.

Haiku poet Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶) also wrote about his furusato. This archive has collected the poems; here are a few:

故郷や細い柱の苔もさく
furusato ya hosoi hashira no koke mo saku

home village–
even on a thin post
moss has bloomed

古郷や朝茶なる子も春がすみ
furusato ya asa[cha] naruko mo harugasumi

my home village–
the call to morning tea
a clap in the mist

古郷は雲の先也秋の暮
furusato wa kumo no saki nari aki no kure

my home village
at the end of that cloud…
autumn dusk

The idea of ‘furusato’ is widely used in Japanese poetry and literature, and I think it’s a very important part of Japanese culture. Even today, many people in Japan grow up in the countryside and then move to cities to seek employment. I don’t know if people still look back at their home towns as warmly as perhaps they once did, but hope some do. I’ll leave you with that thought, and these images of ‘furusato’, courtesy of Google

Google images search for ふるさと

Google images search for ふるさと

 

☆★☆

Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘he’ (へ), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘heta’ (へた) meaning ‘unskilled’ or ‘bad at (something)’, would be acceptable, but ‘hebi’ (へび), ‘snake’, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

6 thoughts on “Word of the Week: ふるさと

  1. Furusato is a good one and one that Japanese people use fondly when talking about their home town. We enjoy returning to our home town several times a year and visiting the families ancestral home. A few suggestions for next week are:

    Heki (へき) No problem! / It’s OK! / Forget about it!
    Hen (変) Strange / Odd

    Like

  2. There is a poem which Takuboku Ishikawa wrote I think about returning home.

    Furusato no yama ni mu(h)ite
    I(f)u koto nashi
    Furusato no yama wa arigataki kana

    I would be interested in anyone’s thoughts on its meaning…

    Like

    • Hi there!

      As far as I know, that translates as:

      To the mountain(s) of my hometown
      Furusato no yama ni mukahite / ふるさとの 山に向ひて

      I have nothing to say
      iu koto nashi / 言ふことなし

      Except my sincerest gratitude to my mountain(s)
      Furusato no yama wa arigataki kana / ふるさとの山は ありがたきかな

      Beautiful poem! 🙂

      Like

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