Wolfgang Hadamitzky


Japan-related Textbooks, Dictionaries, and Reference Works



Official romanization rules of 1954


A government directive prescribing romanized spelling (Rōma-ji no tsuzurikata), which is reproduced here, has been in force since 1954. It consists of an introduction, two tables, and a commentary.

More-detailed information about the Kunrei, Hepburn, and Nippon romanization systems, which are the subject of this government directive, is found in the article Romanization systems and in the Kana romanization tables.



::::: Orthography of romanization :::::

Introduction

1.

In general, Table 1 is to be used for rendering Japanese in roman letters.

2.

Table 2 can be followed if it would be difficult to quickly change an already established spelling in an international context or otherwise.

3.

In the above two cases, the commentary is generally to be followed.



Table 1



Table 2

a

i

u

e

o

ka

ki

ku

ke

ko

sa

si

su

se

so

ta

ti

tu

te

to

na

ni

nu

ne

no

ha

hi

hu

he

ho

ma

mi

mu

me

mo

ya

(i)

yu

(e)

yo

ra

ri

ru

re

ro

wa

(i)

(u)

(e)

(o)

ga

gi

gu

ge

go

za

zi

zu

ze

zo

da

(zi)

(zu)

de

do

ba

bi

bu

be

bo

pa

pi

pu

pe

po




 kya

kyu

kyo

 sya

syu

syo

 tya

tyu

tyo

 nya

nyu

nyo

 hya

hyu

hyo

 mya

myu

myo




 rya

ryu

ryo




 gya

gyu

gyo

 zya

zyu

zyo

 (zya)

(zyu)

(zyo)

 bya

byu

byo

 pya

pyu

pyo

 sha

shi

shu

sho



tsu


 cha

chi

chu

cho



fu


 ja

ji

ju

jo




 di

du

dya

dyu

dyo

 kwa





 gwa









wo


Remarks about the tables:

Table 1 shows in the upper-left part the romanization of the 45 traditional kana characters in the order of the Fifty sounds table; below and to the side is the romanization of the characters derived from these basic characters. This is the core of the government-prescribed Kunrei romanization system (kunrei = an official directive). Romanizations that occur for multiple entries are shown inside parentheses.

Table 2 presents only romanizations that differ from those in Table 1. The romanizations in the upper five lines are according to the Hepburn system*, those in line six are according to the Nippon system*, and those in the last three lines are no longer in common use. The romanizations di, du, dya, dyu, dyo, and wo are represented in the internationally common modified Hepburn romanization (which is also followed by the Kana romanization tables) by ji, ju, ja, ju, jo, and o.

* The official document does not name the romanization systems that it contains.


Commentary

1.

The end-of-syllable sound ン is generally to be written n (even when it occurs before the labials b, p, and m and is phonetically assimilated to m: konban, kanpai, kanmuri).

2.

When, in order to prevent mispronunciation, it is necessary to separate an n that represents the end-of-syllable sound from a vowel or y that immediately follows it, an apostrophe ’ is inserted after the n (man’ichi, kon’yaku).

3.

As is done in Italian orthography, glottal-stop sounds are represented by a doubling of the consonant (mikka, massugu, hatten, kippu; sh becomes ssh, ch becomes tch, and ts becomes tts: ressha, botchan, mittsu).

4.

Long vowels are represented by a circumflex ^ over the vowel. But capital letters that are thus lengthened may be represented instead by two vowels, one after the other. (Instead of a circumflex one often finds a macron ¯ employed to indicate a long vowel, especially in printed texts: mā, yūjin, dōzo; for i and (in words of Chinese origin) e, the lengthening of the vowel is expressed by appending an i: oniisan, meishi (but onēsan); in foreign words and names that are written in katakana, the vowels ī and ē bear a lengthening mark if in the original this lengthening of the vowel is indicated by the vowel-lengthening stroke ー: bīru, mētoru, Bētōben (but eito, Supein).)

5.

How to write certain sounds is left undefined. (In the books Kanji & Kana and The Kanji Dictionary by Spahn and Hadamitzky, a glottal-stop sound at the end of a word is denoted by a following apostrophe: a, are, ji.)

6.

The first letter of a sentence or of a proper name is capitalized. In addition, nouns that are not proper names may also be capitalized: Ogenki desu ka?, Nihon, Tōkyō, Tanaka, Genji monogatari or Genji Monogatari, Kanji or kanji.


English translation of the romanization orthography decree, the parenthesized annotations and examples in the Commentary, and notes by W.H. and Mark Spahn.


August 2005, W. H. with Mark Spahn





Wolfgang Hadamitzky

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