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Hepburn romanization (ヘボン式ローマ字, Hebon-shiki Rōmaji, 'Hepburn-type Roman letters')[1] is a system for the "romanization of Japanese, that is using the "Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. It is used by most foreigners learning to spell Japanese in the Latin alphabet[2] and by the Japanese for "romanizing personal names, geographical locations, and other information such as train tables, road signs, and official communications with foreign countries.[3] Largely based on English "writing conventions, consonants closely correspond to the English pronunciation and vowels approximate the Italian pronunciation.[1]

The Hepburn style (Hebon-shiki) was developed in the late 19th century by an international commission that was formed to develop a unified system of romanization. The commission's romanization scheme was popularized by the wide dissemination of a Japanese–English dictionary by commission member and American missionary "James Curtis Hepburn which was published in 1886.[1] The "modified Hepburn system" (shūsei Hebon-shiki), also known as the "standard system" (Hyōjun-shiki), was published in 1908 with revisions by "Kanō Jigorō and the Society for the Propagation of Romanization (Romaji-Hirome-kai).[4][5]

Although "Kunrei romanization is officially favored by the Japanese government today, Hepburn romanization is still in use and remains the worldwide standard.[1] The Hepburn style is regarded as the best way to render Japanese pronunciation for Westerners.["by whom?] Since it is based on English and Italian "pronunciations, people who speak English or "Romance languages (e.g., Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish) will generally be more accurate in pronouncing unfamiliar Japanese words romanized in the Hepburn style compared to "Nihon-shiki romanization and Kunrei-shiki romanization.[6][7]


Legal status[edit]

Hepburn is based on English phonology and has competed with the alternative "Nihon-shiki romanization, which was developed in Japan as a replacement of the "Japanese script.[6] In 1930, a Special Romanization Study Commission was appointed to compare the two.[6] The Commission eventually decided in favor of a slightly-modified version of Nihon-shiki, which was proclaimed to be Japan's official romanization for all purposes by a September 21, 1937 "cabinet "ordinance; it is now known as the "Kunrei-shiki romanization. The ordinance was temporarily overturned by the "Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) during the "Occupation of Japan, but it was reissued, with slight revisions, in 1954.

In 1972, a revised version of Hepburn was codified as "ANSI standard Z39.11-1972. It was proposed in 1989 as a draft for "ISO 3602 but rejected in favor of the "Kunrei-shiki romanization. The ANSI Z39.11-1972 standard was deprecated on October 6, 1994.

As of 1978, the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the "Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and many other official organizations used Hepburn instead of Kunrei-shiki. In addition "The Japan Times, the "Japan Travel Bureau, and many other private organizations used Hepburn instead of Kunrei-shiki. The "National Diet Library used Kunrei-shiki.[8]

Although Hepburn is not a government standard, some government agencies mandate it. For example, the "Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires the use of Hepburn on passports, and the "Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport requires the use of Hepburn on transport signs, including road signs and railway station signs.["citation needed]

In many other areas that it lacks "de jure status, Hepburn remains the "de facto standard. Signs and notices in city offices and police stations and at shrines, temples and attractions also use it. English-language "newspapers and "media use the simplified form of Hepburn. Cities and "prefectures use it in information for English-speaking residents and visitors, and English-language publications by the Japanese Foreign Ministry use simplified Hepburn as well. Official tourism information put out by the government uses it, as do guidebooks, both local and foreign, on Japan.

Many students of Japanese as a foreign language learn Hepburn.


Former "Japan National Railways-style board of "Toyooka Station. Between the two adjacent stations, “"GEMBUDŌ” follows the Hepburn romanization system, but “"KOKUHU” follows the "Nihon-shiki/"Kunrei-shiki romanization system.

There are many variants of the Hepburn romanization. The two most common styles are as follows:

In Japan itself, there are some variants officially mandated for various uses:

Details of the variants can be found below.

Obsolete variants[edit]

The romanizations set out in the first and second versions of Hepburn's dictionary are primarily of historical interest. Notable differences from the third and later versions include:

Second version[edit]

First version[edit]

The following differences are in addition to those in the second version:


The main feature of Hepburn is that its "orthography is based on English "phonology. More technically, where syllables that are constructed systematically, according to the Japanese syllabary, contain the "unstable" consonant for the modern spoken language, the orthography is changed to something that an English-speaker would pronounce it better matches the real sound: is written shi not si.

Some linguists such as "Harold E. Palmer, "Daniel Jones and "Otto Jespersen object to Hepburn, as the pronunciation-based spellings can obscure the systematic origins of Japanese phonetic structures, inflections, and conjugations.[17] Supporters["who?] argue that Hepburn is not intended as a linguistic tool.

Long vowels[edit]

The long vowels are generally indicated by macrons ( ¯ ).[18][19] Since the diacritical sign is usually missing on typewriter and people may not know how to input it on computer keyboards, the circumflex accent ( ˆ ) is often used in its place.[20][21]

The combinations of vowels are written as follows in traditional/modified Hepburn:

A + A[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination of a + a is written aa if a word-border exists between them.

In traditional Hepburn:

The long vowel a is written aa

In modified Hepburn:

The long vowel a is indicated by a macron:

I + I[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination i + i is always written ii.

U + U[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination u + u is written uu if a word-border exists between them or it is the end part of terminal form of a verb:
The long vowel u is indicated by a macron:

E + E[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination e + e is written ee if a word-border exists between them:

In traditional Hepburn:

The long vowel e is written ee:

In modified Hepburn:

The long vowel e is indicated by a macron:

O + O[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination o + o is written oo if a word-border exists between them:
The long vowel o is indicated by a macron:

O + U[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination o + u is written ou if a word-border exists between them or it is the end part of terminal form of a verb:
The long vowel o is indicated by a macron:

E + I[edit]

In traditional and modified:

The combination e + i is written ei.

Other combination of vowels[edit]

All other combinations of two different vowels are written separately:


The long vowels indicated by "chōonpu (ー) within loanwords are written with macrons (ā, ī, ū, ē, ō) as follows:

The combinations of two vowels within loanwords are written separately:


There are many variations on the Hepburn system for indicating the long vowels. For example, 東京(とうきょう) can be written as:


In traditional and modified:

In traditional Hepburn:

In modified Hepburn:[19]

Syllabic n[edit]

In traditional Hepburn:[18]

Syllabic n () is written as n before consonants, but as m before "labial consonants: b, m, and p. It is sometimes written as n- (with a hyphen) before vowels and y (to avoid confusion between, for example, んあ n + a and na, and んや n + ya and にゃ nya), but its hyphen usage is not clear.

In modified Hepburn:[19]

The rendering m before labial consonants is not used and is replaced with n. It is written n' (with an apostrophe) before vowels and y.

Long consonants[edit]

Elongated (or ""geminate") consonant sounds are marked by doubling the consonant following a "sokuon, ; for consonants that are digraphs in Hepburn (sh, ch, ts), only the first consonant of the set is doubled, except for ch', which is replaced by tch.[18][19]

Romanization charts[edit]

"Gojūon "Yōon
あ ア a い イ i う ウ u え エ e お オ o
か カ ka き キ ki く ク ku け ケ ke こ コ ko きゃ キャ kya きゅ キュ kyu きょ キョ kyo
さ サ sa し シ shi す ス su せ セ se そ ソ so しゃ シャ sha しゅ シュ shu しょ ショ sho
た タ ta ち チ chi つ ツ tsu て テ te と ト to ちゃ チャ cha ちゅ チュ chu ちょ チョ cho
な ナ na に ニ ni ぬ ヌ nu ね ネ ne の ノ no にゃ ニャ nya にゅ ニュ nyu にょ ニョ nyo
は ハ ha ひ ヒ hi ふ フ fu へ ヘ he ほ ホ ho ひゃ ヒャ hya ひゅ ヒュ hyu ひょ ヒョ hyo
ま マ ma み ミ mi む ム mu め メ me も モ mo みゃ ミャ mya みゅ ミュ myu みょ ミョ myo
や ヤ ya ゆ ユ yu よ ヨ yo
ら ラ ra り リ ri る ル ru れ レ re ろ ロ ro りゃ リャ rya りゅ リュ ryu りょ リョ ryo
わ ワ wa ゐ ヰ i † ゑ ヱ e † を ヲ o ‡
ん ン n /n'
が ガ ga ぎ ギ gi ぐ グ gu げ ゲ ge ご ゴ go ぎゃ ギャ gya ぎゅ ギュ gyu ぎょ ギョ gyo
ざ ザ za じ ジ ji ず ズ zu ぜ ゼ ze ぞ ゾ zo じゃ ジャ ja じゅ ジュ ju じょ ジョ jo
だ ダ da ぢ ヂ ji づ ヅ zu で デ de ど ド do ぢゃ ヂャ ja ぢゅ ヂュ ju ぢょ ヂョ jo
ば バ ba び ビ bi ぶ ブ bu べ ベ be ぼ ボ bo びゃ ビャ bya びゅ ビュ byu びょ ビョ byo
ぱ パ pa ぴ ピ pi ぷ プ pu ぺ ペ pe ぽ ポ po ぴゃ ピャ pya ぴゅ ピュ pyu ぴょ ピョ pyo

Extended katakana[edit]

These combinations are used mainly to represent the sounds in words in other languages.

Digraphs with orange backgrounds are the general ones used for loanwords or foreign places or names, and those with blue backgrounds are used for more accurate transliterations of foreign sounds, both suggested by the "Cabinet of Japan's "Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.[30] Katakana combinations with beige backgrounds are suggested by the "American National Standards Institute[31] and the "British Standards Institution as possible uses.[32] Ones with purple backgrounds appear on the 1974 version of the Hyōjun-shiki formatting.[27]

イィ yi イェ ye
ウァ wa ウィ wi ウゥ wu* ウェ we ウォ wo
ウュ wyu
ヴァ va ヴィ vi vu ヴェ ve ヴォ vo
ヴャ vya ヴュ vyu ヴィェ vye ヴョ vyo
キェ kye
ギェ gye
クァ kwa クィ kwi クェ kwe クォ kwo
クヮ kwa
グァ gwa グィ gwi グェ gwe グォ gwo
グヮ gwa
シェ she
ジェ je
スィ si
ズィ zi
チェ che
ツァ tsa ツィ tsi ツェ tse ツォ tso
ツュ tsyu
ティ ti トゥ tu
テュ tyu
ディ di ドゥ du
デュ dyu
ニェ nye
ヒェ hye
ビェ bye
ピェ pye
ファ fa フィ fi フェ fe フォ fo
フャ fya フュ fyu フィェ fye フョ fyo
ホゥ hu
ミェ mye
リェ rye
ラ゜ la リ゜ li ル゜ lu レ゜ le ロ゜ lo
va vi ve vo

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Hadamitzky, Wolfgang; Spahn, Mark (October 2005). "Romanization systems". Wolfgang Hadamitzky: Japan-related Textbooks, Dictionaries, and Reference Works. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  2. ^ Backhaus, Peter (29 December 2014). "To shine or to die: the messy world of romanized Japanese". The Japan Times Online. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  3. ^ "'Ti' or 'chi'? Educators call to unify romanization styles in Japan". Mainichi Daily News. 2 April 2017. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  4. ^ Seeley, Christopher (2000). A History of Writing in Japan (Illustrated, reprint ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 140. "ISBN "9780824822170. 
  5. ^ Unger, J. Marshall (1996). Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan: Reading between the Lines. Oxford University Press. p. 53. "ISBN "9780195356380. 
  6. ^ a b c Carr, Denzel. The New Official Romanization of Japanese. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Mar., 1939), pp. 99-102.
  7. ^ "Haruhiko Kindaichi, Takeshi Shibata, Naoki Hayashi (1988). 日本語百科大事典 [Japanese encyclopedia]. Taishukan Shoten. 
  8. ^ Kent, et al. "Oriental Literature and Bibliography." p. 155.
  9. ^ 和英語林集成第三版 [Digital 'Japanese English Forest Collection']. Meiji Gakuin University Library (in Japanese). Meiji Gakuin University. March 2010 [2006]. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  10. ^ "明治学院大学図書館 - 『和英語林集成』デジタルアーカイブス". Meijigakuin.ac.jp. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  11. ^ "Japanese" (PDF). "Library of Congress. Retrieved July 13, 2012. 
  12. ^ "UHM Library : Japan Collection Online Resources". Hawaii.edu. 2005-10-06. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  13. ^ "鉄道掲示基準規程". Homepage1.nifty.com. Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  14. ^ 道路標識のローマ字(ヘボン式) の綴り方 [How to spell Roman letters (Hepburn style) of road signs]. Kictec (in Japanese). Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  15. ^ "パスポートセンター ヘボン式ローマ字表 : 神奈川県". Pref.kanagawa.jp. Archived from the original on 2012-07-30. Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  16. ^ James Curtis Hepburn (1872). A Japanese-English And English-Japanese Dictionary (2nd ed.). American Presbyterian mission press. pp. 286–290. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  17. ^ 松浦四郎 (October 1992). "104年かかった標準化". 標準化と品質菅理 -Standardization and Quality Control-. Japanese Standards Association. 45: 92–93. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i James Curtis Hepburn (1886). A Japanese-English And English-Japanese Dictionary. (Third Edition). Z. P Maruyama & Co. Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary (Fourth Edition). "Kenkyūsha. 1974. 
  20. ^ a b Fujino Katsuji (1909). ローマ字手引き [RÔMAJI TEBIKI] (in Japanese). Rômaji-Hirome-kai. 
  21. ^ "Cabinet of Japan (December 9, 1954). 昭和29年内閣告示第1号 ローマ字のつづり方 [Japanese Cabinet Order No.1 in 1954 - How to write Romanization] (in Japanese). "Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  22. ^ "Bureau of Citizens and Culture Affairs of Tokyo. "PASSPORT_ヘボン式ローマ字綴方表" [Table of Spelling in Hepburn Romanization] (in Japanese). Archived from the original on December 5, 2011. Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  23. ^ Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco. ヘボン式ローマ字綴方表 [Table of Spelling in Hepburn Romanization] (PDF) (in Japanese). Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  24. ^ Consulate-General of Japan in Detroit. "Example of Application Form for Passport" (PDF) (in Japanese). Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  25. ^ Pocket Kenkyusha Japanese Dictionary. "Pocket Kenkyusha Japanese Dictionary (9780198607489): Shigeru Takebayashi, Kazuhiko Nagai: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  26. ^ "ローマ字の長音のつづり方". Xembho.s59.xrea.com. Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  27. ^ a b "標準式ローマ字つづり―引用". Retrieved 2016-02-27. ["self-published source]
  28. ^ a b "Cabinet of Japan (November 16, 1946). 昭和21年内閣告示第33号 「現代かなづかい」 [Japanese Cabinet Order No.33 in 1946 - Modern kana usage] (in Japanese). Archived from the original on October 6, 2001. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 
  29. ^ a b "Cabinet of Japan (July 1, 1986). 昭和61年内閣告示第1号 「現代仮名遣い」 [Japanese Cabinet Order No.1 in 1986 - Modern kana usage] (in Japanese). "Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Cabinet of Japan. "平成3年6月28日内閣告示第2号:外来語の表記" [Japanese cabinet order No.2 (June 28, 1991):The notation of loanword]. "Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Retrieved May 25, 2011. 
  31. ^ "米国規格(ANSI Z39.11-1972)―要約". Retrieved 2016-02-27. ["self-published source]
  32. ^ "英国規格(BS 4812 : 1972)―要約". Retrieved 2016-02-27. ["self-published source]


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