4.1. Romanized Japanese in English


The words at the beginning of sentences, as well as proper nouns, are written with a capital letter in Romanized Japanese exactly like in English.

As I have explained, a long vowel is written with a vowel letter with a circumflex ("^") or a macron ("¯") instead of two duplicating letters. Circumflexes are often omitted in English even though that makes confusion. Remember that in colloquial Japanese, "ei" is often pronounced as [e:] like "ê".


HiraganaPronunciationRomanization
Standardwithout circumflexes
(a)(a)[a:]âa
(i)(i)[i:]îii
(u)(u)[u:]ûu
(e)(i)[ei] or [e:]eiei
(e)(e)[e:]êe
(o)(u)[o:]ôo
(o)(o)[o:]ôo


Here is an example:

Hiragana:(to)(u)(ki)(small yo)(u)
Pitch:LHHH
Romanization:kyô
Meaning:Tôkyô (noun)

The phonemes of this word are /to/, /H/, /kyo/, and /H/. /H/ means a long vowel. Using circumflexes for long vowels produces "Tôkyô", which becomes "Tokyo" if the circumflexes are omitted. In fact the circumflexes are almost always omitted in English. Even though this word has four morae, its English notation Tokyo looks like it had only two morae. I recommend to use circumflexes whenever possible. If you can't, writing "oo" instead of "ô" is better than just removing circumflexes.

The time length necessary to pronounce this word is the same as that for (yo)(ko)(ha)(ma) "Yokohama" because both have four morae. Many English speakers pronounce Yokohama much longer than a native Japanese speaker would do.

Four your interest: Tôkyô has been capital of Japan since 1603, and it was called (e)(do) "Edo" before 1868.


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Copyright(C) TAKASUGI Shinji (ts@sf.airnet.ne.jp)