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Kunrei-shiki romanization

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Title: Kunrei-shiki romanization  
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Subject: Romanization of Japanese, Yotsugana, Hepburn romanization, JSL romanization, Nihon-shiki romanization
Collection: Iso 3602, Romanization of Japanese
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Kunrei-shiki romanization

Kunrei-shiki rōmaji (訓令式ローマ字, Cabinet-ordered romanization system) is a Japanese ISO has standardized Kunrei-shiki under ISO 3602.

Kunrei-shiki is based on the older Nihon-shiki (Nipponsiki) system, modified for modern standard Japanese. For example, the word かなづかい, romanized kanadukai in Nihon-shiki, is pronounced kanazukai in common modern Japanese, and Kunrei-shiki uses the latter spelling. Kunrei-shiki competes with the older Hepburn romanization system, which was promoted by the authorities during the occupation of Japan. Today, Japanese commonly choose between Kunrei-shiki and Hepburn depending on the given situation.


  • History 1
  • Legal status 2
  • Usage 3
    • Kunrei-shiki spellings of kana 3.1
    • Permitted exceptions 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7


In the period before World War II there was a political conflict between supporters of Hepburn romanization and supporters of Nihon-shiki romanization. In 1930 a board of inquiry under the aegis of the Minister of Education was established to determine the proper romanization system. The Japanese government, by cabinet order (訓令 kunrei),[1] announced on September 21, 1937 that a modified form of Nihon-shiki would be officially adopted as Kunrei-shiki.[2] The form at the time differs slightly from the modern day form.[3] Originally the system was called the Kokutei (国定, government-authorized) system.[2]

The Japanese government gradually introduced Kunrei-shiki. It appeared in secondary education, on railway station signboards, on nautical charts, and on the 1:1,000,000 scale International Map of the World.[4] In the period when the central government had strong control, from 1937 to 1945, the Japanese government used Kunrei-shiki in its tourist brochures.[5] In Japan, some usage of Nihon-shiki and Modified Hepburn remained because some individuals supported the usage of those systems.[4]

J. Marshall Unger, author of Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan : Reading between the Lines, said that the Hepburn supporters "understandably" believed that the Kunrei-shiki "compromise" was not fair, because of the presence of the "un-English-looking spellings" that the Modified Hepburn supporters had opposed.[6] Andrew Horvat, author of Japanese Beyond Words: How to Walk and Talk Like a Native Speaker, argued that "by forcing non-native speakers of Japanese with no intentions of learning the language to abide by a system intended for those who have some command of Japanese, the government gave the impression of intolerant language management that would have dire consequences later on."[5]

After the Japanese government was defeated in 1945, General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers issued a directive, dated September 3, 1945, that stated that Modified Hepburn was the method for transcribing Japanese names. Some editorials printed in Japanese newspapers advocated for only using Hepburn.[7] Supporters of Hepburn denounced pro-Kunrei-shiki and pro-Nihon-shiki advocates to the SCAP offices,[6] accusing them of being inactive militarists,[7] and of collaborating with militarists. Unger said that the nature of Kunrei-shiki led to "pent-up anger" among the Hepburn supporters.[6] During the post-war period, several educators and scholars tried to introduce romanized letters as a teaching device and as a possibility of being a substitution for kanji. However Kunrei-shiki had associations with Japanese militarism and the U.S. occupying government was reluctant to promote it.[5] On December 9, 1954, the Japanese government re-confirmed Kunrei-shiki as its official system;[2] this time the Kunrei-shiki system had slight modifications done to it.[8] Eleanor Jorden, an American linguist, made textbooks that used a modified version of Kunrei-shiki. They were used in the 1960s in courses given to U.S. diplomats. The usage of her books did not change the U.S. government's hesitation to use Kunrei-shiki.[5]

As of 1974, according to the Geographical Survey Institute, Kunrei-shiki was used for topographical maps while Modified Hepburn was used for geological maps and aeronautical charts.[9]

As of 1978, the

  • Horvat, Andrew. "The Romaji (Roomaji) Conundrum." (Archive) - Excerpt from Horvat's book: Japanese Beyond Words: How to Walk and Talk Like a Native Speaker. Hosted at the David See-Chai Lam Centre for International Communication of Simon Fraser University.

External links

  1. ^ Horvat, p. 166. ""The zi ending of roomazi comes from the Kunreeshiki system promulgated in the 1930s through a cabinet order, or kunree."
  2. ^ a b c d Kent, et al. "Oriental Literature and Bibliography." p. 155.
  3. ^ Hadamitzky, p. 12.
  4. ^ a b "Romanization in Japan." (Archive) (Paper presented by Japan) United Nations Economic and Social Council. July 8, 1977. p. 3. English only. Retrieved on May 15, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Horvat, Andrew. "The Romaji (Roomaji) Conundrum." (Archive) - Excerpt from Horvat's book: Japanese Beyond Words: How to Walk and Talk Like a Native Speaker. Hosted at the David See-Chai Lam Centre for International Communication of Simon Fraser University. Retrieved on May 13, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Unger, p. 54.
  7. ^ a b Unger, p. 78.
  8. ^ Gottlieb, p. 78.
  9. ^ Geographical Standards Institute, p. 22. "As reported at the Second Conference, the writing of geographical names in Roman letters in Japan comes in two types — Kunrei Siki (system adopted under a Cabinet ordinance) and Syûsei Hebon Siki (Modified Hepburn System). Kunrei Siki is used for topographical maps, whjereas Syûsei Hebon Siki is in use for aeronautical charts and geological maps." - Content also available in "Romanization in Japan." (Archive) (Paper presented by Japan) United Nations Economic and Social Council. July 8, 1977. p. 2. English only.
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ Powers, John. "Japanese Names", The Indexer Vol. 26 No. 2 June 2008. "It [Hepburn] can be considered the norm as, in slightly modified form, it is followed by the great majority of Western publications and by all English-language newspapers."
  13. ^ Hinds, John. Japanese: Descriptive Grammar. "The major disadvantage of this system (Kunrei-shiki) is that there is a tendency for nonnative speakers of Japanese to pronounce certain forms incorrectly."
  14. ^ Hinds, John. Japanese: A Prescriptive Grammar. "The major advantage of kunrei-shiki is that inflectional endings are seen to be more regular."


  • Geographical Survey Institute (Kokudo Chiriin). Bulletin of the Geographical Survey Institute, Volumes 20-23. 1974.
  • Gottlieb, Nanette. "The Rōmaji movement in Japan." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Third Series). January 2010. Volume 20, Issue 1. p. 75-88. Published online on November 30, 2009. Available at Cambridge Journals. DOI doi:10.1017/S1356186309990320.
  • Hadamitzky, Wolfgang. Kanji & Kana Revised Edition (漢字・かな). Tuttle Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0804820775, 9780804820776.
  • Horvat, Andrew. Japanese Beyond Words: How to Walk and Talk Like a Native Speaker. Stone Bridge Press, 2000. ISBN 1880656426, 9781880656426.
  • Hinds, John. Japanese: Descriptive Grammar. Taylor & Francis Group, 1986. ISBN 0415010330, 9780415010337.
  • Kent, Allen, Harold Lancour, and Jay Elwood Daily (Executive Editors). Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science Volume 21. CRC Press, April 1, 1978. ISBN 0824720210, 9780824720216.
  • Unger, J. Marshall. Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan : Reading between the Lines: Reading between the Lines. Oxford University Press. July 8, 1996. ISBN 0195356381, 9780195356380.
  • ローマ字のつづり方. 文部科学省 (in Japanese).  


See also

This exceptional clause is not to be confused with other systems of romanization (such as Hepburn) and does not specifically relax other requirements such as marking long vowels.

しゃ sha し shi しゅ shu しょ sho
    つ tsu  
ちゃ cha ち chi ちゅ chu ちょ cho
    ふ fu  
じゃ ja じ ji じゅ ju じょ jo
  ぢ di づ du  
ぢゃ dya   ぢゅ dyu ぢょ dyo
くゎ kwa      
ぐゎ gwa      
      を wo
  • Limited to international relations and situations with prior precedent in which a sudden spelling reform would be difficult, spelling may also be given by [the following] Chart 2.

The Cabinet Order makes an exception to the above chart:

Permitted exceptions

  • Characters in red are obsolete in modern Japanese.
  • When he (へ) is used as a particle it is written e not he (as in Nihon-shiki).
  • When ha (は) is used as a particle it is written wa not ha.
  • wo (を/ヲ) is only used as a particle, written o.
  • Long vowels are indicated by a circumflex, for example long o is written ô.
  • Vowels separated by a morpheme boundary are not considered a long vowel. For example, おもう (思う) is written omou, not omô.
  • Syllabic n (ん) is written as n' before vowels and y but as n before consonants and as a word final.
  • Geminate consonants are marked by doubling the consonant following the sokuon, っ, without exception.
  • The first letter in a sentence, and all proper nouns, are capitalized.
  • ISO 3602 has the strict form, see Nihon-shiki.


gojūon yōon
あ ア a い イ i う ウ u え エ e お オ o (ya) (yu) (yo)
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 si す ス su せ セ se そ ソ so しゃ シャ sya しゅ シュ syu しょ ショ syo
た タ ta ち チ ti つ ツ tu て テ te と ト to ちゃ チャ tya ちゅ チュ tyu ちょ チョ tyo
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 hu 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 (i) ゆ ユ yu (e) 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 (u) ゑ ヱ e を ヲ o
ん ン n
voiced sounds (dakuten)
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 zi ず ズ zu ぜ ゼ ze ぞ ゾ zo じゃ ジャ zya じゅ ジュ zyu じょ ジョ zyo
だ ダ da ぢ ヂ zi づ ヅ zu で デ de ど ド do ぢゃ ヂャ zya ぢゅ ヂュ zyu ぢょ ヂョ zyo
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

Kunrei-shiki spellings of kana

Today, the main users of Kunrei-shiki are native speakers of Japanese (especially within Japan) and linguists studying Japanese. The main advantage of Kunrei-shiki is that it is better able to illustrate Japanese grammar, as Hepburn preserves the irregularity of certain conjugations (see table, right).[14] The most serious problem of Hepburn in this context is that it may change the stem of a verb, which is not reflected in the underlying morphology of the language. One notable introductory textbook for English speakers, Eleanor Jorden's Japanese: The Spoken Language, uses her JSL romanization, a system strongly influenced by Kunrei-shiki in its adherence to Japanese phonology, but adapted to teaching proper pronunciation of Japanese phonemes.

Additional complications appear with newer kana combinations such as ティーム(チーム) team. In Hepburn, these would be distinguished as different sounds and represented mu and chīmu respectively, giving better indications of the English pronunciations. For some Japanese speakers, however, the sounds ティ "ti" and チ "chi" are the same phoneme; they are both represented in Kunrei-shiki as tîmu. Such complications may be confusing to those who do not know Japanese phonology well.

Because Kunrei-shiki is based on Japanese phonology, it can cause non-native speakers to pronounce words incorrectly. John Hinds, author of Japanese: Descriptive Grammar, describes this problem as "a major disadvantage."[13]

Example: tat-u
Conjugation Kunrei Hepburn
Mizen 1 tat-a- tat-a-
Mizen 2 tat-o- tat-o-
Ren'yô tat-i tach-i
Syûsi/Rentai tat-u tats-u
Katei tat-e- tat-e-
Meirei tat-e tat-e

Otherwise, the great majority of Western publications and all English-language newspapers use some form of Hepburn.[12]

Despite its official recognition, Japanese commonly choose between Nihon-shiki/Kunrei-shiki and Hepburn for any given situation. However, the Japanese government generally uses Hepburn, especially for the romanization of Japanese names on passports,[10] road signage,[10] and train signage.[11]


Kunrei-shiki has been recognized, along with Nihon-shiki, in ISO 3602:1989. Documentation—Romanization of Japanese (kana script) by the ISO. It was also recommended by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) after they withdrew their own standard, ANSI Z39.11-1972 American National Standard System for the Romanization of Japanese (Modified Hepburn), in 1994.

The system was originally promulgated as Japanese Cabinet Order No. 3 as of September 21, 1937. But since this had been overturned by the SCAP during the Occupation of Japan, the Japanese government repealed it and decreed again as Japanese Cabinet Order No.1 as of December 29, 1954. The order mandated the use of Kunrei-shiki in "the written expression of Japanese generally", with a provision that specific alternative spellings could be used in international relations, and where necessary to follow established precedent. See Permitted Exceptions for details. (Japanese text)

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