1 Legal status 2 Variants
2.1 Obsolete variants
2.1.1 Second version 2.1.2 First version
3.1 Long vowels
3.1.1 A + A 3.1.2 I + I 3.1.3 U + U 3.1.4 E + E 3.1.5 O + O 3.1.6 O + U 3.1.7 E + I 3.1.8 Other combination of vowels 3.1.9 Loanwords 3.1.10 Variations
3.2 Particles 3.3 Syllabic n 3.4 Long consonants
4 Romanization charts
4.1 Extended katakana
5 See also 6 Notes 7 References 8 External links
Legal status 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. In 1930, a Special Romanization Study Commission was appointed to compare the two. 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. 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. 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. Variants
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:
The Traditional Hepburn, as defined in various editions of Hepburn's
dictionary, with the third edition (1886) often considered
authoritative (although changes in kana usage must be accounted
for). It is characterized by the rendering of syllabic n as m before
the consonants b, m and p: Shimbashi for 新橋.
Modified Hepburn (修正ヘボン式, Shūsei Hebon-shiki), also
known as Revised Hepburn, in which (among other points) the rendering
of syllabic n as m before certain consonants is no longer used:
Shinbashi for 新橋. The style was introduced in the third edition of
Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary (1954), was adopted by
Library of Congress
In Japan itself, there are some variants officially mandated for various uses:
Railway Standard (鉄道掲示基準規程, Tetsudō Keiji Kijun Kitei), which follows the Hyōjun-shiki Rōmaji. All Japan Rail and other major railways use it for station names. Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Standard, how to spell Roman letters (Hepburn style) of road signs, which follows the modified Hepburn style. It is used for road signs.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Passport Standard (外務省旅券規定, Gaimushō Ryoken Kitei), a permissive standard, which explicitly allows the use of "non-Hepburn romaji" (非ヘボン式ローマ字, hi-Hebon-shiki rōmaji) in personal names, notably for passports. In particular, it renders the syllabic n as m before b, m and p, and romanizes long o as oh, oo or ou (Satoh, Satoo or Satou for 佐藤).
Details of the variants can be found below. Obsolete variants 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
エ and ヱ were written as ye: Yedo ズ and ヅ were written as dzu: kudzu, tsudzuku キャ, キョ, and キュ were written as kiya, kiyo and kiu クヮ was written as kuwa
First version The following differences are in addition to those in the second version:
ス was written as sz. ツ was written as tsz. ズ and ヅ were written as du. クヮ was written as kuwa.
Features 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: し 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. Supporters[who?] argue that Hepburn is not intended as a linguistic tool. Long vowels The long vowels are generally indicated by macrons ( ¯ ). 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. The combinations of vowels are written as follows in traditional/modified Hepburn: A + A In traditional and modified:
The combination of a + a is written aa if a word-border exists between them.
邪悪（じゃあく）: ji + ya + a + ku = jaaku – evil
In traditional Hepburn:
The long vowel a is written aa
お婆さん（おばあさん）: o + ba + a + sa + n = obaa-san – grandmother
In modified Hepburn:
The long vowel a is indicated by a macron:
お婆さん（おばあさん）: o + ba + a + sa + n = obāsan – grandmother
I + I In traditional and modified:
The combination i + i is always written ii.
お兄さん（おにいさん）: o + ni + i + sa + n = oniisan – older brother お爺さん（おじいさん）: o + ji + i + sa + n = ojiisan – grandfather 美味しい（おいしい）: o + i + shi + i = oishii – delicious 新潟（にいがた）: ni + i + ga + ta = Niigata 灰色（はいいろ）: ha + i + i + ro = haiiro – grey
U + U 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:
食う（くう）: ku + -u = kuu – to eat 縫う（ぬう）: nu + -u = nuu – to sew 湖（みずうみ）: mi + zu + u + mi = mizuumi - lake
The long vowel u is indicated by a macron:
数学（すうがく）: su + u + ga + ku = sūgaku – mathematics 注意（ちゅうい）: chu + u + i = chūi – attention ぐうたら: gu + u + ta + ra = gūtara – loafer 憂鬱（ゆううつ）: yu + u + u + tsu = yūutsu - depression
E + E In traditional and modified:
The combination e + e is written ee if a word-border exists between them:
濡れ縁（ぬれえん）: nu + re + e + n = nureen – open veranda
In traditional Hepburn:
The long vowel e is written ee:
お姉さん（おねえさん）: o + ne + e + sa + n = oneesan – older sister
In modified Hepburn:
The long vowel e is indicated by a macron:
お姉さん（おねえさん）: o + ne + e + sa + n = onēsan – older sister
O + O In traditional and modified:
The combination o + o is written oo if a word-border exists between them:
小躍り（こおどり）: ko + o + do + ri = koodori – dance
The long vowel o is indicated by a macron:
氷（こおり）: ko + o + ri = kōri – ice 遠回り（とおまわり）: to + o + ma + wa + ri = tōmawari – roundabout route 大阪（おおさか）: o + o + sa + ka = Ōsaka – Osaka
O + U 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:
追う（おう）: o + -u = ou – to chase 迷う（まよう）: ma + yo + -u = mayou – to get lost 子馬（こうま）: ko + u + ma = kouma – foal 仔牛（こうし）: ko + u + shi = koushi – calf
The long vowel o is indicated by a macron:
学校（がっこう）: ga + (sokuon) + ko + u = gakkō – school 東京（とうきょう）: to + u + kyo + u = Tōkyō – Tokyo 勉強（べんきょう）: be + n + kyo + u = benkyō – study 電報（でんぽう）: de + n + po + u = dempō or denpō – telegraphy 金曜日（きんようび）: ki + n + yo + u + bi = kinyōbi or kin'yōbi – Friday 格子（こうし）: ko + u + shi = kōshi – lattice
E + I In traditional and modified:
The combination e + i is written ei.
学生（がくせい）: ga + ku + se + i = gakusei – student 経験（けいけん）: ke + i + ke + n = keiken – experience 制服（せいふく）: se + i + fu + ku = seifuku – uniform 姪（めい）: me + i = mei – niece 招いて（まねいて）: ma + ne + i + te = maneite – call/invite and then
Other combination of vowels All other combinations of two different vowels are written separately:
軽い（かるい）: ka + ru + i = karui – light (for weight) 鴬（うぐいす）: u + gu + i + su = uguisu – bush warbler 甥（おい）: o + i = oi – nephew
Loanwords The long vowels indicated by chōonpu (ー) within loanwords are written with macrons (ā, ī, ū, ē, ō) as follows:
セーラー: se + (chōonpu) + ra + (chōonpu) = sērā – sailor パーティー: pa + (chōonpu) + ti + (chōonpu) = pātī – party ヒーター: hi + (chōonpu) + ta + (chōonpu) = hītā – heater タクシー: ta + ku + shi + (chōonpu) = takushī – taxi スーパーマン: su + (chōonpu) + pa + (chōonpu) + ma + n = Sūpāman – Superman バレーボール: ba + re + (chōonpu) + bo + (chōonpu) + ru = barēbōru – volleyball ソール: so + (chōonpu) + ru = sōru – sole
The combinations of two vowels within loanwords are written separately:
バレエ: ba + re + e = baree – ballet ソウル: so + u + ru = souru – soul, Seoul ミイラ: mi + i + ra = miira – mummy
Variations 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:
Tōkyō – indicated with macrons. That follows the rules of the
traditional and modified Hepburn systems and is considered to be
However, using this method makes the pronunciation of ou become ambiguous, either a long o or two different vowels: o and u. See Wāpuro rōmaji#Phonetic accuracy for details.
Tookyoo – written by doubling the long vowels. Some dictionaries such as Pocket Kenkyusha Japanese dictionary and Basic English writers' Japanese-English wordbook follow this style, and it is also used in the JSL form of romanization. It is also used to write words without reference to any particular system.
Particles In traditional and modified:
When は is used as a particle, it is written wa.
In traditional Hepburn:
When へ is used as a particle, Hepburn originally recommended ye. This spelling is obsolete, and it is commonly written as e (Romaji-Hirome-Kai, 1974). When を is used as a particle, it is written wo.
In modified Hepburn:
When へ is used as a particle, it is written e. When を is used as a particle, it is written o.
Syllabic n In traditional Hepburn:
Syllabic n (ん) 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 な na, and んや n + ya and にゃ nya), but its hyphen usage is not clear.
案内（あんない）: annai – guide 群馬（ぐんま）: Gumma – Gunma 簡易（かんい）: kan-i – simple 信用（しんよう）: shin-yō – trust
In modified Hepburn:
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.
案内（あんない）: annai – guide
Long consonants Elongated (or "geminate") consonant sounds are marked by doubling the consonant following a sokuon, っ; 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.
結果（けっか）: kekka – result さっさと: sassato – quickly ずっと: zutto – all the time 切符（きっぷ）: kippu – ticket 雑誌（ざっし）: zasshi – magazine 一緒（いっしょ）: issho – together こっち: kotchi (not kocchi) – this way 抹茶（まっちゃ）: matcha (not maccha) – matcha 三つ（みっつ）: mittsu – three
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
Each entry contains hiragana, katakana, and Hepburn romanization, in that order. † — The characters in red are rare historical characters and are obsolete in modern Japanese. In modern Hepburn romanization, they are often undefined. ‡ — The characters in blue are rarely used outside of their status as a particle in modern Japanese, and romanization follows the rules above.
These combinations are used mainly to represent the sounds in words in
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.
ウァ wa ウィ wi ウゥ wu* ウェ we ウォ wo
ヴァ va ヴィ vi ヴ vu⁑ ヴェ ve ヴォ vo
ヴュ vyu ヴィェ vye ヴョ vyo
クァ kwa クィ kwi
クェ kwe クォ kwo
グァ gwa グィ gwi
グェ gwe グォ gwo
ツァ tsa ツィ tsi
ツェ tse ツォ tso
ティ ti トゥ tu
ディ di ドゥ du
ファ fa フィ fi
フェ fe フォ fo
フュ fyu フィェ fye フョ fyo
ラ゜ la リ゜ li ル゜ lu レ゜ le ロ゜ lo
ヷ va⁂ ヸ vi⁂
ヹ ve⁂ ヺ vo⁂
* — The use of ウゥ to represent wu is rare in modern Japanese
except for Internet slang and transcription of the Latin digraph VV
⁑ — ヴ has a rarely-used hiragana form in ゔ that is also vu in
Japan portal Language portal
List of ISO romanizations
^ 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.
^ Backhaus, Peter (29 December 2014). "To shine or to die: the messy
world of romanized Japanese".
The Japan Times
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.
Preface of first edition of Hepburn's original dictionary, explaining romanization Preface of third edition of Hepburn's original dictionary, explaining romanization
v t e
Romanization of Japanese
Hepburn JSL Kunrei-shiki (ISO 3602) Nihon-shiki ( ISO 3602 Strict) Wāpuro
v t e
Old Early Middle Late Middle Early Modern
Tsugaru Akita Kesen Yamagata
Nagaoka Nagoya Mikawa Mino Hida
Chūgoku Umpaku Shikoku
Iyo Tosa Sanuki
Hakata Saga Tsushima
Satsugū Okinawan Japanese
Amami Ōshima Kikai Kunigami Miyako Okinawan Okinoerabu Tokunoshima Yaeyama Yonaguni Yoron
by concept by stroke count
by frequency by stroke count
Punctuation Orthographic issues Kanazukai Historical kana Modern kana Jōdai Tokushu Kanazukai Yotsugana Transcription into Japanese
0201 0208 0211 0212 0213 Shift JIS
ARIB STD B24 Enclosed EIS Extended shinjitai Half/Full
Grammar and vocabulary
Japanese grammar Verb and adjective conjugations Consonant and vowel verbs Irregular verbs Pronouns Adjectives Possessives Particles Topic marker Counter words Numerals Native words (yamato kotoba) Sino-Japanese vocabulary Loan words (gairaigo)
from Dutch from Portuguese
Wasei-eigo Engrish Honorific speech Honorifics Court lady language (nyōbō kotoba) Gender differences Dictionaries
Pitch accent Sound symbolism Rendaku
Hepburn Nihon-shiki Kunrei JSL Wāpuro rōmaji
Books Poetry Writers Classical Japanese