Compiled by the UNGEGN Working Group on Romanization Systems
Version 2.2, January 2003


No romanization system for Japanese has been approved at the United Nations conferences on the standardization of geographical names. Systems for the romanization of Japanese have been presented at several sessions of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN).

In Japan there are two current systems for the romanization of Japanese. The official romanization, also known under the name Kunrei-siki, was adopted on 9 December, 1954 (Cabinet Notification No. 1, table 1). Another system, the Modified Hepburn System (Hebon-shiki), continues to be used in Japan in certain spheres where it is estimated that a change would seriously affect customs and considerations of international relations, e.g. in passports. In international cartographic products the Modified Hepburn System remains the most used system.

Japanese is written in two forms: in kanji, which are Sino-Japanese characters, and in kana, which are syllabic symbols. There are two styles of kanakatakana, the squared form, and hiragana, the cursive form. Katakana symbols are used primarily for the phonetic transcription of foreign words and as the equivalent of italics. Hiragana symbols are used to represent grammatical particles and suffixes.

Systems of romanization

Below is a list of Japanese syllables with Roman equivalents. In the table line A gives katakana, line B hiragana and line C romanization in Kunrei-siki. In line D romanization in the Modified Hepburn System in italics is given, if different from the Kunrei-siki. Superscript numbers added to Japanese syllable characters or romanized letters refer to the notes at the end.

Combined forms:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
1 A オゥ (オオ5)
B おぅ (おお5)
C a i u e o ô
D ō
2 A キャ キュ キュゥ キョ キョゥ コゥ
B きゃ きゅ きゅぅ きょ きょぅ こぅ
C ka ki ku ke ko kya kyu kyû kyo kyô
D ke (ga4) kyū kyō
3 A シャ シュ シュゥ ショ ショゥ ソゥ
B しゃ しゅ しゅぅ しょ しょぅ そぅ
C sa si su se so sya syu syû syo syô
D shi sha shu shū sho shō
4 A チャ チュ チュゥ チョ チョゥ トゥ
B ちゃ ちゅ ちゅぅ ちょ ちょぅ とぅ
C ta ti tu1 te to tya tyu tyû tyo tyô
D chi tsu cha chu chū cho chō
5 A ニャ ニュ ニュゥ ニョ ニョゥ ノゥ
B にゃ にゅ にゅぅ にょ にょぅ のぅ
C na ni nu ne no nya nyu nyû nyo nyô
D nyū nyō
6 A ヒャ ヒュ ヒュゥ ヒョ ヒョゥ ホゥ
B ひゃ ひゅ ひゅぅ ひょ ひょぅ ほぅ
C ha hi hu he ho hya hyu hyû hyo hyô
D ha (wa4) fu he (e4) hyū hyō hō (ō4)
7 A ミャ ミュ ミュゥ ミョ ミョゥ モゥ
B みゃ みゅ みゅぅ みょ みょぅ もぅ
C ma mi mu me mo mya myu myû myo myô
D myū myō
8 A ヨゥ
B よぅ
C ya yu yo
9 A リャ リュ リュゥ リョ リョゥ ロゥ
B りゃ りゅ りゅぅ りょ りょぅ ろぅ
C ra ri ru re ro rya ryu ryû ryo ryô
D ryū ryō
10 A
C wa o
11 A
C n2
D n, n’, m
12 A ギャ ギュ ギュゥ ギョ ギョゥ ゴゥ
B ぎゃ ぎゅ ぎゅぅ ぎょ ぎょぅ ごぅ
C ga gi gu ge go gya gyu gyû gyo gyô
D gyū gyō
13 A ジャ ジュ ジュゥ ジョ ジョゥ ゾゥ
B じゃ じゅ じゅぅ じょ じょぅ ぞぅ
C za zi zu ze zo zya zyu zyû zyo zyô
D ji ja ju jo
14 A ドゥ
B どぅ
C da di du de do
D ji zu
15 A ビャ ビュ ビュゥ ビョ ビョゥ ボゥ
B びゃ びゅ びゅぅ びょ びょぅ ぼぅ
C ba bi bu be bo bya byu byû byo byô
D byū byō
16 A ピャ ピュ ピュゥ ピョ ピョゥ ポゥ
B ぴゃ ぴゅ ぴゅぅ ぴょ ぴょぅ ぽぅ
C pa pi pu pe po pya pyu pyû pyo pyô
D pyū pyō


  1. A small-script tu/tsu form (ッ / っ) is inserted between kana symbols to indicate a double consonant (kk, ss, tt, pp in Kunrei-siki; kk, ss, ssh, tt, tts, tch, pp in Hepburn).
  2. ン / ん is romanized always n in Kunrei-siki; when it is necessary to separate the sound n from the vowel or y to follow, the apostrophe is added after the n. In modified Hepburn the character is romanized n’ before y or a vowel letter, n in all other cases; earlier also m was used before b, p, or m.
  3. Long vowels are expressed in Kunrei-siki by placing a circumflex (^) over a vowel; in Hepburn long vowels are indicated by a macron (¯).
  4. The romanization in parentheses (in modified Hepburn) is used only in those cases where the kana symbol is known to be pronounced in the manner indicated.
  5. The combination in parentheses is used to denote the word meaning ’big, great’.