Govt. reviewing 'romaji' alphabet for Japanese words

The Japanese government is considering changing its 70-year-old promulgation on the use of "romaji," or Roman alphabetization for expressing Japanese words, at a time when the country has more foreign residents and visitors.

There are two romaji systems -- the Kunrei and Hepburn. The Cabinet designated Kunrei as standard in 1954 under the promulgation.

For example, while the Kunrei method uses the syllable "ti," Hepburn expresses it as "chi," which is closer to English spelling.

Education minster Moriyama Masahito on Tuesday asked a Cultural Affairs Agency panel to consider better use of the romaji styles in line with the changing times.

His request takes into account the fact that the Cabinet announcement was issued at a time when romaji was just meant to transcribe the Japanese language. But today it is also used as a tool for non-Japanese speakers and for sending information to the global society.

Currently the Hepburn style is commonly used for passports and road signs, for example.

The minister also asked the panel to standardize multiple spellings and long vowel sounds.

The panel is to consider revisions to the original Cabinet announcement.

A survey by the Cultural Affairs Agency in 2023 showed differing opinions over which style was easier to learn.
A more detailed survey is planned for this fiscal year.