Japanese government mulls romanization

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Japanese government mulls romanization

Which is better spelling: Aichi or Aiti?

One of the questions the Council for Cultural Affairs is considering is how to reduce confusion over the use of two different romanization systems for a language considered to be one of the world's most difficult to master.

A Cabinet notification issued in 1954 called for the use of the kunrei style of romanization when writing Japanese words in English. The notice allowed for exceptions with the Hepburn romanization style if circumstances made it hard to change established writing habits.

The Hepburn style is used on the AJW website, which is more commonly used by English-language publishers.

The results of a public opinion poll released on September 30 by the Cultural Affairs Agency showed some examples where the kunrei style was preferred among respondents.

The poll conducted in January and February asked 3,579 individuals aged 16 and older to indicate which romanization style they preferred for various Japanese words.

While Hepburn style had more support for romanizing such place names as Akashi, Gifu, Uji and Aichi, Goshogawara was only used by 43.9 percent of respondents, while the Kunrei version of Gosyogawara was preferred by 54.8 percent. And while 61 percent of respondents chose Atsugi, 37.6 percent said they preferred the kunrei version of Atugi.

The kunrei style is mostly learned during Japanese language classes in elementary school. Hepburn style is more often used in the romanization of Japanese names in passports and road signs.

An official with the Cultural Affairs Agency said that people are unconsciously using the kunrei style and there are various opinions about which style is better. We plan to hold discussions about romanization after further studies on what works best.