What is Nippon-shiki romanization?

Nippon-shiki (日本式) is one of the systems of romanizing Japanese. It was invented by physicist Aikitsu Tanakadate (田中館 愛橘) in 1885, and postdates the Hepburn system of romanization. Tanakadate's intention was to completely replace the traditional kanji and kana system of writing Japanese with a romanized system, which he felt would make it easier for Japanese people to compete with Western countries. Since the system was intended for Japanese people to use to write their own language, it is much more regular than Hepburn romanization, and, unlike Hepburn's system, it makes no effort to make itself easier to pronounce for English speakers.

Nippon-shiki was followed by another, similar system, Kunrei-shiki. The difference between Nippon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki is the difference between the kana syllabary and modern pronunciation. In modern standard Japanese, the sounds of the pairs di/zi ぢ/じ, du/zu づ/ず, dya/zya ぢゃ/じゃ, dyu/zyu ぢゅ/じゅ, dyo/zyo ぢょ/じょ, wi/i ゐ/い, we/e ゑ/え, kwa/ka くゎ/か, and gwa/ga ぐゎ/が have become identical. For example, the word kanadukai (かなづかい) is pronounced as kanazukai in modern Japanese.

Nippon-shiki is the most regular romanization systems, because it maintains a strict "one kana, two letters" form. Because it has unique forms for all of the kana homophones, it allows one to go back and forth between kana and romaji unambiguously.

Table of Nippon-shiki romanization

A I U E O Yōon
a i u e o
kagyō ka ki ku ke ko kya kyu kyo
きゃ きゅ きょ
sagyō sa si su se so sya syu syo
しゃ しゅ しょ
tagyō ta ti tu te to tya tyu tyo
ちゃ ちゅ ちょ
nagyō na ni nu ne no nya nyu nyo
にゃ にゅ にょ
hagyō ha hi hu he ho hya hyu hyo
ひゃ ひゅ ひょ
magyō ma mi mu me mo mya myu myo
みゃ みゅ みょ
yagyō ya yu yo
ragyō ra ri ru re ro rya ryu ryo
りゃ りゅ りょ
wagyō wa wi we wo
N n
gagyō ga gi gu ge go gya gyu gyo
ぎゃ ぎゅ ぎょ
zagyō za zi zu ze zo zya zyu zyo
じゃ じゅ じょ
dagyō da di du de do dya dyu dyo
ぢゃ ぢゅ ぢょ
bagyō ba bi bu be bo bya byu byo
びゃ びゅ びょ
pagyō pa pi pu pe po pya pyu pyo
ぴゃ ぴゅ ぴょ

See A table of romanizations for a full table of the differences between the three main romanization systems.


  1. Jiten Nihon no moji (事典日本の文字), p. 134

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