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a i u e o
ka ki ku ke ko
sa si su se so
ta ti tu te to
na ni nu ne no
ha hi hu he ho
ma mi mu me mo
ya yu yo
ra ri ru re ro
wa wo
ga gi gu ge go
za zi zu ze zo
da (zi) (zu) de do
ba bi bu be bo
pa pi pu pe po
kya kyu kyo
sya syu syo
tya tyu tyo
nya nyu nyo
hya hyu hyo
mya myu myo
rya ryu ryo
gya gyu gyo
zya zyu zyo
(zya) (zyu) (zyo)
bya byu byo
pya pyu pyo
  • When he へ is used as a particle it is written e not he (as in Nipponsiki).
  • When ha は is used as a particle it is written wa not ha.
  • When wo を is used as a particle it is written o not wo.
  • Long vowels are indicated by a circumflex, for example long o is written ô.
  • Syllabic n ん is written as n before consonants but as n' before vowels and y.
  • Geminate consonants are marked by doubling the consonant following the っ.
  • The first letter in a sentence, and all proper nouns, are capitalized.
  • ISO 3602 has the strict form, see Nipponsiki (Nihon-shiki).

Kunrei-shiki (訓令式, "Cabinet-ordered system") is a romanization system, that is, a system for transcribing the Japanese language into the Roman alphabet. Its name is rendered Kunreisiki using Kunrei-shiki itself.

Kunrei-shiki is sometimes known as the Monbushō system in English, because it was until relatively recently taught in the Monbushō-approved elementary school curriculum. (It has since been supplanted, de facto if not de jure, by the more common Hepburn romanization.) Kunrei-shiki is also referred to as ISO 3602, as it has been approved by the ISO.

Kunrei-shiki is based on the older Nihon-shiki (Nipponsiki) system, modified for modern standard Japanese. For example, the word かなづかい, romanized kanadukai in Nihon-shiki, is pronounced kanazukai in modern Japanese, and Kunrei-shiki uses the latter spelling.

Legal status

The system was originally promulgated as Japanese Cabinet Order No.3 as of September 21, 1937. But since this had been overturned by the SCAP during the Occupation of Japan, the Japanese government repealed it and decreed again as Japanese Cabinet Order No.1 as of December 29, 1954.

Kunrei-shiki has been recognized, along with Nihon-shiki, in ISO 3602:1989. Documentation--Romanization of Japanese (kana script) by the ISO. It was also recommended by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) after they withdrew their own standard, ANSI Z39.11-1972 American National Standard System for the Romanization of Japanese (Modified Hepburn), in 1994.


Despite its official recognition, Kunrei-shiki has not gained widespread acceptance in or outside Japan. The government generally uses Hepburn for romanizing Japanese names and terms in English contexts, as well as some less language-specific contexts such as passports and road signs. Most countries, including all countries in the Anglosphere, continue to use Hepburn.

Because Kunrei-shiki is based on Japanese phonology, English speakers sometimes find it strange, particularly when dealing with some newer kana combinations such as ティーム(チーム) team. In Hepburn, these would be distinguished as different sounds and represented mu and chīmu respectively, giving better indications of the English pronunciations. For most Japanese speakers, however, the sounds ティ "t'i" and チ "ti" are the same phoneme; they are represented in Kunrei-shiki as t'îmu and tîmu respectively. The apostrophe indicates "unstable, but identified as the same sound". This kind of logic often confuses those who do not know Japanese phonology well.

Conjugation Kunrei Hepburn
Mizen 1 tat-a- tat-a-
Mizen 2 tat-o- tat-o-
Ren'yô tat-i- tach-i-
Syûsi tat-u. tats-u.
Rentai tat-e- tat-e-
Meirei tat-e. tat-e.

Today, the main users of Kunrei-shiki are native speakers of Japanese (especially within Japan) and linguists studying Japanese. The main advantage of Kunrei-shiki is that it is better able to illustrate Japanese grammar, as Hepburn makes some regular conjugations appear irregular (see table, right). The most serious problem of Hepburn in this context is that it changes the stem of verbs, which is not reflected in the underlying morphology of the language.

Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12