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In his Aug. 26 article, “How bureaucrats spell logic in Romanized Japanese“: Colin P.A. Jones misses an important fact about the Kunrei-shiki system: It was designed to be used only by Japanese people in the context of Japanese schools. It does not make sense to native English speakers.

Indeed, the Japanese government has bowed to native English speakers like Jones by generally making the English-like Hepburn romanization system an official standard in contexts where foreigners are likely to encounter Romanized Japanese. For instance, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has mandated the use of Hepburn Romanization in railway and road signs, which is why we never see the supposedly “official” Kunrei Romanization in those contexts.

Likewise, the Foreign Ministry has mandated Hepburn Romanization for names on Japanese passports. Even our beloved Hepburn system is counterintuitive for native speakers of other European languages. In Romanized Japanese texts written by Portuguese missionaries in the 1500s, they spoke of “Nifon no cotoba” rather than “Nihon no kotoba.” Where is the outrage over Japan’s favoritism toward Britons and their former imperial subjects?

joe jones

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