Kunrei-shiki rōmaji (訓令式ローマ字, Cabinet-ordered romanization system, romanized as Kunrei-siki in Kunrei-shiki itself) is a romanization system, i.e. a system for transcribing the Japanese language into the Latin alphabet. It is abbreviated as Kunrei-shiki. Its name is rendered Kunreisiki using Kunrei-shiki itself.
Kunrei-shiki is sometimes known as the Monbushō system in English, because it is taught in the Monbushō-approved elementary school curriculum. Kunrei-shiki is also referred to as ISO 3602, as it has been approved by 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 common modern Japanese, and Kunrei-shiki uses the latter spelling.
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 But since this had been overturned by the SCAP during the Occupation of Japan, the Japanese government repealed it and decreed again as Japanese Cabinet Order No.1 as of December 29, 1954. The order mandated the use of kunrei-shiki in "the written expression of Japanese generally", with a provision that specific alternative spellings could be used in international relations, and where necessary to follow established precedent. See Permitted Exceptions for details. (Japanese text)
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 Japanese government generally uses Hepburn, including the romanization of Japanese names on passports, road signage and train signage. The great majority of Western publications and all English-language newspapers also continue to use Hepburn.
Because Kunrei-shiki is based on Japanese phonology, it can cause non-native speakers to pronounce words incorrectly. John Hinds, author of Japanese: A Prescriptive Grammar, says that this would be "a major disadvantage."
Additional complications appear with newer kana combinations such as ティーム(チーム) team. In Hepburn, these would be distinguished as different sounds and represented tīmu and chīmu respectively, giving better indications of the English pronunciations. For some Japanese speakers, however, the sounds ティ "ti" and チ "chi" are the same phoneme; they are both represented in Kunrei-shiki as tîmu. This kind of logic often confuses those who do not know Japanese phonology well.
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. One notable introductory textbook for English speakers, Eleanor Jorden's Japanese: The Spoken Language, uses JSL romanization, a system strongly influenced by Kunrei-shiki in its adherence to Japanese phonology, but adapted to teaching proper pronunciation of Japanese phonemes.
|あ ア a||い イ i||う ウ u||え エ e||お オ o||(ya)||(yu)||(yo)|
|か カ ka||き キ ki||く ク ku||け ケ ke||こ コ ko||きゃ キャ kya||きゅ キュ kyu||きょ キョ kyo|
|さ サ sa||し シ si||す ス su||せ セ se||そ ソ so||しゃ シャ sya||しゅ シュ syu||しょ ショ syo|
|た タ ta||ち チ ti||つ ツ tu||て テ te||と ト to||ちゃ チャ tya||ちゅ チュ tyu||ちょ チョ tyo|
|な ナ na||に ニ ni||ぬ ヌ nu||ね ネ ne||の ノ no||にゃ ニャ nya||にゅ ニュ nyu||にょ ニョ nyo|
|は ハ ha||ひ ヒ hi||ふ フ hu||へ ヘ he||ほ ホ ho||ひゃ ヒャ hya||ひゅ ヒュ hyu||ひょ ヒョ hyo|
|ま マ ma||み ミ mi||む ム mu||め メ me||も モ mo||みゃ ミャ mya||みゅ ミュ myu||みょ ミョ myo|
|や ヤ ya||ゆ ユ yu||よ ヨ yo|
|ら ラ ra||り リ ri||る ル ru||れ レ re||ろ ロ ro||りゃ リャ rya||りゅ リュ ryu||りょ リョ ryo|
|わ ワ wa||ゐ ヰ wi||ゑ ヱ we||を ヲ wo|
|ん ン n-n'|
|voiced sounds (dakuten)|
|が ガ ga||ぎ ギ gi||ぐ グ gu||げ ゲ ge||ご ゴ go||ぎゃ ギャ gya||ぎゅ ギュ gyu||ぎょ ギョ gyo|
|ざ ザ za||じ ジ zi||ず ズ zu||ぜ ゼ ze||ぞ ゾ zo||じゃ ジャ zya||じゅ ジュ zyu||じょ ジョ zyo|
|だ ダ da||ぢ ヂ zi||づ ヅ zu||で デ de||ど ド do||ぢゃ ヂャ zya||ぢゅ ヂュ zyu||ぢょ ヂョ zyo|
|ば バ ba||び ビ bi||ぶ ブ bu||べ ベ be||ぼ ボ bo||びゃ ビャ bya||びゅ ビュ byu||びょ ビョ byo|
|ぱ パ pa||ぴ ピ pi||ぷ プ pu||ぺ ペ pe||ぽ ポ po||ぴゃ ピャ pya||ぴゅ ピュ pyu||ぴょ ピョ pyo|
The Cabinet Order makes an exception to the above chart:
|しゃ sha||し shi||しゅ shu||しょ sho|
|ちゃ cha||ち chi||ちゅ chu||ちょ cho|
|じゃ ja||じ ji||じゅ ju||じょ jo|
|ぢ di||づ du|
|ぢゃ dya||ぢゅ dyu||ぢょ dyo|
This exceptional clause is not to be confused with other systems of romanization (such as Hepburn) and does not specifically relax other requirements such as marking long vowels.