1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Japanese
  4. >
  5. The Use of Macrons in Transli…


The Use of Macrons in Transliterated Japanese

Hi everyone,

I'm looking to start a blog about my appreciation for anime and I've found the letter ō (english letter o with a macron on top of it) which I'd really like to include in my blog's name, mostly because of the logo I'd design for it. Can someone help me find japanese words, names or surnames that when they're transliterated in English there's an ō included in them?

Also what's the proper way to pronounce it?

According to this site: http://www.sljfaq.org/afaq/kana-roman.html the word Tokyo is supposed to be written as Tōkyō. If I did in fact use macrons in it would it be considered kind of outdated or whatever? Because I think we all write Tokyo without macrons.

Then again there's the words Miyakonojō, Takajō, Ōsumi (etc.) that I found in: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miyakonoj%C5%8D and they all include the macrons in them.

When should the macron be skipped and when not?

Can you list some names and/or words that include it always or most of the time?


November 26, 2017



"Tokyo" is English for 東京 (とうきょう, tōkyō).

Much like "Japan" is English for 日本 (にっぽん, nippon) or (にほん, nihon)

We don't use macrons at all in English.

Some romanisation systems for transliterating Japanese script into a Latin script do use macrons for indicating long vowels, but other romanisation systems use different methods for indicating them. Romaji is used for giving people who can't read Japanese script some idea how to pronounce the Japanese word—not to write it in English.

None of the other Latin script using countries write it as tōkyō in their languages either... Tokyo, Tokio, Tóquio, Tòquio, Tokjo,... ^^


My 5c about when to use macrons is that if it's a naturalised word, like Tokyo, you shouldn't; but if it's a recent loan word or quoting a piece of Japanese writing you should. Especially since the way Tokyo is pronounced in English ('toe-kee-oh') is not how it's pronounced in Japanese's Tōkyō ('tooh-kyooh').

On a related note in the Māori language the macron is also used to indicate vowel length and recently in New Zealand there's been a push to have it included even on words that have really become naturalised in New Zealand English. So for example words like tui (a type of bird), kowhai (a type of tree), whanau ("family" - sort of), and hikoi ("to walk") are now usually seen spelled tūī, kōwhai, whānau, and hīkoi respectively.


There is no standard for the writing of Japanese words in English (romanization). The most popular system is called the Hepburn Style (ヘボン式 - Hebon-shiki).

The family name 加藤 (かとう)could be written as Kato, Katou, Katoh, Katō, depending on who is writing it. The sound じょ can be written as Jo or Jyo. The sound ち can be written as chi or ti.

As mentioned, words that have become heavily used in contemporary English should be written as they have been accepted into the language. Some Japanese have different spellings for their family name on legal documents, despite having the same root. I have never seen macrons used though (in the States).

Many Japanese have to be trained within an organization to use only one system to standardize their computer entries. As Hepburn Style has become the dominant form, you should use this as a default.

Please visit the Wikipedia page for more details.


Thank you all. I think I get a grasp now.

Practically it's more like, if it's a new or rare word it could use a macro if needed, otherwise for established words like Tokyo it should be skipped.

Do I get it right? ^_^


Not necessarily new or rare words. It is highly subjective and whether or not the word is new or not, rare or not, different people will spell it their own way. The only exception being words that are so popular internationally that the way they are spelled has become ubiquitous. Keep in mind, however, that even Tokyo (arguably the most used Japanese word internationally, has some people who will spell it as Tokio, Tohkyoh, Tōkyō, etc.

The reason that you found so many macrons in your Wikipedia examples is because that is the way that they normally format phonetic readings (as a standard).

So, to be clearer, it is a highly subjective thing, how a Japanese person/publisher/business will romanize their native language. Try to find a method that works for you and stick with it while remembering that other people are mainly free to use whichever method they prefer.


Hmm, I see.

So basically I could even include the word Tōkyō itself (with macrons) in my blog's name and it still wouldn't look outdated or out of place, cause like you suggested it's entirely up to me how I choose to translitarate words. Tōkyō and Tokyo are either way acceptable.

Thank you sooo much for the time you took to help me out.

Arigatou ^_^


たいしたことないよー:)No problem!

Learn Japanese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.