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Toponymic Guidelines for Map Editors and other Editors, JAPAN (Third Edition 2007)

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In Japan, Japanese has been generally used since its beginning. There are various local dialects in Japan, but common Japanese (standard Japanese) is normally used on official occasions.

The northern regions of Japan have been inhabited by Ainu people who have spoken their own language. The Ainu language has no written form, and the number of people speaking it is decreasing. The language has been handed down for generations in many geographical names and in the oral tradition of epics called "Yûkara."

The Japanese language has been spoken by the Japanese people since ancient times. Historically, the Japanese language was greatly influenced by the Chinese language, adapting many of its characters and its vocabulary.

The Japanese language is syllabic. The writing system consists of Kanzi (Chinese characters) and Kana (the collective name of the two phonetic syllabaries known as Hiragana and Katakana)

With the exception of the syllabic nasal "n", Japanese syllables are composed of only single vowels or one or two consonants followed by a vowel.

The Japanese language is normally written using a combination of Kanzi and Hiragana; Katakana is used primarily to represent words adopted from other languages including personal and geographic names of foreign origin.

Kanzi, originally made in China and introduced to Japan, has been used in Japanese language to represent words when written by itself or in combination with other Kanzi.

The Kana syllabaries were derived from the Kanzi. Unlike Kanzi, Kana syllabaries provide no specific meaning, only phonetics. And unlike the Roman alphabet, each Kana character represents a syllable. Thus, all Japanese pronunciations can be expressed by Kana characters.


When spelling Japanese pronunciations with Kana syllabaries, the following rules of expression apply.

    1. When expressing Dakuon (a sound beginning with a consonant such as g, z, d, or b) or Han-Dakuon (a sound beginning with the consonant p), a Dakuon symbol (゛) or Han-Dakuon symbol (゜), respectively, is added to the upper right of the Kana character [e.g. が, ざ, だ, ば, ぱ].

    2. When spelling Tyôon (long vowel) with Hiragana, in the [あ] Column [e.g. あ, か, さ, た, な] the main character is followed by [あ]; in the [い] Column, [e.g. い, き, し, ち, に] the main character is followed by [い]; in the [う] Column [e.g. う, く, す, つ, ぬ] the main character is followed by [う]; in the [え] Column [e.g. え, け, せ, て, ね] the main character is followed by [え]; and in the [お] Column [e.g.お, こ, そ, と, の] the main character is followed by [う], as required.In the case of Katakana, the symbol [ー] is used instead of the extra vowel.

    3. When spelling Yôon (contracted sound) with Kana, one of the three small characters [ゃ], [ゅ] or [ょ] is written as a subscript after the main character. [e.g. きゃ, きゅ, きょ].

    4. When spelling Sokuon (double consonant or an assimilated sound) with Kana a small [っ] should be added.

    5. Hatuon (syllabic nasal, representing the sounds [n], [m], and [N]) is expressed as [ん].


  • The Japanese language is written both horizontally and vertically. When the horizontal style is used, the characters read from left to right and lines from top to bottom. When the vertical style is used, the characters read from top to bottom and the line from right to left.

When spelling the Japanese language in the Roman alphabet, the Official Spelling System for the romanization of Japanese is applied. That system was promulgated by the Cabinet Notification in 1954. Prior to that, Japanese had been romanized in two ways; the Hebon Siki and the Kunrei Siki (since 1937).

The Cabinet Notification provides that Table 1 (corresponding to the Kunrei Siki) presented in the Cabinet Notification should be followed in expressing the national language, adding that Table 2 (corresponding to the Hebon Siki and other ways) given in the Cabinet Notification may be used, only in international applications, or established customs and practices which cannot be easily amended.

The Roman alphabet is used when romanizing Japanese, as shown in the following table. The Line 4 presents Table 1 in the Cabinet Notification and the Line 5 corresponds to Hebon Siki in Table 2.

Table A. The transliteration of Japanese Kana syllabaries into the Roman alphabet

Line1

Line2

a

i

u

e

o

Line3

a

i

u

e

o

Line4
          Line5

キャ

キュ

キョ

きゃ

きゅ

きょ

ka

ki

ku

ke

ko

kja

kju

kjo

ka

ki

ku

ke

ko

kya

kyu

kyo

               

シャ

シュ

ショ

しゃ

しゅ

しょ

sa

si

su

se

so

sja

sju

sjo

sa

si

su

se

so

sya

syu

syo

 

shi

     

sha

shu

sho

チャ

チュ

チョ

ちゃ

ちゅ

ちょ

ta

ʈs i

ʈs u

te

to

ʈs ja

ʈs ju

ʈs jo

ta

ti

tu

te

to

tya

tyu

tyo

 

chi

tsu

   

cha

chu

cho

ニャ

ニュ

ニョ

にゃ

にゅ

にょ

na

ni

nu

ne

no

nja

nju

njo

na

ni

nu

ne

no

nya

nyu

nyo

               

ヒャ

ヒュ

ヒョ

ひゃ

ひゅ

ひょ

ha

hi

hu

he

ho

hja

hju

hjo

ha

hi

hu

he

ho

hya

hyu

hyo

   

fu

         

ミャ

ミュ

ミョ

みゃ

みゅ

みょ

ma

mi

mu

me

mo

mja

mju

mjo

ma

mi

mu

me

mo

mya

myu

myo

               

 

 

     

 

 

     

ja

 

ju

 

jo

     

ya

 

yu

 

yo

     
               

リャ

リュ

リョ

りゃ

りゅ

りょ

ɽa

ɽi

ɽu

ɽe

ɽo

rja

rju

rjo

ra

ri

ru

re

ro

rya

ryu

ryo

               

     

     

     

     

wa

     

O

     

wa

     

o

     
               

           

           

N

T

           
n  (Note-2)Referto(3)      
               

ギャ

ギュ

ギョ

ぎゃ

ぎゅ

ぎょ

ga

gi

gu

ge

go

gja

gju

gjo

ga

gi

gu

ge

go

gya

gyu

gyo

               

ジャ

ジュ

ジョ

じゃ

じゅ

じょ

za

zi

zu

ze

zo

zja

zju

zjo

za

zi

zu

ze

zo

zya

zyu

zyo

 

ji

     

ja

ju

jo

   

     

   

     

da

   

de

do

     

da

   

de

do

     
               

ビャ

ビュ

ビョ

びや

びゅ

びよ

ba

bi

bu

be

bo

bja

bju

bjo

ba

bi

bu

be

bo

bya

byu

byo

               

ピャ

ピュ

ピョ

ぴゃ

ぴゆ

ぴよ

pa

pi

pu

pe

po

pja

pju

pjo

pa

pi

pu

pe

po

pya

pyu

pyo

               

Note 1)
  • (1) Line1 - Katakana
  • (2) Line2 - Hiragana
  • (3) Line3 - International phonetic Alphabet
  • (4) Line4 - Alphabet in Table 1 presented in Cabinet Notification
  • (5) Line5 - Corresponding to the Hebon Siki alphabetization in Table 2 presented in Cabinet Notification
Note 2)
Pursuant to the Cabinet Notification, romanization of Japanese should be carried out as instructed hereunder, unless otherwise specified in Table. A
  • (1) Hatuon should always be written (n).
  • (2) When it is necessary to separate Hatuon from the vowel or (y) to follow, the symbol ( ’ ) is added after (n).
  • (3) Sokuon is expressed by overlaying the first consonant of the next syllable on top of the other.
  • (4) Tyôon is expressed by placing a circumflex accent (^) over a vowel. When a capital letter is used, the circumflex accent is omitted and the same vowel is added.
  • (5) Special sounds can be expressed at the writer's discretion.
  • (6) The first word in a sentence and proper names should be capitalized.
In Japan, geographical names are spelled using Kanzi, Hiragana or Katakana alone or in combination. It should be noted that publications released for foreigners are normally written in English. In these publications, geographical names are spelled in the Roman alphabet.

 

1.4.1. Spelling rules for the romanization of Japanese geographical names

The spelling rules presented in Line 4 of Table A shall be applied to the spelling rules for Romanization of Japanese, as described in "1.3 Common alphabetic spelling method of Japanese" However, regarding geographical names, Hebon Siki is customarily used in Japan.

The Geographical Survey Institute of Japan and the Japan Coast Guard, both of which are national mapping agencies, revised the regulations in 2004 and 2000, respectively, taking into consideration user convenience, in accordance with the current utilization of Roman characters, and decided to use, in principle, the spelling method presented in Line 5 of Table A. In fact, the following practices should be followed.

  1. The specific and generic terms in a composite word representing a geographical name are each capitalized and spelled separately. Table B in “4. Glossary of generic terms necessary for understanding Japanese maps" shows the generic terms.

    (e.g.)
    Fuji San 富士山 ふじさん
    Tokyo Wan 東京湾 とうきょうわん
     
  2. Hatuon is always written as (n).

    (e.g.)
    Kanmon Kaikyo 関門海峡 かんもんかいきょう
     
  3. When it is necessary to separate Hatuon (n) from a vowel or (y) that follows, a hyphen is added after (n).

    (e.g.)
    Hon-ura 本浦 ほんうら
    Ban-ya 番屋 ばんや
     
  4. Sokuon is expressed by overlaying the first consonant of the next syllable on top of the previous syllable. However, (t) is used instead of overlaying (c) if the sound of (ch) follows.

    (e.g.)
    Sapporo 札幌 さっぽろ
    Hatchobori 八丁堀 はっちょうぼり
     
  5. As a general rule, symbols that represent Tyôon are omitted. However, Tyôon in Column [い] of the Japanese syllabary are expressed by repeating (i), and [えい] are written as (ei).

    (e.g.)
    Kyoto 京都 きょうと
    Niigata 新潟 にいがた
    Hiei Zan 比叡山 ひえいざん
     
  6. If a geographical name derives from foreign language, the spelling of the original word may be used.

    (e.g.)
    Port Island ポートアイランド ぽうとあいらんど
In view of the fact that most Kanzi characters can be pronounced in many different ways and that old letters are sometimes used for geographical names, readers can often be confused over pronunciation when reading geographical names. To avoid such confusion, geographical names written in Kanzi are often accompanied by Hiragana or Katakana, where the Kana characters are used as phonetic symbols.
Most of the geographical names are words composed of a specific term and a generic term, where the specific term precedes the generic term. In this case, the generic term represents the type of natural feature, administrative units, facility, or structure.
In Japan, there is no designated administrative organization commissioned to collect, register and standardize geographical names. Instead, each central government body collects and standardizes them in the course of their normal operations.

Two of the central government organizations in charge of map compilation, that is, the Geographical Survey Institute and the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of the Japan Coast Guard, established the Joint Committee on the Standardization of Geographical Names in 1960 to standardize geographical names used on the maps and hydrographic charts they issue. The Committee continues to conduct standardization activities.

The use of geographical names standardized in the Joint Committee is becoming widespread. The standardized names are now entered on the maps developed by the Geographical Survey Institute and the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of the Japan Coast Guard, are extensively used for schooling and public broadcasting. Therefore efforts have been made to popularize them among the general public.

Among the geographical names in Japan, the names of administrative units for municipalities and their hierarchical details such as town divisions (cho), village divisions (oaza), and village blocks (aza), that is, residential geographical names, are regulated by law, and new names and their areas are published in official gazettes of the national and prefectural governments. Given this kind of legal control, there should be no confusion resulting from different pronunciations, characters, etc., of residential geographical names. Thus there is no need to restandardize these geographical names.

The Joint Committee on the Standardization of Geographical Names is working on standardizing the geographical names other than residential geographical names. Major rules laid down by the Joint Committee on the Standardization of Geographical Names, include the following:

  • a) Preferential consideration is given to local naming or titles when standardizing geographical names.
  • b) Where source materials of the Geographical Survey Institute and the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of the Japan Coast Guard are reconciled, the names both agencies have agreed upon are adopted.

National surveying and mapping organizations

National maps with romanized geographical names are available as follows.

The following are gazetteers that carry romanized geographical names in Japan.

  • Gazetteer of Japan, 2007
This glossary lists generic terms and adjective elements often used for geographical names in Japan. Some geographical names are duplicated on the listing since Kanzi characters can often be read in many different ways.
TableB: Glossary of generic terms
Japanese Romanized Japanese English or usual spelling in English
盆地 Bonchi Basin
台地 Daichi Upland
Dake Mountain
Do Prefecture
Gata Lagoon
Gawa River, Stream
群島 Gunto Islands, Islets, Archipelago
Hama Beach
半島 Hanto Peninsula
平野 Heiya Plain
Higashi East
Fu Prefecture
Kai Sea
海岸 Kaigan Seacoast
海峡 Kaikyo Strait, Channel
Kata Lagoon
Kawa River, Stream
Ken Prefecture
Kita North
Ko Little, Lesser
Ko Lake
Ku Ward
丘陵 Kyuryo Hills
Machi Town
Minami South
Misaki Cape
Mura Village
Nada Sea
Naka Central
西 Nishi West
Numa Marsh, Swamp
O Great, Greater
列島 Retto Islands, Islets
崎、埼、碕 Saki Cape
San Mountain、Hill
山脈 Sanmyaku Mountain range
山地 Sanchi Mountains
Sawa Stream, Wide valley in the mountains
瀬戸 Seto Strait, Channel
Shi City
Shima Islands Islet
Shin New
Son Village
水道 Suido Strait, Channel
諸島 Shoto Islands, Islets
Jima Island, Islet
Take Mountain
To Metropolis
To Island, Islet
Toge Pass
Cho Town
Ura Cove, Inlet, Embayment
Wan Bay
Yama Mountain、Hill
崎、埼、碕 Zaki Cape
Zan Mountain、Hill
Zawa Stream, Wide valley in the mountains
As of April 1, 2007, Japan consisted of 1804 municipalities. The number of municipalities has been decreasing through mergers. They are grouped together to constitute the Tokyo To (metropolis), Hokkai Do (prefecture), Osaka and Kyoto Fu (prefectures), and 43 Ken (prefectures). The prefectural divisions are as follows:
Table C: The prefectural division
Japanese Romanized Japanese
北海道 Hokkai Do
青森県 Aomori Ken
岩手県 Iwate Ken
宮城県 Miyagi Ken
秋田県 Akita Ken
山形県 Yamagata Ken
福島県 Fukushima Ken
茨城県 Ibaraki Ken
栃木県 Tochigi Ken
群馬県 Gunma Ken
埼玉県 Saitama Ken
千葉県 Chiba Ken
東京都 Tokyo To
神奈川県 Kanagawa Ken
新潟県 Niigata Ken
富山県 Toyama Ken
石川県 Ishikawa Ken
福井県 Fukui Ken
山梨県 Yamanashi Ken
長野県 Nagano Ken
岐阜県 Gifu Ken
静岡県 Shizuoka Ken
愛知県 Aichi Ken
三重県 Mie Ken
滋賀県 Shiga Ken
京都府 Kyoto Fu
大阪府 Osaka Fu
兵庫県 Hyogo Ken
奈良県 Nara Ken
和歌山県 Wakayama Ken
鳥取県 Tottori Ken
島根県 Shimane Ken
岡山県 Okayama Ken
広島県 Hiroshima Ken
山口県 Yamaguchi Ken
徳島県 Tokushima Ken
香川県 Kagawa Ken
愛媛県 Ehime Ken
高知県 Kochi Ken
福岡県 Fukuoka Ken
佐賀県 Saga Ken
長崎県 Nagasaki Ken
熊本県 Kumamoto Ken
大分県 Oita Ken
宮崎県 Miyazaki Ken
鹿児島県 Kagoshima Ken
沖縄県 Okinawa Ken

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