Cyrillization of Japanese

Cyrillization of Japanese

Cyrillization of Japanese is the practice of expressing Japanese sounds using Cyrillic characters. It is commonly accepted in Russia.

Below is a cyrillization system for the Japanese language known as the Yevgeny Polivanov system. Note that it has its own spelling conventions and does not necessarily constitute a direct phonetic transcription of the pronunciation into the standard Russian usage of the Cyrillic alphabet.


Main table

Hiragana to Polivanov cyrillization correspondence table, for single/modified kana.[citation needed]

あ – а い – и/й う – у え – э お – о
か – ка き – ки く – ку け – кэ こ – ко
が – га ぎ – ги ぐ – гу げ – гэ ご – го
さ – са し – си す – су せ – сэ そ – со
ざ – дза じ – дзи ず – дзу ぜ – дзэ ぞ – дзо
た – та ち – ти つ – цу て – тэ と – то
だ – да ぢ – дзи づ – дзу で – дэ ど – до
な – на に – ни ぬ – ну ね – нэ の – но
は – ха ひ – хи ふ – фу へ – хэ ほ – хо
ぱ – па ぴ – пи ぷ – пу ぺ – пэ ぽ – по
ば – ба び – би ぶ – бу べ – бэ ぼ – бо
ま – ма み – ми む – му め – мэ も – мо
や – я ゆ – ю よ – ё
ら – ра り – ри る – ру れ – рэ ろ – ро
わ – ва ゐ – и/й ゑ – э を – о
ん – н/м

Geminate Consonants

Consonants are geminated exactly as they are in romaji: e.g. -kk- > -кк-.

Syllabic n

Before п, б, and м the syllabic ん is transcribed as м according to pronunciation, similar to Railway Standard (鉄道掲示基準規程) in romanization of Japanese; before vowels and y it is transcribed as нъ in order to indicate syllable boundary; in all other cases it is transcribed as н.[citation needed]

Japanese Hepburn Cyrillic
しんぶん shinbun симбун
さんか sanka санка'
かんい kan'i канъи
ほんや hon'ya хонъя

Common errors

In English texts, Japanese names are written with the Hepburn system.[1] People then try to transcribe Japanese names as if they were English.

Very often people[1] want to transcribe shi as ши and ji as джи. This is incorrect, because in Russian ши is pronounced as шы and джи as джы. The Russian sound /ɨ/ is in fact closer to Japanese /u/ than to Japanese /i/. It would probably be closer to Japanese to write щи, but the system uses си and дзи. Actually, Russian щи is pronounced like Japanese sshi.[1]

Equally often people transcribe cha, chi, chu, cho as ча, чи, чу, чо. This is acceptable phonetically, but for reasons of consistency, it is better to follow the rules and write тя, ти, тю, тё.[1]

Sometimes э is replaced with е (but, ironically, not at the beginning of a word, even though there are Roman transliterations such as "yen" and "Yedo" which one might expect to be written as ен and Едо).[1] This is tolerable only for the words that are in general use (e.g. kamikaze > камикадзе instead of камикадзэ).[1] One should, however, never replace ё (yo) with е (ye) — it will change the Japanese word too much. The initial ё (yo) or after a vowel, is often written as йо (yo), which has the same pronunciation: Ёкосука -> Йокосука (Yokosuka), Тоёта -> Тойота (Toyota). Although, the spelling "йо" is not common in Russian words, these are more generally accepted for Japanese names than the transliterations using "ё".[1]

Despite the rules, some Japanese words either are now spelled without following the system or have alternative spellings: Hitachi – Хитачи (the corporation, while the city is Хитати), Toshiba – Тошиба (not Тосиба), sushi is spelled "суси" and "суши", the latter is more common.[citation needed]

Many anime fandom members intentionally use the cyrillized Hepburn system and other alternative transcriptions because they believe the system distorts the Russian reading of Japanese pronunciation too much. Preference of a cyrillization system often becomes a matter of heated debates.[citation needed]


Some proper names, for historical reasons, do not follow the above rules. Those include but are not limited to:

English (Rōmaji) Russian spelling Cyrillization Japanese
Japan (Nihon, Nippon) Япония Нихон, Ниппон 日本 (にほん, にっぽん)
Tokyo (Tōkyō) Токио То:кё: 東京 (とうきょう)
Kyoto (Kyōto) Киото Кё:то 京都 (きょうと)
Yokohama Иокогама (also Йокохама) Ёкохама 横浜 (よこはま)
Yokosuka Йокосука Ёкосука 横須賀 (よこすか)
Toyota Тойота (Тоёта in older publications) Тоёта トヨタ (originally: 豊田)
jujitsu (jūjutsu) джиу-джитсу дзю:дзюцу 柔術 (じゅうじゅつ)
yen (en) иена (also йена) эн 円 (えん)

Some personal names beginning with "Yo" (or used after a vowel) are written using "Йо" instead of "Ё" (e.g. Йоко for Yoko Ono, but Ёко for Yoko Kanno and all other Yoko's). The letter "Ё" is not often used in Japanese Cyrillisation due to its facultative use in the Russian language (and possible subtitution with the letter "Е" which would affect the pronunciation), but professional translators use ё mandatory.[citation needed]

See also


External links

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