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From some basic research I've found that when romanizing じ and ジ we can use "ji" or "zi." Apparently "ji" is used by Hepburn romanization which is the most popular for non-Japanese speakers but "zi" is used by Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki romanization. I read Kunrei-shiki is what is taught to Japanese elementary school students (and it is what my 20 year old Japanese textbook used).

Also, when doing a google.co.jp search for words romanized with "zi," google will sometimes actually ask if you meant to search on the Japanese version of the romanized word, so it recognizes it as Japanese.... but it doesn't recognize words when using ji.

So I figured "zi" was more common and better for Japanese people... but a Japanese person I know just old me "we never use zi and always use ji." So, what is the deal here... is one better than the other (and by that I mean is one going to be easier to understand or more natural for native Japanese speakers)?

As an aside that may provide context for an answer: the reason I'm asking is I'm trying to choose a social media handle with Japanese in it and am trying to decide on zi or ji...

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    Tranliteration is not the same thing as translation (though the vast majority of people seem not to understand this). So the "Translation" tag should be removed. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 3:55
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    Yeah, I knew that wasn't the best tag but when I created the question at least one tag was required and it was the closest I could find. I actually tried to create a new tag but did not have permission since I'm a relatively new user. If you'd like to create such a tag and have permission to do so I'd be happy to change the tag (if that is possible and I have permission to do so).
    – Kairei
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 16:25
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    Although if you do create the tag please note you're missing an "s" in Transliteration...
    – Kairei
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 16:28
  • Romanization isn't the same thing as transliteration, either. Some systems of romanization are transliterations of Japanese writing, while others are transcriptions of Japanese speech. Let's just use the rōmaji tag for this.
    – user1478
    Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 8:24
  • If you want something that is universally easy to pronounce, use Hepburn. If you want something that makes sense to actually study Japanese in, use Nihon-Shiki or its variants like Kunrei-Shiki or JSL. If you want the fastest way to type, use Nihon-Shiki or, for even faster input, a combination of Nihon-Shiki and Hepburn. Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 13:58

3 Answers 3

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With regard to zi or ji, ji is the right choise.

With regard to Hepburn or Kunrei, on the other hand, it is difficult to answer. Schools teach us in Kunrei-shiki. However, when we apply for a passport, we must write our names in Hepburn. According to wiki, Kunrei-shiki is still the official one, but even the government officials use both styles.

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  • Thank you very much for the comment. It sort of makes sense that a passport would use "ji" since that will be easier for people around the world (wherever you go when using that passport) to understand. Only people specifically taught (Japanese people or Japanese language students) would get "zi" since the standard pronunciation of "z" doesn't match as well.
    – Kairei
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:24
  • Also, given Kunrei-shiki may be "official" and is taught in school, and both seem to be used in certain situations, I'm curious why you say ji is the "right choice." Thanks again!
    – Kairei
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 14:26
  • in some words, both are equally used. for example, in case of しょ、i prefer to write as 'sho', but i often see 'syo' as well.
    – ErikaO
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 19:29
  • however, in case of じ, almost all people use 'ji'. it's a matter of frequency of usage.
    – ErikaO
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 19:34
  • I think the main reason to consider Hepburn romanization as the "right choice" is not simply because it's more commonly used, but also (what I think is) the reason it's more common: for English speakers, the spelling more closely matches the actual pronunciation of the word.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 3:19
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Ok, I think that there is no accurate way of romanization, if you look in the history of Japanese writing systems, the romaji (ローマ字) comes when the Europeans arrive for the first time to Japan, but originally there weren't any romanization forms at all. Nowadays it is a very common thing, even for Japanese people but there's no correct or good one. I think if you search a little more you will find that ち is written as "TI" instead of "CHI", つ as "TU" instead of "TSU" and I even have found a romaji made only for English speaking people.

My point is that it doesn't matter what you would use there's no wrong way to do romaji, so my advice is that make romaji as you think it really sounds, this way you won't make any misunderstanding.

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  • Thanks for the info. I think you're right but it also made me realize I should clarify the goal of the question a little more... so I've updated the above to say that by "is one better than the other" I mean "is one going to be easier to understand or more natural for native Japanese speakers." So, I guess rather than "correct" or "good" I'm looking for "most commonly understood by Japanese people." Thanks!
    – Kairei
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 1:10
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    Romanisation cannot be "correct" or "wrong" or "accurate" or "inaccurate". It just needs to be consistent. There are a number of consistent systems, Hepburn, kunreishiki being the major ones, (and I romanise 'kunreisiki' in Hepburn because Hepburn is the general standard for writing in English). In Japan, almost no-one has any idea what these are, and they use Japanese input systems which do not accept any standard Romanisation, and which are not 1-to-1, so cannot be used as a basis for a Romanisation system. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 4:01
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Hiragana "し" is "SHI" sound, not "SI" sound. じ is voiced version of し so it can't be "ZI". Using that logic, "じ” should be "ZHI" However, "ZHI" doesn't exist in English spelling while "JI" is very common in English i.e. Jingle, Jim,jiggle etc., That's why "じ” is spelled "JI" I guess. To my ear,"Zi" sounds like ”ズィ”. "JI" sounds closer to Japanese 'ジ".

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