First of all, I know next to nothing about Japanese, but this question came up to me recently. I was playing this board game called Shadow Hunters with my friends and on the cards below the English name, the Japanese name of the game was also written: シャドウハンタアス. Well, I noticed that the end of シャドウ was オウ and not オー and I thought that it was kind of wierd. My friend pointed out that maybe it should be read as ou and not ō. Which way is it? Are there rules for this? Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1


The syllables written as オオ, オー, and オウ are pronounced the same in Japanese. If you look at the dictionary entry here, you'll see that シャドウ is an alternate form of シャドー. Either way is fine, and the pronunciation doesn't change. Why you'd choose one form over the other, I'm not sure, but I'm guessing in this case it was because the game or packaging designers didn't like the way the 長音 dash looked in the middle of the name. (However, I just looked it up and the name is actually written シャドウハンターズ, so who knows!)

  • Thanks! Is one way of extending a vowel sound more preferable than the others or doesn't it matter at all? Curious to know. Also, yes I goofed the name. Just wrote it from memory :).
    – intoo
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 17:22
  • Except when they're not, as in 追う.
    – user1478
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 21:10
  • @snailboat, shhhhh! :) A ー appears more often in English and other European loanwords and オ or ウ more often in native Japanese (e.g., コオロギ) and Chinese-origin words when written in katakana. But as you can see from シャドウ, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. If you're romanizing an English word into katakana, however, extending a syllable with a ー is going to be correct much more often than not.
    – mamster
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 21:16
  • 2
    Further information: お and う are pronounced individually only when there is a morphological border between them; so any godan verb ending in う that has an お before it will have them pronounced differently, like in the example @snailboat provided above. Another common verb that does this is 思う.
    – Kurausukun
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 21:47
  • @Kurausukun I find the distinction you made about morphological borders pretty apt and illuminating. I agree with you and with @ mamster. A mini-discussion/debate has evolved out of a new question which brought me to your comment here. In case you are interested, here is the portal to the discussion/debate (comments moved to chat). Apparently a user of a different opinion suggested a counter example to your distinction: オウンゴール, but it is my understanding that these counter examples are very new, few and far between.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Mar 8, 2021 at 0:10

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