I found that there're two ways to pronounce the transcription of りゆう, that are:

  • Riyū. For example: Riyū in 理由 (reason)
  • Ryū. For example: Ryūgakusei in 留学生 (International student)

So in certain situation, how can I know which one to choose?

  • Haven't you learned about small kana or are you talking about the historical orthography (not correct for 留 anyway, though)? May 5, 2020 at 4:29
  • I know small kana but only pay attention to tsu (Sokuon via Wikipedia)
    – Khanh Tran
    May 5, 2020 at 5:04
  • 2
    @petwho If you're intentionally ignoring the yo-on, please don't do that. That's almost like saying "I won't pay attention to the difference between L and R because light and right sound the same to me".
    – naruto
    May 5, 2020 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


They are spelled differently. Riyū is always りゆう and Ryū is always りゅう. The latter contains a yō-on. Notice the small ゆ, which is different from the normal ゆ. (If you don't know about small ゆ, please refer to any beginner textbook.)

If you saw りゆう for 留 in modern Japanese book, it's most likely a typo, but there are rare exceptions:

  • If you are reading a very old document (or a citation from an old document), you may see りゆう for 留 because the small ゆ was not common before the postwar script reform.
  • In furigana, a small や/ゆ/よ/つ is sometimes rendered like a regular (large) や/ゆ/よ/つ because furigana are already small. This depends on the publisher. See the subtle difference below:

    enter image description here

BTW りゅう may be difficult to pronounce/hear to native English speakers.

  • Things like the image you showed occasionally make it hard for me to tell the difference between small and big kana, even though I have fairly solid eyesight. Sometimes the difference in size just isn't a whole lot, so if there aren't many other characters in the same spot to compare it to... May 5, 2020 at 20:09

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