I have very little knowledge regarding Japanese, but I'm curious about the pronunciation of the long o. In Street Fighter, according to my basic research, the "ō" in "hadōken" is pronounced (roughly) like an elongated and/or doubled-up English "oh" (and, as such, the "ou" transliteration is considered suboptimal these days).

However, consider the Japanese localization of Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U. It seems to my (admittedly untrained) ear that Ryu pronounces it a la the English "oo" in this voice clip (whereas in the English version, it sounds to me much more like "oh"). For another example, consider Ken's English and Japanese voices in Street Fighter V.

Capcom and Nintendo are obviously much more qualified in terms of pronunciation than I am, so I'm confused as to where my understanding has gone wrong. Are there maybe unspoken rules that native speakers know intuitively but that educational material does't explicitly state?

EDIT I'm certainly no linguist, but here's my best guess at the IPA transcriptions of what I'm talking about. By "English 'oh'", I mean /o/. By "English 'oo'", I mean /u/. That is to say: In the English clips I hear /hadoːkeꜜɴ/, and in the Japanese clips I hear /haduːkeꜜɴ/. (These are very rough transcriptions, of course, but I hope they better illustrate my question.)

EDIT 2: I asked (IRL) another (General American) English speaker what they heard, and they heard the correct pronunciation both times. So... this might be a phenomenon with a sample size of one (i.e. me), in which case I'm really curious if that's even possible :-P

EDIT 3: I asked (IRL) two other (General American) English speakers what they heard, and they heard the wrong pronunciation both times. So... this might actually be a bona fide GenAmE phenomenon!

1 Answer 1


After some repeated listening I think I hear the difference you are pointing out, but it’s basically unnoticeable/unnotable to Japanese speakers, because both the ハドーケン (ō) and ハドウケン (ou) pronunciations are acceptable/interchangable.

The former is the standard in regular speech because it’s easier to say, but the latter is just fine if you are trying to add color to the pronunciation like one might in yelling a move name like this, and perhaps even “sounds cooler” to some extent.

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