Welcome to Kiki and Koko: Let’s NihonGO!! in blog form as your quick serve convenience store of Japanese language and culture with fine dining quality~!
Romaji. You may have heard a lot about it, you might have been scolded by a Japanese language teacher or roasted on the Internet. It’s been called the crutch, the inhibitor, the double crosser…
We explained all of the downsides to romaji in a previous article, but look at it! It’s trying its best! It obviously exists, so it was obviously created for a purpose. We know it’s not to use for ubiquitous and proper communication in Japan… Or IS it?
Obviously, you can’t rely on romaji, but there is some use for it, yet!
Addressing International Parcels
So, you have something you wanted to send to your friend in Japan. You’ve excitedly chosen the perfect box, you write the characters perfectly to make sure it’s legible to the postal carrier in Japan. And you show up to the post office with your parcel addressed to go to Japan. But, the issue is: you’re not in Japan.
When addressing a parcel to Japan from a country outside of Japan, you have to adhere to your country’s way of addressing the parcel by using an odd mix of romaji and your country’s language’s word for ‘Japan’– And, it makes sense, if not it’ll be difficult to move it through customs if no one can read Japanese—as isn’t really a prerequisite for working in international post. And, believe me, Postman Pat isn’t going to take too kindly to you if you hold up the queue with your mismarked malarkey. So, romaji is a must in this case.
Transliterating Names and Terms for Non-Japanese Language Speakers
You’re at your desk in primary school. Today, you’re learning about poetry, so you take out your textbook and turn to a page about 俳句 by 松尾 忠右衛門 宗房…. Your teacher can’t tell what it means and you fail the class. The issue, again? You’re not in Japan. Or, at least the teacher and most of the class in this scenario doesn’t read Japanese…
So, maybe you won’t fail, but the point is: romaji is used for the transliteration of Japanese names and terms. The sad truth is that… not everyone knows Japanese (I know, it’s pretty shocking, bear with us) But, without romaji, there’s no way for those who don’t know Japanese to attempt to read Japanese words or names… even if it doesn’t always work out as well as one would hope… But, that’s for another day~
Trains, planes, and subways, Oh my!
So far, all of these have been geared towards an international usage. But, this brings everything closer to Japan. When tourists or non-Japanese language speakers come to Japan, it’d be a bit difficult to do something very basic such as take the train or subway. While most establishments aren’t as accessible, luckily enough, this is where you’d see romaji! Sure, with no knowledge of Japanese, it might be difficult to read, still, but it’s there, in subway stations and railway signs. Oddly enough, there’s literally a standard for writing in romaji for railways: 鉄道 掲示 基準 規程（てつどう けいじ きじゅん きてい）So, you can’t just go around willy-nilly, spelling everything the way it sounds. There’s rules, here, people~
But, that’s not the end of that! There’s something for which romaji is used even more often per capita…! You know it, you love it, it’s…
Japanese Keyboard Input
As you’d learn in one of our videos on SpeRaToBo, other than typing using a Japanese keyboard’s regular setup known as kana input (かな入力kana nyuuryoku), there is another! That’s right, our boi, romaji input! (ローマ字入力、romaji nyuuryoku). Oddly enough, romaji is the favoured child of typing in Japanese—I know! Surprising! But, obviously, in order to actually use this method, you would still need to know what you’re typing. You would have to know the difference between kanji and their meanings, you would have to know the correct letter or symbol to use to lengthen vowels—
So, maybe, it’s not the end-all of learning, but Romaji sure is helpful where it’s needed! And, it technically can be used as a proper and ubiquitous form of proper communication in Japan… even if no one will see it once it turns into Japanese characters…
We hope you enjoyed! Feel free to share this or comment if there’s anything we should include (or anything we should cover in the next one~!) Until next time:
Thank you so much for reading!