Photo/Illutration The Asahi Shimbun

“Aichi” or “Aiti,” which is the preferred spelling?

That is one of the questions the Council for Cultural Affairs is now considering as it ponders ways to reduce confusion over the use of two different romanization systems for a language deemed to be one of the worlds most difficult to master.

A Cabinet notification issued in 1954 called for using the “kunrei” style of romanization when writing Japanese words in English. But the notice also allowed for exceptions with the Hepburn romanization style if circumstances made it difficult to change established writing habits.

The AJW website uses the Hepburn style, which is more commonly used by English-language publishers.

The results of a public opinion poll released Sept. 30 by the Cultural Affairs Agency found a few examples where the kunrei style was the preferred choice among respondents.

The poll conducted in January and February asked 3,579 individuals aged 16 and older around Japan to indicate which romanization style they preferred for various Japanese words.

While the Hepburn style had much larger support for romanizing such place names as Aichi, Gifu, Uji and Akashi, Goshogawara only was used by 43.9 percent of respondents while the kunrei version of Gosyogawara was preferred by 54.8 percent. And while 61 percent of respondents chose Atsugi, 37.6 percent said they preferred the kunrei version of Atugi.

The kunrei style is mainly learned during Japanese language classes in elementary school. But the Hepburn style is more often used in the romanization of Japanese names in passports as well as on road signs.

“People use the kunrei style unconsciously and there are various opinions about which style is better, said an official with the Cultural Affairs Agency. “We plan to hold discussions about how romanization should be approached after further studies about what works best.