Double-length vowel "O"

イ リ ニ

イ リ ニ


Now that I've learned how to write in hiragana, I'm redoing the modules I've learned so that I can practice them in hiragana.  I have a question about the double length vowel O.

In the lessons, Ōsaka is written like this:

Why isn't it written like this instead? (lengthening the o with う)

Is it because the word begins with a vowel, or is that  just an exception?  If it's an exception, are double-length vowel exceptions common?

Thanks so much!



Interesting question! I look forward to hearing from Crystal, but in the meantime I found a link to a related question with answers elsewhere:


Its pronounced with a double oo and it is based on the pronunciation of the kanji

大阪 = おおさか
大 = おお  - oo - big, great, large

大きい = おおきい ookii  big

お父さん = おとうさん  otou san - father

父 = ちち + とう (multiple readings depending on combination

東京 = とうきょう Tokyo - tou kyou (Eastern Capital)
東 = ひがし + とう (multiple readings depending on combination)


I should add the city names in Japan are pronounced phonetically how you would hear them on this website.

Osaka is pronounced ooh-saka

Tokyo is pronounced - tou-kyou as in toe but with an emphasis on u and kyou as in your but with a sharp k 

To many foreigners get the Japanese pronunciation wrong based on reading it in our alphabet. It is funny to hear so many people refer to cities like Kyoto as Ki yo to when it sounds totally different. In Japanese speech anyone not learning Japanese would have a hard time identifying city names if they did not know what to listen out for.

What I mean is I think you need to clear your mind of the western alphabet and pronounce and read things in Japanese alphabet and it will become simpler to understand when you think like them.


Hi everyone!

As stated in the link that 夫婦茶碗さん posted, it does stem from the historical pronunciations of Japanese kana. Generally, words that came from Chinese are spelled as「おう」, and native Japanese words are likely to be spelled as「おお」.

However, it can get tricky telling the difference between Japanese words that come from Chinese words and native Japanese words, so it might be easier to learn how to spell these words on a case by case basis. Eventually, it will become easier to tell between them.

I hope that helps! Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions.

イ リ ニ

イ リ ニ

Ok, so knowing it's based on the historical use of kana (I'm happily immersed in hiragana right now) makes perfect sense.  I would assume students learning Japanese would make this type of mistake often and, as you just mentioned Crystal, that they'd need to be corrected on a case-by-case basis.

I'm doing great with the correct pronunciation of combination syllables, though.  And I'll never mispronounce とうきょう or せんせい again!

Thanks so much everyone for your help.  I love this forum, and how kind and supportive everyone is...

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