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Hepburn romanization (ヘボン式ローマ字, Hebon-shiki Rōmaji, 'Hepburn-type Roman letters') is a system for the romanization of Japanese, that uses the Latin alphabet to write the Japanese language. It is used by most foreigners learning to spell Japanese in the Latin alphabet and by the Japanese for romanizing personal names, geographical locations, and other information such as train tables, road signs, and official communications with foreign countries. Largely based on English writing conventions, consonants closely correspond to the English pronunciation and vowels approximate the Italian pronunciation.The Hepburn style (Hebon-shiki) was developed in the late 19th century by an international commission that was formed to develop a unified system of romanization. The commission's romanization scheme was popularized by the wide dissemination of a Japanese–English dictionary by commission member and American missionary James Curtis Hepburn which was published in 1886. The "modified Hepburn system" (shūsei Hebon-shiki), also known as the "standard system" (Hyōjun-shiki), was published in 1908 with revisions by Kanō Jigorō and the Society for the Propagation of Romanization (Romaji-Hirome-kai).Although Kunrei romanization is officially favored by the Japanese government today, Hepburn romanization is still in use and remains the worldwide standard. The Hepburn style is regarded as the best way to render Japanese pronunciation for Westerners. Since it is based on English and Italian pronunciations, people who speak English or Romance languages (e.g., Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish) will generally be more accurate in pronouncing unfamiliar Japanese words romanized in the Hepburn style compared to Nihon-shiki romanization and Kunrei-shiki romanization. Hepburn is based on English phonology and has competed with the alternative Nihon-shiki romanization, which was developed in Japan as a replacement of the Japanese script. In 1930 a Special Romanization Study Commission was appointed to compare the two. The Commission eventually decided in favor of a slightly-modified version of Nihon-shiki, which was proclaimed to be Japan's official romanization for all purposes by a September 21, 1937, cabinet ordinance; it is now known as the Kunrei-shiki romanization.
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