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Simple Japanese Pronunciation Guide

June 1, 2023

Japanese is known for its regularity and simplicity in pronunciation. This guide will introduce you to its key pronunciation features.


In Japanese, there are five vowels. Each has only one way to be pronounced, and they are always voiced.

  • a: Like 'a' in "father".
  • e: Like 'e' in "bet".
  • i: Like 'ee' in "see".
  • o: Like 'o' in "hope".
  • u: Like 'oo' in "boot", but shorter and without rounded lips.


Most Japanese consonants are pronounced similarly to their English counterparts, but some are different:

  • g: Always hard, like 'g' in "good".
  • r: A sound between 'r' and 'l' in English, made with a single tap of the tongue against the roof of the mouth.
  • f: More like 'h' with a slight whisper of 'f', as in 'huge'.
  • ts: One sound, like 'ts' in "bits".

Double Consonants

When a consonant is doubled, the preceding syllable is cut off abruptly, and the consonant sound is held for an extra beat. For example, in "ippai" (meaning full), the 'pp' sound is emphasized with a pause.

Long Vowels

Long vowels are held for an extra beat. For example, in "ōkii" (meaning big), the 'ō' sound is prolonged.

Pitch Accent

Japanese is not a tonal language like Chinese, but it does have a pitch accent that can differentiate words. Pitch accent patterns can vary between dialects, but in standard Tokyo dialect, each word has only one peak of high pitch.

Practicing Pronunciation

Pronunciation takes practice. Listening to native Japanese speakers and repeating the sounds, words, and sentences they use can significantly improve your pronunciation. Be patient with yourself, and remember that practice makes perfect!

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