Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 November 2009
The alphabet (rōmaji) has never been considered a serious contender for the national script in Japan, although at several points since the country's modern period began in 1868 supporters have made a case for its adoption on varying grounds, most notably those of education, democracy and office automation. Although such advocates have included influential scholars and bureaucrats, their combined intellectual gravitas has never been sufficient to allow their arguments for romanisation to outweigh the strong cultural traditions and ideologies of writing centred on the existing three-script writing system. Even today, in the face of pressures imposed by modern keyboard technology, discussion of the issue is not on the national agenda. This article considers the place of romanisation in Japan today and offers a short history of the rōmaji movement since the late nineteenth century.
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