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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Hiroko here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of *your* most common Japanese questions.
The question for this lesson is…
Why is the hiragana ‘U/う’ used to extend an O sound?
You might have been puzzled by the way certain words are spelled in Japanese. For example, the word for ‘Good Morning’ is spelled お-は-よ-う, but the actual sound is ‘Ohayō.’ The last two syllables, ‘よ’ and ‘う’ aren’t pronounced as ‘よ-う’ but as ‘よー’ with a long vowel ‘おお’ at the end.
So what’s going on with this?
The long vowel 'ō/おー’ is pronounced for twice as long as the short お. There are two combinations to make this long vowel: which are two of the hiragana "お" characters in a row, and a character ending in an お sound -- such as こ or と -- plus an う.
For example, おおきい is pronounced with the long vowel おーbecause it has two お sounds at the beginning. おはよう is also pronounced as "ohayō" with the long vowel "おー" because the last two syllables, “o” sound in ‘よ/yo’ and its following “u/う’ makes a long vowel “ō.”
Any character with an お sound can be extended in this way by following it with an う.
For example,あ-り-が-と-う meaning "Thank you." becomes ‘Arigatō’. How about とーうーきょーう? It becomes ‘Tōkyō.’ In this word the う is used to extend two syllables.
Just remember, even though you can lengthen an お sound with another お *or* a う, a う character will be used most of the time. Knowing this, you’ll be able to make a good guess, but just like English you need to learn the correct spelling of a word.
How was it?
I hope this makes sense to you and you’re able to read the long ‘o’ sounds correctly from now on!
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!


Please to leave a comment.
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JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 26th, 2015 at 06:30 PM
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What Japanese learning question do you have?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
June 15th, 2020 at 03:07 PM
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Thank you so much for your comment😄

Please let us know if you have any questions :)



Team JapanesePod101.com

June 12th, 2020 at 05:54 PM
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Japanesepod101.com Verified
July 19th, 2017 at 07:17 PM
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Hi Amie,

Thank you very much for your kind feedback! We're glad you're enjoying the lessons and advancing well in your Japanese studies!

Feel free to let us know if you have any questions. ;)


Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team Japanesepod101.com

July 19th, 2017 at 10:26 AM
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What I love is that suddenly all the little pieces I've learned along the way are coming together and making sense. I'm loving learning with you guys. Thank you so much!

Japanesepod101.com Verified
June 12th, 2017 at 07:24 PM
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Thank you for your message.

We're glad to hear that the lesson was helpful!

Feel free to let us know if you have any questions. ;)

Cristiane (クリスチアネ)

Team Japanesepod101.com

June 12th, 2017 at 07:59 AM
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AHHHH I was wondering why I kept having problems figuring words out in hiragana, I kept trying to say "ou" like "you" when I read おうときょうとごうと and all those other long "O" vowels when I sounded the word out in my head, and then I kept getting really confused as I hadn't heard the word before... So helpful. ?

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 17th, 2017 at 09:17 AM
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Alvi-san konnichiwa,

Thank you for your comment!

The vowel is omitted when it is between 'voiceless consonants' such as 'sh' and 't' or after them and at the end of a phrase, such as '-s(u)'.

This omission usually happens in Tokyo/Kanto dialect. So you would hear those 'i' and 'u' in the western part of Japan.

Since the standard Japanese (or Japanese we study) is usually based on Tokyo dialect, you see the omitted vowels.

For your information, even if you pronounce those 'i' and 'u', it doesn't change the meaning. :)

Hope this helps,


Team JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com Verified
May 17th, 2017 at 09:08 AM
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Daniel-san, Ishani-san,

Thank you for your feedback and you're right!

The spelling should be ookii, not ooki.

It's fixed now. Please check it out. :)

Stay tuned,


Team JapanesePod101.com

May 7th, 2017 at 10:04 PM
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I just realized that at 1:14 ookii is written as ooki

Hope you people correct it!

April 17th, 2017 at 02:19 AM
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Thank you for your lessons, they are great! I wanted to ask why do you not read the vowels in the words sometimes. For example when you say ''Hajimemashite'' you don't pronounce the second i. Or in ''desu'' you don't read the u. Why is that and when do I know when to omit the vowels? Arigatou!