Japanese is expressed and printed in ideographs of Chinese origin (kanji), interspersed with an alphabet-based script (kana), of which there are two versions: the hiragana (the cursive form) is used for inflectional endings and words with grammatical significance, and the katakana (the ‘squared’ form) is used for foreign loanwords and in Western names. Both vertical columns running right to left and horizontal left-to-right layout are used.
The most frequently used system of romanization uses the macron − to indicate long vowels; syllable-final n is followed by an apostrophe before e or y. The inclusion of macrons is optional in non-specialist works, and maybe omitted in well-established forms of place names, such as Hokkaido, Honshu, Kobe, Kyoto, Kyushu, Osaka, Tokyo.
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