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Long Vowels

Some Japanese words have long vowels which are pronounced for almost twice as long as a regular vowel. They can be represented in Romaji by doubling the vowel or drawing a line over the vowel (Ex: ā, ū, ē, ō) .

When writing Hiragana a long vowel is always written by doubling the vowel in the cases of あ, い and う. In the case of え and お the vowel can be doubled this way for a very small number of words. However in the almost all cases え is extended using い and お is extended using う.

VowelRomajiRuleExample
 
aā, aaAlways Doubleおかあさん/ okāsan
Mother
iiiAlways Doubleおにいさん/ oniisan
Brother
uū, uuAlways Doubleすうじ/ sūji
Number
eē, eiCommonly えいせんせい/ sensei
Teacher
Rarely Doubleおねえさん/ onēsan
Sister
oō, ooCommonly おうありがとう/ arigatō
Thank you
Rarely Doubleおおきい/ ōkii
Big

Listen to these examples:
とうきょう (Tōkyō)
Has long O at beginning and end.

ぎゅうにゅう (Gyūnyū)
Has long U at beginning and end