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How to pronounce Usui. November 29, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki.
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A reader came onto The Reiki Blog this morning with the very relevant search phrase, “how to pronounce Usui.” We Reiki people say the name of our Founder, Mikao Usui, often. And we’re almost certainly mispronouncing it every single time.

I don’t know about you, but I was taught to pronounce Usui Founder’s name “Mee-COW ooh-SOO-ee.” Given English speakers’ tendency to draw out vowels, “Mee-COW” probably turns out about right (a very quick, elided “kah-oh”). But not, I suspect, “ooh-SOO-ee.”

My (admittedly extremely limited) understanding of spoken Japanese is that “u” is always short, “uh” when emphasized and what we’d hear as a tiny pause—and then only if we were listening closely—the rest of the time. Thus, “samurai” is neither “SAHM-ooh-RYE” nor even “SAHM-uh-RYE,” but closer to “SAHM’RYE” (with, alas, a trilled “r,” a sound more like “r” mixed with “l” and rolled off the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth, “lthr”). Yikes. 

Fortunately for us non-Japanese speakers, “Usui” at least doesn’t contain an “r”! But how would you actually pronounce it? “Uh-SWEE”? If anyone’s reading this who happens to know, please enlighten us! I at least would prefer to honor our revered Founder by attempting a correct pronunciation of his name. And remember, in Japanese, the family name comes first, so it’s correctly Usui Mikao.

While we’re at it, does anyone know the correct pronunciation of “Chujiro”?

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