It's neither R nor L.

It took me about 6 to 12 months to fully be able to say it.

It starts with your tongue in the retroflex "r" position of New-Yorker  ccent for the R sound (ie tongue tip back), then you flap the tip of  our tongue across the roof of your mouth as you make a sort of "d"  
sound (but not plosive, which is unlike d - in other words, not a puff  f air to initiate the sound from a stopped-air position - the puff of  ir comes from the back of your throat, with your vocal cords  
vibrating.) The sides of your tongue need to be in an "l" position (ie  ide, and each side against your teeth).

It's not easy to do all the time. Add to the fact that sometimes it  
goes to what is WAY more like an L sound in natural japanese speech,  
and you have yourself a fun little bundle of joy that is the japanese  r/l" sound.

Julian.



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On 11/04/2008, at 1:59 PM, Arlen Cuss wrote:

> Hi,
>
> On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 1:33 PM, John Joyce <
> dangerwillrobinsondanger / gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> Linguistically speaking, Japanese generally do make distinct R and L
>> sounds and sometimes something in between, but do not distinguish  
>> between
>> them. Romanization generally uses the letter 'r' but the sound  
>> could be and
>> in some cases must be and 'L' sound.
>> The cases where it is strictly an 'L' sound? rya  ryu   
>> ryo 
>
>
> To my experience, it is not strictly an L sound in these sounds at  
> all. I
> listen to native Japanese speakers most days at university, and I  
> would say
> that it probably varies more on the person and area from which they  ame.
>
> Arlen