Japanese has been observed to have 2 versions of the H tone, the higher of which is associated with an accented mora. However, the distinction of these 2 versions only surfaces in context but not in isolation, leading to a long-standing debate over whether there is 1 H tone or 2. This article reports evidence that the higher version may result from a pre-low raising mechanism rather than being inherently higher. The evidence is based on an analysis of F0 of words that varied in length, accent condition and syllable structure, produced by native speakers of Japanese at 2 speech rates. The data indicate a clear separation between effects that are due to mora-level preplanning and those that are mechanical. These results are discussed in terms of mechanisms of laryngeal control during tone production, and highlight the importance of articulation as a link between phonology and surface acoustics. Copyright © 2017 S. Karger AG, Basel.