Typing in Japanese

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Adding Japanese Compatibility in Windows Vista

  • Go to your Regional And Language Options
    • Start->Control Panel->Change keyboards or other input methods
    • If running in Classic View: Start->Control Panel->Regional and Language Options
  • Add Japanese Keyboard
    • Keyboards and Languages(tab)->Change Keyboards->General(tab)->Add...->Japanese, Keyboard, Microsoft IME (check this)

Using Microsoft IME

You should now have the Language Bar visible. If you see EN displayed, this means that you are currently in English Input mode. You can switch either by clicking on EN and moving it to Japanese, or by typing Left Alt+ Left Shift.

By standard it will be in romaji input. This will be shown by the A next to the words Input Mode. If you click on that, then you can change between the different input methods. A quicker method to switch is to type Left Alt+Tilde (Tilde is the key to the left of the 1 key) This will cause the A to turn into a hiragana あ.

Typing Hiragana in the Microsoft IME

While in the hiragana mode, you type using standard romaji equivalents to form characters.


  • a=あ
  • cho=ちょ
  • hazukashii=はずかしい

As you input you will see a dotted underline on all the characters you type. To continue typing, hit enter to accept what you have entered.

Typing Kanji/Katakana in the Microsoft IME (while in hiragana mode)

While typing in hiragana the words get underlined as they are typed. When spacebar is hit, it will change the words into common Kanji. If the Kanji that first appears is not the Kanji desired, hit spacebar until the desired one appears. This is also how katakana characters can be typed in hiragana mode. Sometimes two words typed will require separate different Kanji/Kana. In this instance when space is hit, it will have a darker underline on one part or one section will be highlighted. To switch between the underlined/highlighted parts use the left and right arrow keys. When the section to be changed is selected, spacebar will switch between the different Kana. If escape is hit, it will revert back to hiragana. If escape is hit again, it will erase the underlined section.

Pressing F7 will also handily convert any text you have typed so far into katakana, which is quite handy for words and names that the IME won't recognize.


  • beddo no ue de = ベッド (spacebar hit after input)
  • hondasan wa totemo shinsetsu desu= 本田さんとても親切です (spacebar hit after input) (ha is typed for wa see why)
  • watashi no ichiban sukina tabemono wa banana desu = 一番好きな食べ物バナナです。 (spacebar hit after input)
Sometimes it can even detect the correct kanji to use via context
  • seetaa wo kita = セーター着た。(note that for extended vowels in katakana use the - key instead of double typing vowls)
  • uchi ni kita = 来た
  • uchi no kita ha toshokandesu = 図書館です
  • petto wo kau = ペット飼う</li>
  • nekkuresu wo kau = ネックレス買う

Japanese Input Support on Linux

Linux users have several options to consider in typing Japanese. For basic input, some major distributions of Linux come prepackaged with SCIM (Smart Common Input Method), with which the Japanese input system (andy) need only be enabled and downloaded to use. A main advantage of SCIM is that it runs and installs entirely on the graphic user interface. SCIM has the options to input in hiragana and katakana - with either single-segment or multi-segment conversion - in a way identical to the Windows IME method.

Another option is Kinput2 and Canna (preinstalled in Debian): these two programs perform the same tasks as SCIM, but can only be used within program. That is, all inputs and conversions are done within the Kinput2 text editor and pasted elsewhere. While less versatile, Kinput2 has fewer input bugs.

Simpler programs include UIM (Universal Input method) and Im-Ja (For the complete list of Linux/Unix input methods, see Wikipedia).

Also of interest for Linux users is Kanjipad, a drawing program that identifies kanji based on stroke patterns.

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