How to Type in Japanese on the Computer (Windows & Mac)

  • November 30, 2017 / Lily Cernak

Practicing hand-writing in Japanese is essential in order to memorize kanji and learn proper stroke order. But you will find that most of your written communication in Japanese (just as is the case with English) is electronically done. In the process of learning Japanese, it is important to learn both how to hand-write the language and how to type it.

Here’s how to type in Japanese on your computer.

(To view a full listing of our articles on technology and Japanese, click here!)

How to Install Japanese on your Computer

If you use Windows:

I am basing these instructions off of my own experiences with Windows 10.
If any part of the instructions is not working for you, please leave us a comment, and we’ll try to help!

  1. Open the start menu and then click on Settings.
  2. In Settings, click on Time & Language. Once you are in Time & Language, there will be a tab on the left that reads Region & Language.
  3. Click on it, and then click on the large plus-signAdd a language” button beneath the “Languages” header.
  4. Addable languages are alphabetically listed and Japanese will most likely be under J. But if you do not see it there you can also check under N for Nihongo. You can also check the the bottom of the list with other languages that have non-Roman-alphabet names, in which case Japanese may be listed as 日本語.

Simply click on Japanese (or Nihongo, or 日本語, as the case may be) to add it. If Japanese is the first language you have added to your computer, a language bar will appear.

The language bar will probably appear on your taskbar near your clock and volume buttons. But it may appear elsewhere on your screen, especially if you have an older version of Windows. If you already have a language bar, Japanese will now be an option when you click on the bar.

If you use a Mac:

I am basing these instructions off of my own experiences with a recent version of macOS.
If any part of the instructions is not working for you, please leave us a comment, and we’ll try to help!

  1. Open the Apple menu and then click on System Preferences.
  2. In System Preferences, click on Language & Text.
  3. Once you are in Language & Text, click on the Input Sources button, and you will see a list of addable languages. Japanese will likely be listed under K for Kotoeri (Kotoeri (言選り) is the name of the input method. The literal meaning of Kotoeri is “word choosing”. It can also be listed under J for Japanese, N for Nihongo, or in the bottom of the list with other languages that have non-Roman-alphabet names; in which case it may be listed as 日本語.
  4. Check the box next to Kotoeri/Japanese, and make sure that the Kotoeri sub-boxes hiragana, katakana, and Romaji are also checked. Before closing the Input Sources window, make sure that you check the box next to “show input menu in menu bar”

If Japanese is the first language you have added to your Mac, an American flag icon will appear on your menu bar near your clock and volume buttons.

How to Type in Japanese

If you use Windows:

If the default language of your computer is English, your language bar will read ENG most of the time. To type in Japanese, click on the bar and select Japanese. An additional button will then appear that is simply an upper-case “A.” Click the A to change it to an あ, and that’s it!

If you have clicked to change the button to an あ but English letters are generated and not hiragana when you type, right-click on the あ and make sure you select “hiragana”.

If you use a Mac:

Hover on the American flag icon on your menu bar, and a small menu will appear. Select hiragana from the menu, and that’s it!

Notes and Further Instructions (Windows & Mac):

1) While typing in hiragana on either a Mac or a PC, you can use the space bar to create kanji and katakana. You can press the space bar after every word, or at the end of each sentence.

The former seems a tad annoying at first, but will save you time in the long run. If you press space at the end of a sentence, the computer will try to guess at which hiragana to change into kanji katakana, and which kanji to change them to. It is right a lot of the time, but not always. Pressing the space bar after a single word allows you to scroll through every possible kanji / kana option for that word. This is the only way to bring up rare kanji.

For example, typing “au” will probably bring up the common kanji 会う, but if I wanted the rarer version 逢う I would need to press space several times. Once you have brought up the kanji / kana you want, keep them by pressing enter (or by just resuming typing).

2) You may need to spell  and ぢ in a way you are not used to in order to get them to come up. Depending on the Romanization system you use, you can write these letters as dzu, zu, or du and di or ji respectively. But on your computer you will probably need to type them as “du” and “di.” Also, to type the letter ん n, you will need to type “n” twice.

3) Spelling is always important, but misspelling when typing in Japanese will result in the correct kanji not showing up as an option.

For example, typing きんえん is “non-smoking,” but きねん is “commemoration.” In Romaji, these words are both “kinen,” but when typing in hiragana you must type “kinnenn” and “kinenn” respectively.

Similarly, some Japanese-learning resources do not clearly and/or accurately show long vowels (such as the s in こうこう (“high school“) – this word is sometimes Romaji’d as “koko,” “kookoo,” or “kōkō,” but if you want the correct kanji to appear you must type “koukou“). If you are typing a word and the kanji you are looking for is not appearing, one thing to check is whether or not your vowels are correct.

When you change your computer’s settings to allow typing in more than one language, programs and web browsers will begin to remember which language you are currently using in them (although they do not always remember correctly).

For example, if you are typing in Japanese in Outlook and then open Notepad and begin typing, your keyboard may switch itself to English. If you click back to Outlook it may switch back to Japanese. If you then click over to a web browser with Google in which you had been typing in Japanese an hour or two ago, your keyboard may remember that you were Googling in Japanese and stay Japanese. Or it may forget and switch itself to English.

Switching back and forth between languages is easy and so, either way, it is not a big deal, but it can cause annoying typos.

5) A few keys (although not many) change purposes when you are typing in Japanese. For example, to type Japanese quotation marks 「」, use the bracket keys [ ].

6) Quite a few Japanese words have symbol options as well as kanji / kana options. For example, if you type ほし hoshi (star) and press the space bar once, it will probably bring up the kanji . Then, if you continue to press the space bar, you will skip past that kanji and can instead select ☆彡or ★
(or a different kanji). The words that have symbol options will surprise you! (Try typing おんせん onsen (hot spring) or フライパン furaipan (frying pan)).

That’s everything for now on how to type in Japanese on the computer. If you are looking to also set up your smartphone to type in Japanese, click here for our article on that topic!

There are aspects of typing in Japanese that we did not have time to cover in this article, so if you have any questions, please leave us a comment. And, if any of the instructions above are not working on your computer, do not hesitate to comment or message us and we will help you out!


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