How to Install a Japanese Keyboard On Apple, Windows, Computers, Phones, You name it!

    Installing Japanese keyboards on non-Japanese computers has gotten much easier in the past ten years. No more special discs with complicated software. In fact, just about every computer has a Japanese keyboard ready and waiting inside of it.

    You just have to know how to get in there, turn it on, and make it work for you.

    That's where we come in. We get a lot of emails from people struggling to install and switch between Japanese keyboards. In this guide we'll show you how to install Japanese keyboard inputs, set awesome shortcuts for better productivity, and type anything you could ever want, all without needing a "real" Japanese computer or keyboard.

    Ready? レツゴーー!

    How to Install Japanese Keyboards on your Computer

    The first thing you need to do is figure out what kind of computer you're using. If you don't know, here's an easy way to tell:

    • If there's an apple on it, you've got a Mac.
    • If not, you've a got a PC.

    Kidding aside, you probably already know what kind of computer you have. It's a really good thing to know.

    Mac OSX

    I'm starting with Mac instructions for installing Japanese keyboards, because it's the easiest of the two, and most people's preference when it comes to working/typing in general. (PC master race, pls be nice. We love you, too.)

    Go to System Preferences > Language & Region.

    mac osx settings

    Once in Language & Region, click the + (plus) sign under the Preferred languages box. It will bring up a list of languages.

    mac osx language and region

    Select 日本語 — Japanese.

    mac osx japanese language selection

    Hit Add.

    You'll get a prompt asking whether you'd like to change your primary language from English (or whatever it currently is) to Japanese. Unless you're fluent in Japanese, don't switch. Just choose Use English for now.

    mac osx language setting

    Next click on Keyboard Preferences at the bottom.

    mac osx language and region dialog box

    It will bring you to a menu called Input Sources. Click the + (plus) at the bottom left and choose Japanese and hit Add.

    mac osx input sources

    Now you'll have the option to choose which inputs to use.

    mac osx japanese keyboard input sources

    I use Full-width Alphanumeric (Google) for English (better than your default U.S.), and Hiragana (Google) for Japanese. (If you don't already have Google Japanese Input on your computer, you can get it here)

    You don't need anything else from this list because you're able to choose everything you need with these two alone.

    Now that you have your keyboards set up, you'll see them in the top right toolbar, right near the time.

    If you want to be a slow, sad person, you can drag your mouse up there and click through when you want to switch between your keyboards.

    Or, you can be an efficient Japanese beast switching from English to Japanese and back without even blinking! Shortcuts will show you the way.

    OSX Shortcuts

    Your keyboards will probably already have some shortcuts associated with them. Here are the defaults, which you can use whenever you want to switch between English and Japanese:

    English: control + shift + ;

    Japanese: control + shift + j

    But now there's a small problem. When you added the Japanese keyboard, it probably enabled another shortcut that conflicts with other programs. It's command + space. This filters through your language options, always going to the next one.

    If you're like me, you already use command + space for search programs like Spotlight or Alfred.

    Here's how you turn that off:

    Go to back to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts.

    mac osx shortcuts

    Once in shortcuts click on Input Sources.

    Now just uncheck both:

    Select the previous input source

    Select next source in Input menu

    Or, instead of unchecking them, change the inputs to something you aren't already using.

    And that's it! Now you have an easy to use Japanese keyboard at your fingertips!

    Windows 10

    Installing Japanese input on Windows 10 may feel more complicated at first, but it's quite easy once you do it. Let me walk you through.

    First, click on the little Windows symbol (the one that replaced the old Start bar) in the bottom left corner.

    windows 10 start menu

    Type control panel into the search bar and click on the app.

    windows 10 control panel

    Go to Add a Language under Clock, Language, and Region.

    windows 10 control panel window

    Next click Add a language.

    windows 10 add language feature

    You'll see a bunch of languages in big boxes. Scroll down until you reach 日本語 (Japanese) and click Add.

    windows 10 japanese keyboard choice

    Now you have the Microsoft IME keyboard on your computer!

    If you go into the options, you'll see that you can download and install language packs. But that's really only if you want to change the language of your OS to Japanese completely. We're not going to get into that here.

    windows 10 japanese input options

    To check out some of your new language and keyboard options, click on Options under Input Method (Microsoft IME).

    windows 10 ime options

    Choose Advanced and look through all this neat stuff. No need to change anything, just take a look so you can customize it as you like.

    advanced settings for windows 10 ime

    Windows 10 Shortcuts

    There are shortcuts for switching between language keyboards already on your PC! To switch between the two, here's what you do:

    Windows button + spacebar

    This will cycle between the two languages.

    windows 10 japanese keyboard selected
    windows 10 english keyboard selected

    You'll also be able to see what mode you're in at the bottom of the screen in your toolbar.

    windows 10 toolbar switching keyboards
    windows 10 keyboard toolbar with english highlighted

    And you can choose your input method by right-clicking on the A or the .

    windows 10 hiragana input options

    Now you can type in Japanese like this:

    using windows 10 to type in google

    Windows 10 IME Pad

    As an added bonus, when you use Windows you get this neat little option called IME Pad.

    windows 10 ime pad drawing example

    You can use it to draw a kanji character you don't remember the reading for, or to look up a kanji you don't know. The stroke order kind of matters, but the quality of your drawing doesn't so much, as you can see here:

    poorly drawn windows 10 ime character

    There are also tabs that let you look up kanji by radical.

    kanji radicals in windows 10 ime pad

    Or the number of strokes.

    kanji strokes in windows 10 ime pad

    Very useful for language learners!

    Windows 7

    A lot of people still have Windows 7 and swear by it. So time to reveal the secrets of Windows 7 Japanese input. The process is a little different than 10, so here's how to do it:

    Go to Start or the little Windows Button and click on the control panel.

    start menu for windows 7

    Click on Change keyboards or other input methods under Clock, Language, and Region.

    control panel for windows 7

    This will bring you to another menu where you choose Change keyboards or other input methods.

    clock, language, region section of windows 7

    Make sure you're in the Keyboard and Languages tab and click Change keyboards.

    keyboards and languages setting in windows 7

    Then click on Add...

    adding languages in windows 7

    And scroll to the middle and expand the Japanese (Japan) option.

    installing japanese keyboard in windows 7

    You'll have a few options. Choose Microsoft IME and hit OK. You can add Japanese too, if you'd like.

    windows 7 keyboard options

    Now Apply it and/or hit OK.

    applying settings in windows 7

    This will add a little EN to the right side of your toolbar.

    the en english keyboard in windows 7 toolbar

    You can click on it to switch between English and Japanese.

    en jp switching toolbar in windows 7

    When you do switch to Japanese it will automatically put you into Alphanumeric mode, which isn't very helpful since you want to be typing in Japanese and not English.

    windows 7 alphanumeric toolbar

    Click on the A to change it to Hiragana.

    input options toolbar in windows 7

    And the A will change to . That's how you know your Japanese input method.

    windows 7 input options toolbar

    Windows 7 Language Bar

    If you have trouble with all your language options being smooshed into your toolbar, you can go back to the language menu and choose Show the Language Bar.

    japanese keyboard toolbar in windows 7

    This will open up a movable bar with all your options attached to it. It also gives easy access to the IME Pad, which is pretty much the same as the one in Windows 10.

    windows 7 language bar

    You can draw kanji to look them up.

    ime pad handwriting in windows 7

    Look up kanji by radical.

    ime pad radicals in windows 7

    And by number of strokes.

    windows 7 ime pad strokes

    Good stuff!

    Windows 7 Shortcuts

    Like Windows 10, Windows 7 has shortcuts automatically assigned to switching between your languages.

    To cycle through your languages use:

    left alt + shift

    But if you don't want to use that (for some reason) you can change the settings like this:

    Go back to control panel > Change keyboards or other input methods > Change keyboards.

    applying settings to windows 7

    Now here's where things get different.

    Go to the Advanced Key Settings.

    advanced key settings in windows 7

    And select whichever language you'd like to change the shortcuts for.

    key bindings in windows 7

    You only have a few options.

    Basically:

    ctrl + number

    ctrl + shift + number

    left alt + shift + number

    These can be really helpful if you're typing in more than 2 languages. For example, if you're writing a paper using English, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin, this can help make the process much less frustrating.

    But you should be careful. If any other shortcuts (which may be default on your computer) are the same as the shortcuts you're making, they won't work. So it's probably best to stick with the default cycle shortcut if you aren't dealing with 3+ language keyboards.

    How to Install Japanese Keyboards on your Phone or Tablet

    It's the future and installing a Japanese keyboard is easy-peasy! Well, mostly. But once you learn how to do it, you'll have opened a whole new world of fun.

    iOS

    Installing Japanese keyboards on your iPhone or iPad is a breeze. These instructions will (or should) work for all current iOS devices.

    If you've installed the emoji keyboard, then this should be very familiar. If you haven't, then follow these instructions but switch out Japanese for Emoji, and you can thank me later.

    First, go to your Settings and click on General.

    ios settings

    Then Keyboard.

    ios keyboard settings

    And then Keyboards with an s.

    installing japanese ios keyboards

    You'll see a list of the keyboards you already have installed.

    Click on Add New Keyboard.

    ios add new keyboard

    Scroll down to Japanese. (Mine is suggested because I've used it before.)

    choosing japanese keyboard input on ios

    Now choose Kana and/or Romaji and Done at the top right.

    choosing between kana or romaji methods on ios

    That's it! To use it go to your messages and start as you normally would. But now you'll see that there is a new symbol, this little globe circle.

    ios keyboard layout

    It will switch to the next (or whatever it thinks you want) keyboard, which should be Japanese!

    The Kana mode look like this:

    ios 12 key japanese keyboard layout

    And the Romaji mode looks like this:

    ios romaji keyboard layout

    iOS Chinese Secrets

    Want to quickly look up kanji on your phone without using an outdated app, waiting for your browser, or having to pay for a drawing tool? We've got a hack for you!

    Follow all those iOS keyboard instructions above, but stop after you hit the Add New Keyboard step.

    Instead, scroll down until you reach Chinese (Simplified). Then under the keyboard choices choose Handwriting.

    choosing handwriting option in ios chinese keyboard

    Now you have a new keyboard option that opens up a drawing IME. It may be for Chinese, but remember a ton of Japanese and Chinese characters are shared. And it works for both!

    poorly drawn kanji in ios chinese lookup

    This works when you're texting your friends and trying to look up or save a kanji to look up later on. Even better, it doesn't care about stroke order like most Japanese apps. And it doesn't use the same database as most Japanese - English dictionaries (Jim Breen, Jisho.org, Tangorin, etc.). Also you don't need an internet connection to use it! Handy, right?

    Android Marshmallow

    For non-Apple people, there's only one way to go. Time to look at installing Japanese keyboards on Android. These instructions will (or should) work for all current Android devices.

    First, you need to download a Japanese keyboard. To do this open the Play Store.

    android home screen

    Then in the search bar type in japanese keyboard.

    searching for japanese keyboard on google play store

    The first option will almost definitely be the Google Japanese Input app.

    android search results for japanese keyboard

    This one is free and easy to use so let's INSTALL.

    google japanese input app for android

    Give it permission and download that baby.

    downloading google japanese input on android

    Open it up and give it more permissions, but only if you feel okay doing that. It's important to read the terms of service, y'know.

    window asking to enable google japanese input

    If you go through the setup instructions it should put you in the Language & Input section of your device and turn it on!

    japanese keyboard enabled on android

    Now when you go to type you can click the (new) little globe near the bottom left to switch to Japanese.

    Here is your new keyboard:

    android 12 key kana japanese keyboard

    You tap and pull toward the character you'd like to input.

    typing ku on android japanese keyboard

    And even better, there is a kaomoji keyboard built in!

    kaomoji keyboard for android

    And of course, you can switch to Alphanumeric mode without having to go back to your other keyboard, but it's in the old phone texting style.

    If you don't like the 12 keys keyboard layout, just switch to romaji or "QWERTY" layout.

    To do this, open your apps folder and tap the Google Japanese Input icon (but note that the name is too long for the icon so it appears as Google Japan..).

    japanese input icon on android

    Keyboard layout is right at the top.

    keyboard layout for android japanese input

    Slide and tap the large QWERTY icon.

    the qwerty keyboard icon in android japanese ime

    Now you can type Japanese with a desktop keyboard layout on Android.

    android device typing japanese

    And there you have it! You know how to install Japanese keyboard inputs. More than you ever dreamed. But what to do with them?

    Keep an eye out for Part II, where we teach you how to type in Japanese, using the keyboards you just installed. See ya then.