How to Type in Japanese (And Fun Characters Too!) Getting the most out of your Japanese Keyboard

    Once you've installed your very own Japanese keyboard, it's time start typing. Mash those keys and you're greeted with romaji quickly morphing into kana quickly morphing into kanji. Plus there's a dropdown box. And if you hit the spacebar, things start getting really crazy.

    Hit the brakes. Just because you know how to enable IME, doesn't mean you know how to type in Japanese. It's pretty easy once you've figured it out, but can be tricky if you've never done it before.

    If you learned Japanese in a classroom, you probably did a lot of handwriting practice. If you're lucky, you didn't use much romaji, and jumped straight into hiragana and katakana.

    That's great! But being familiar with the two most common romaji, or romanization systems of Japanese, makes typing much easier. It can also help you find simple typing shortcuts, especially if you're using a romaji keyboard to type in Japanese. Keep that in mind while you read!

    How to Use This Guide

    Before you start, turn on your Japanese keyboard. If you don't have a Japanese keyboard or don't know how to get one on your device, follow our step-by-step IME installation instructions before proceeding.

    Below are tables. These tables display Japanese keyboard characters and the inputs you type to make them appear. For example, to produce you type a. In the table below, notice the letter a is below . The roman letter or combination of letters you need to type to display a given character are displayed below that character.

    Again, this is where romaji will be helpful. If you know how a Japanese word is spelled in romaji, you can type it on your Japanese keyboard.

    Hiragana

    a i u e o
    ka ki ku ke ko
    sa si / shi su se so
    ta ti / chi tu / tsu te to
    na ni nu ne no
    ha hi hu / fu he ho
    ma mi mu me mo
       
    ya   yu   yo
    ra ri ru re ro
         
    wa       wo
           
    nn        

    Notice that typing requires you to type nn. When you hit n, you have the chance you to hit a,i,u,e, or o to make ,,,, or . So you need that extra n to tell the keyboard, "Yes, I'm trying to type ." It will mean the difference between:

    おな おんあ おんな
    ona onna onnna

    Also, notice when you type the particle in a sentence, you type ha even though it's pronounced wa.

    Dakuten

    ga gi gu ge go
    za zi / ji zu ze zo
    da di du de do
    ba bi bu be bo
    pa pi pu pe po

    Contractions

    きゃ きゅ きょ
    kya kyu kyo
    しゃ しゅ しょ
    sha shu sho
    ちゃ ちゅ ちょ
    cha chu cho
    にゃ にゅ にょ
    nya nyu nyo
    ひゃ ひゅ ひょ
    hya hyu hyo
    みゃ みゅ みょ
    mya myu myo
    りゃ りゅ りょ
    rya ryu ryo

    Dakuten Contractions

    ぎゃ ぎゅ ぎょ
    gya gyu gyo
    じゃ じゅ じょ
    jya / ja jyu / ju jyo / jo
    びゃ びゅ びょ
    bya byu byo
    ぴゃ ぴゅ ぴょ
    pya pyu pyo

    Long Contractions

    きゅう きょう
    kyuu kyou
    しゅう しょう
    shuu shou
    ちゅう ちょう
    chuu chou
    にゅう にょう
    nyuu nyou
    ひゅう ひょう
    hyuu hyou
    みゅう みょう
    myuu myou
    りゅう りょう
    ryuu ryou

    Dakuten Long Contractions

    ぎゅう ぎょう
    gyuu gyou
    じゅう じょう
    juu / jyuu jou / jyou
    びゅう びょう
    byuu byou
    ぴゅう ぴょう
    pyuu pyou

    Katakana

    To switch from hiragana to katakana, usually all you have to do is hit the spacebar after you've typed the word in hiragana. If you spelled the word correctly, your IME will almost always recommend the word in katakana. If it doesn't, you may need to double check how it's officially spelled with an online dictionary like Jisho.

    a i u e o
    ka ki ku ke ko
    sa si / shi su se so
    ta ti / chi tu / tsu te to
    na ni nu ne no
    ha hi hu / fu he ho
    ma mi mu me mo
       
    ya   yu   yo
    ra ri ru re ro
         
    wa       wo
           
    nn        

    Katakana Dakuten

    ga gi gu ge go
    za zi / ji zu ze zo
    da di du de do
    ba bi bu be bo
    pa pi pu pe po

    Katakana Contractions

    キャ キュ キョ
    kya kyu kyo
    シャ シュ ショ
    sha shu sho
    チャ チュ チョ
    cha chu cho
    ニャ ニュ ニョ
    nya nyu nyo
    ヒャ ヒュ ヒョ
    hya hyu hyo
    ミャ ミュ ミョ
    mya myu myo
    リャ リュ リょ
    rya ryu ryo

    Katakana Dakuten Contractions

    ギャ ギュ ギョ
    gya gyu gyo
    ジャ ジュ ジョ
    jya / ja jyu / ju jyo / jo
    ビャ ビュ ビョ
    bya byu byo
    ピャ ピュ ピョ
    pya pyu pyo

    Katakana Long Contractions

    キュウ キョウ
    kyuu kyou
    シュウ ショウ
    shuu shou
    チュウ チョウ
    chuu chou
    ニュウ ニョウ
    nyuu nyou
    ヒュウ ヒョウ
    hyuu hyou
    ミュウ ミョウ
    myuu myou
    リュウ リょウ
    ryuu ryou

    Katakana Dakuten Long Contractions

    ギュウ ギョウ
    gyuu gyou
    ジュウ ジョウ
    juu / jyuu jou / jyou
    ビュウ ビョウ
    byuu byou
    ピュウ ピョウ
    pyuu pyou

    Those are the basics, but there are a lot of other characters and symbols you should know how to type. Let's take a look at a few!

    Half-Sized Characters

    You'll see a lot of half sized characters in casual Japanese. If you follow Japanese users on Twitter, Facebook, LINE, or other SNS sites, you've probably seen these chibi kana mixed in. But sometimes they're in weird spots, like this: あれぇ ねぇ ちっちぇ.

    Here's how to type small Japanese characters in your social media messages:

    la / xa li / xi lu / xu le / xe lo / xo

    Thanks to the prevalence of foreign words that have been borrowed into Japanese, not to mention foreign names, there are some unusual kana combinations that exist. Here's how to type those uncommon combos:

    ファ フィ フュ フェ フォ
    fa fi fyu fe fo
      ウィ   ウェ ウォ
      wi   we who
    ヴァ ヴィ   ヴェ ヴォ
    va vi   ve vo
    ツァ ツィ   ツェ ツォ
    tsa tsi   tse tso
    チェ シェ ジェ
    che she je
    ティ ディ デュ トゥ
    texi dexi dexyu toxu

    Small Tsu

    To get the small tsu, you don't have to type ltu or xtsu or any of those other combinations. Think about what っ means in Japanese. It's there to mark a geminate consonant. And you spell that in romaji with two of that consonant in a row. So type the Japanese word in romaji using a double consonant. Your Japanese keyboard will know what to do and generate a っ in the proper place.

    やった きっと みっつ りっぱ まっちゃ
    yatta kitto mittsu rippa maccha

    Makes sense now, right?

    Convert to Kanji

    Now that you know how to type in hiragana and katakana, you can start converting some of it to nice, fancy kanji. How? By using the spacebar, just like you did with katakana words.

    Let's use this sentence as an example:

    • 私の名前はクリステンです。
    • My name is Kristen.

    But what I'm actually typing (and seeing) is this:

    • わたしのなまえはくりすてんです。
    • watashinonamaehakurisutenndesu.

    Once you have that typed out, hit the spacebar. It will give you a dropdown box with conversion options. Scroll through and choose the one you want.

    computer screen with japanese text

    If what you're typing is simple enough, it might just suggest exactly what you're looking for. If that's the case, hit enter (also known at the return key) and you can go on typing.

    If only part of the sentence is what you're trying to type, you can fix it without having to retype the sentence one word at a time. Use the arrow keys to select the part of the sentence you want to change.

    screen with japanese typing

    Hit spacebar again until you get find the option you're looking for.

    Wait! Did you scroll through a ton of kanji and now can't find the original kana you started with? Just hit the escape key once and it will revert back to the kana. (Just once though, otherwise it will delete what you wrote.)

    This process takes some getting used to, but with practice, you'll be hitting space and enter to toggle through your options and type Japanese kanji without even thinking about it.

    Punctuation

    You don't need a physical Japanese keyboard to type Japanese punctuation. Here are the keys that will get you punctuating properly:

    「」
    . , [ ] shift + ~ /

    Symbols

    Aside from punctuation, there are some symbols in Japanese that you might need to type too.

    \ -

    Some symbols may take typing the right word to find. You'll need to look through your options to find these, but the Google IME has them all nicely hidden within your keyboard!

    yuubinn yuubinn yuubinn
    kome maru batsu

    Want some variation? No problem! Type the Japanese words below and hit enter to get a slew of symbol options.

    Circle まる

    Triangle さんかく

    Star ほし

    *

    Weather てんき

    Chess チェス

    Music おんがく

    Dot てん

    .

    Heart ハート

    There are more Japanese symbols you can make with your keyboard. Check out some mini (and kinda outdated) lists of symbols here, if you need more.

    Old Kana

    If you're studying Kobun, also known as Classical Japanese, you'll need to know how to type old, defunct characters. There aren't too many of them, but not having to copy/paste them all the time is a huge time saver.

    You'll probably still have to be careful when typing in kobun though. Your Japanese IME is going to try to correct everything you're doing. So knowing your keyboard shortcuts is going to help you out.

    wi wi we we

    Oh, and you'll need to use your new space-toggling knowledge to get to them. Because the IME is thinking, "What? This old stuff? Nah, you don't want that, have うぃ instead."

    If you go even deeper down the rabbit hole you might find these oldies:

    yori koto

    ゟ should appear in your IME but ヿ most likely will not. This is probably the only one you'll have to find online and copy/paste. But unless you're transcribing really ancient katakana for コト smooshed together to make ヿ, you'll probably never need to.

    Kaomoji

    You did it! You made it to the end. You know how to type in Japanese!

    And boy, do I have a surprise for you. Your Japanese keyboard offers kaomoji right at your fingertips.

    Don't have a typing shortcut program or app? Tired of searching for hours and hours for the right kaomoji to send to your mom, boyfriend, or dog? Well, look no further than the computer you're using right now!

    Tons of IMEs have kaomoji built in. They may not be as wonderful as some of Koichi's longstanding favorites like:

    • Guy Pointing to Butt(╭☞•́⍛•̀)╭☞ (__(__|
    • Giving up on Life Bean_( :⁍ 」 )_
    • Horrible Torture your Coworkers Face (◞≼⓪≽◟⋌⋚⋛⋋◞≼⓪≽)
    • And, of course, Cat ฅ^•ﻌ•^ฅ

    But if you want those, go read the guide he spent a month of his life writing.

    To get your plain (and not very special) kaomoji, type the word かおもじ and scroll through the list to find a bunch.

    Sometimes you can get lucky and the word you're typing will have a kaomoji in the list of options too.

    (≧▽≦) (๑´ڡ`๑) \(^o^)/ (●´ω`●) ((o(´∀`)o))ワクワク
    ureshii oishii nikoniko tere wakuwaku

    There are tons more, so go through some emotional words and see what you can find. You can also find emoji this way too (by typing emoji or just kao for the face ones). But emoji are less cool than kaomoji, so I can't see why you'd wanna go and do a thing like that. Psh.

    Now You Know How to Type in Japanese!

    That's all I have left to teach you, young padawan. I hope this helps you on your Japanese typing journey. If you didn't find what you were looking for, shoot us a tweet and we'll try to help you out!