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[1] This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Help:Japanese. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Seiyuu Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
The following are Japanese characters: 日本語です. If they do not appear similar to this image: 65px, see the Japanese-language Characters subsection for instructions.

Japanese orthography

Main Article: Japanese writing system

Japanese text is written with a mixture of kanji and kana syllabaries. Almost all kanji originated in China, and all have one or more meanings and pronunciations. Kanji compounds generally derive their meaning from the combined kanji. For example, Tokyo (東京) is written with two kanji: "east" (東) + "capital" (京). The kanji, however, are pronounced differently from their Chinese relatives. For example, in Chinese, these two kanji would be "Dongjing." The name was chosen because Tokyo was to be the capital of Japan to the east of the previous capital, Kyoto (京都). (Some other kanji compounds use characters chosen primarily for their pronunciations. Such characters are called "ateji.") In addition to native words and placenames, kanji are used to write Japanese family names and most Japanese given names.

Centuries ago, the kana syllabaries — hiragana and katakana — derived their shape from particular kanji pronounced in the same way. However, unlike kanji, kana have no meaning, and are used only to represent sounds. Hiragana are generally used to write some Japanese words and given names and grammatical aspects of Japanese. For example, the Japanese word for "to do" (する suru) is written with two hiragana: す (su) + る (ru). Katakana are generally used to write loanwords, foreign names and onomatopoeia. For example, retasu was borrowed from the English "lettuce", and is written with three katakana: レ (re) + タ (ta) + ス (su). The onomatopoeia for the sound of typing is kata kata, and is written with 4 katakana: カ (ka) + タ (ta) + カ (ka) + タ (ta). It is common nowadays to see many businesses using katakana in place of hiragana and kanji in advertising. Additionally, people may use katakana when writing their names or informal documents for aesthetic reasons.

Roman characters have also recently become popular for certain purposes in Japanese. (see rōmaji)

Japanese pronunciation

Main Article: Japanese phonology

Throughout Wikipedia (though not necessarily Aselia), a modified version of the widely-accepted Hepburn romanization is used to represent Japanese sounds in Roman characters. The following are some basic rules for using Hepburn to pronounce Japanese words accurately.


  • The vowels a, e, i and o are generally pronounced somewhat similarly to those in Spanish.
  • The vowel u is similar to that of the oo in moon, although shorter and without lip-rounding. In certain contexts, such as after "s" at the end of a word, the vowel is devoiced, so desu may sound like dess.
  • Japanese vowels can either be long (bimoraic) or short (monomoraic). The macron denotes a long vowel.
    • Long a, o and u sounds are usually written with macrons as ā, ō and ū. The notation "ou" or "oo" is sometimes used for a long "ō", following kana spelling practices.
    • Long e and i sounds are usually written ei/ee and ii, but in neologisms are instead written with macrons as ē and ī.
    • Circumflexes (âêîôû) occasionally appear as a typographical alternative to macrons, especially in older texts.

Japanese vowels can be approximated in English as follows:







British Received Pronunciation between cap and cup as in feet as in boot as in hey as in dog
General American as in father as in feet as in boot as in hey as in old

Moraic n

  • An n before a consonant is moraic its own mora).
  • A moraic n followed by a vowel or y is written n' to distinguish it from mora that begin with the consonant n.
  • The moraic n has various phonetic realisations:
    • Before an n, t, d or r, it is pronounced [n].
    • Before a k or g, it is pronounced [ŋ].
    • Before an m, b or p, it is pronounced as [m]. It is written as m in some versions of Hepburn, but as n in Wikipedia’s modified Hepburn.
    • It is otherwise pronounced as [ɴ] or [ɯ̃].


  • Consonants other than f and r are generally pronounced as in English.
  • The consonant f is bilabial: the teeth are not used, and the sound is much softer than the "f" of English.
  • The consonant r is similar to Korean r. To an English speaker's ears, its pronunciation lies somewhere between a flapped t (as in American and Australian English better and ladder), an l and a d.
  • Double consonants (kk, tt, etc.) basically indicate a slight, sharp pause before and stronger emphasis of the following sound, more similar to Italian than English. Spelling anomalies:
    • double ch is written as tch (sometimes cch),
    • double sh is written as ssh and
    • double ts is written as tts.

Japanese names

Main Article: Japanese name

In Japan the given name always comes after the family name:

  • Example: 福田康夫 (Fukuda Yasuo). 福田("Fukuda") is the family name.

However, to reflect the Western convention of listing the family name last, some Japanese people born since the establishment of the Meiji era conform to the "given name, family name" in western texts. So 福田康夫 (Fukuda Yasuo) is listed as "Yasuo Fukuda".

See also

Japanese-language characters

Many computers with English or other Western operating systems do not show Japanese characters by default.

If you see boxes, question marks or mojibake mixing into the first part, you still do not have support for East Asian characters.

Windows 95, 98, ME and NT

Your system should offer to download Asian fonts by default while viewing pages in those languages, just as long as you're using Internet Explorer. [2]

Otherwise, update your system manually with these language support packs: here

Windows 2000

Instructions for Windows 2000

Windows XP and Server 2003

The Windows CD-ROM is needed while installing support for East Asian languages. (Non-East Asian localizations only)

Instructions for Windows XP and Server 2003

Windows Vista

Windows Vista includes proper support for Japanese characters by default. You can type in Japanese or view Japanese with the default tools.

Mac OS X

By default all necessary fonts and software are installed in Mac OS X 10.2 (2002) and higher.

For Mac OS X 10.1 multilingual software updates are available as free downloads from Apple's website. The Asian Language Update will install support for Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Mac OS X Language Support Updates at


Install the appropriate ttfonts packages.

For Fedora Core 3, the packages are ttfonts-zh_TW (traditional Chinese), ttfonts-zh_CN (simplified Chinese), ttfonts-ja (Japanese) and ttfonts-ko (Korean). For example,

yum install ttfonts-ja

As of Fedora Core 4, you need fonts-chinese, fonts-japanese and/or fonts-korean.

Debian GNU/Linux and Ubuntu

Installing the ttf-kochi-mincho package will add support for displaying Japanese text in the Debian GNU/Linux or Ubuntu distribution. You can do this with the following command:

apt-get install ttf-kochi-mincho

Gentoo GNU/Linux

Install a Japanese font package. The most common is ja-ipafonts.

emerge media-fonts/ja-ipafonts

Also, put useflag 'cjk' to /etc/make.conf and update your system

emerge -uDN world

Mandriva Linux 2007

Install one or several Japanese font packages. The most common is fonts-ttf-japanese, but in addition you can also install fonts-ttf-japanese-extra, fonts-ttf-japanese-ipamona and fonts-ttf-japanese-mplus_ipagothic.

Make sure you have UTF-8 fonts enabled, as they may not be if you have upgraded from a former version of Mandrake/Mandriva.


With X.Org 7.x and above, install the package x11-fonts/font-jis-misc:

pkg_add -r font-jis-misc-1.0.0.tbz

Please note that the package version may be different. Alternativelly, this can be easily accomplished by installing from the ports tree:

cd /usr/ports/x11-fonts/font-jis-misc && make install clean

Unicode Japanese fonts