How To Type Japanese On Your Computer

“That isn’t writing at all, it’s typing.” - Truman Capote


Typing in Japanese is surprisingly easy, once you get the hang of it. Many people assume typing Japanese on your keyboard involves each key getting their own symbol. That, my friend, would be crazy. It’s a lot simpler than that. Let’s get started right away, it’s much easier to do it than to just read about it.

1. Activate your Japanese IME (hit the “EN” in your IME and change it to あ Hiragana).

2. To type in Japanese, you don’t need a “Japanese Keyboard.” You just need to be able to type things out phonetically, which you can do with any keyboard that has the alphabet a-z on it.

3. Now, click your cursor in the box below and follow along with me. Hit “a” on your keyboard. If everything is set up right and on, you should see an あ. Hit Enter to confirm it. Now, type “ka” in there. You should see か. Hit Enter to confirm. Now type “mu” in there… you should see む. Hit enter to confirm.

See what I’m getting at? We’re typing the romaji sounds that the kana represent, and your IME is outputting the kana itself. There’s a bit more to using a Japanese IME than this, but this should get you started. You know that if you type the phonetic version of the kana, it’ll output it for you. Try a few more (see below the input box).

Type “a” + ENTER
Type “ka” + ENTER
Type “mu” + ENTER
Type “ho” + ENTER
Type “shi” + ENTER
Type “chi” + ENTER
Type “zo” + ENTER

Now, these are pretty simple examples. Of course, there are a lot of weird exceptions that don’t make a lot of sense (and you’ll just have to learn them), but we’ll get to that in just a moment. Let’s form some words, first.

Type “sushi” + ENTER
Type “sashimi” + ENTER
Type “Takehiro” + ENTER
Type “nani” + ENTER
Type “tabemasu” + ENTER
Type “hairimasu” + ENTER

So far, we haven’t run into anything particularly weird. There are a few things that are a little strange, which we’ll go over now (the really strange stuff we’ll get to in a bit).

You know the “ya” combo hiragana? The ones that are like しゃ, みゅ, or びょ? They’re a little bit funny, and have multiple ways of doing them.

きゃ = kya
しゃ = sya / shya / sha
ちゃ = cya / cha
にゃ = nya
ひゃ = hya
みゃ = mya
りゃ = rya

Practice writing the above characters in this text box below. Can you write them all? Make sure you hit ENTER after writing each one. You’ll learn why this is important on the next page, when you start typing with katakana / kanji.

きゅ = kyu
しゅ = syu / shyu / shu
ちゅ = cyu / chyu / chu
にゅ = nyu
ひゅ = hyu
みゅ = myu
りゅ = ryu

And, as you can probably guess, let’s practice “yo” sounds.

きょ = kyo
しょ = syo / chyo / sho
ちょ = cyo / chyo / cho
にょ = nyo
ひょ = hyo
みょ = myo
りょ = ryo

For the ones that have multiple ways to do them, you can go ahead and choose whatever is most comfortable to you. Personally, I do the “sha/shu/sho” version, but whatever works best for you works best for me.

There are a few more “weird” hiragana characters you’ll want to know about, too, so let’s go over them now. After that, you’ll learn how to magically type kanji and katakana words.

Small Characters

“Small characters” are usually just typed along with the word you’re typing, which makes them a lot easier to type. The first “small character” does exactly this (small tsu) and isn’t too difficult at all. You know that the small tsu is just a double consonant (two of the same non-vowels next to each other, like tt or pp), so in order to get a small tsu, all you have to do is type two of the same consonants in a row.

Try typing these words into the box below. Same as before, hit ENTER after each word is finished typing.

tabetteimasu = たべっています
ippai = いっぱい
yappari = やっぱり
katta = かった
issho / issyo / isshyo = いっしょ
kekkou = けっこう
meppou = めっぽう

Now, there are some instances where you might need to type a small ya/yu/yo or small a/i/u/e/o (mostly for katakana) without being able to nicely add them in along with a word. If you have to type any of these things on their own, all you need to do is add an “x” to them (because there is no “x” in Japanese, making it an extra character).

Type these in the box below.

xya = ゃ
xyu = ゅ
xyo = ょ
xa = ぁ
xi = ぃ
xu = ぅ
xe = ぇ
xo = ぉ

There are a few other “weird” things that you won’t really run into for a while that you don’t need to learn at the moment. The most important thing, now though, is to learn how to type in katakana and kanji.

By finishing this page you’ve learned how to type Japanese in hiragana – next you’ll learn how to type in katakana and kanji!

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