- The following are Japanese characters: 日本語です. If they do not appear similar to this image: , see the Japanese-language Characters subsection for instructions.
Japanese text is written with a mixture of kanji and two 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 than 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.")
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 used to write native Japanese words. 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 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.
Throughout Wikipedia, 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 as in German, Spanish, Italian or similar languages.
- 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 and inaudible; so desu is pronounced dess to rhyme with dress.
- 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" is sometimes used for a long "ō", following kana spelling practices.
- Long e and i sounds are usually written ei 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 get||as in dog|
|General American||as in father||as in feet||as in boot||as in get||as in old|
- An n before a consonant is moraic (its own mora).
- A moraic n followed by a vowel or y is written n'.
- The moraic n has various phonetic realizations:
- 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.
- 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 (1868-09-08) conform to the "given name, family name" in western texts. So 福田康夫 (Fukuda Yasuo) is listed as "Yasuo Fukuda". On Wikipedia, normally Western order is used for people born from the first year of Meiji (1868) onward.
- Japanese language
- Japanese abbreviated and contracted words
- Japanese sound symbolism
- Wikipedia:Manual of Style (Japan-related articles) for official Wikipedia style guidelines how to incorporate Japanese into articles here.
- Help:Japanese/Editing for information on customizing the appearance of Japanese text and usage in articles.
- Wikipedia:Enabling East Asian characters
- See also: Wikipedia:Enabling East Asian characters for other East Asian Character sets.
If you see boxes, question marks or mojibake mixing into the first part, you still do not have support for East Asian characters.
Check for support
1. This is Japanese text as it appears on Japanese websites and Wikipedia:
2. Compare it to this picture of what it should look like:
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. 
Otherwise, update your system manually with these language support packs: here
Windows XP and Server 2003
The Windows CD-ROM is needed while installing support for East Asian languages. (Non-East Asian localizations only)
Windows Vista includes proper support for Japanese characters by default. You can actually type in Japanese or view Japanese with the default tools.
Mac OS X
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.
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
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.