Typing in Japanese: A Step-by-Step Guide to Get Started

typing in Japanese
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Intro to Typing in Japanese

Are you learning Japanese and want to know how you can type in Japanese on your computer or smartphone? It’s easy to install a Japanese keyboard to type in hiragana, katakana and kanji. We will step you through this below and show you how to type in Japanese.

You’ll even learn some handy keyboard shortcuts and how to create kaomoji – like ╰(*´︶`*)╯♡, the text-face emoji that are popular with Japanese speakers.

We highly recommend you launch the notepad application on your phone or computer and try typing Japanese with us as we walk you through this article.

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How to Install a Japanese Keyboard

To type in Japanese, the first thing you need is a Japanese keyboard. That does not mean you need to buy a real, physical Japanese keyboard with kana printed on it! Today’s computers and smartphones allow you to install a Japanese keyboard input method that lets you use your normal keyboard to ‘sound out’ the Japanese words and will convert these to hiragana, katakana and kanji for you.

In the sections below, you’ll find instructions for installing a Japanese keyboard on macOS and Windows 10, as well as iOS and Android smartphones.

If you were already done with the installation, you can skip it and go to the part “Typing in Japanese with Romaji”

Shortcuts for your device OS: macOS, Windows, iOS, Android

Install a Japanese Keyboard on Mac OS

Open System Preferences, and click on Language & Region.

Install a Japanese Keyboard on macOS-Step 1

In the Language & Region dialog, click on the plus + symbol underneath the Preferred languages list.


Scroll down until you see 日本語 - Japanese in the list, select it, then click Add.


You will see a prompt asking if you want to switch and use Japanese as your primary language. Select Use English for now.


You will be prompted to add an input source. Japanese is automatically selected and uses the built-in Mac OS Japanese language settings. Click Add Input Source.


If you want to tweak the settings or check which keyboard shortcuts you should use, select 日本語 - Japanese in the list of preferred languages, then click Keyboard Preferences.

The language input switcher is displayed by default in the menu bar at the top of your monitor.

Click on the input switcher A, then select one of the Japanese input options. Hiragana is the easiest to use and will automatically select kanji for words based on their context as you type.

How to switch input languages in Japanese quickly:

Instead of reaching for the mouse every time to switch input languages, you can use the keyboard shortcuts as indicated on the language input switcher menu. By default, the following shortcuts will be used.

  • Ctrl+Shift+; for romaji
  • Ctrl+Shift+J for hiragana
  • Ctrl+Shift+K for katakana

(If you are wondering about the difference between hiragana and katakana, check this article.)

Install a Japanese Keyboard on Windows 10

Search for language settings in the Windows search field, and click on the top result – Language Settings in System Settings.

In the Language settings dialog, click on Add a preferred language.

Search for Japanese, select 日本語 - Japanese, then click Next.

Click Install, and then wait for Windows 10 to download and install the input method for Japanese.

To switch between your input methods/languages, press Windows + space, or use the language switcher in the system tray.

Install a Japanese Keyboard on an Apple Smartphone or Tablet

Open iOS Settings, tap on General, then on Keyboards.

Tap on Add New Keyboard, then on Japanese (you may need to scroll in the lower list to find it). Select either or both Kana or Romaji, and tap on Done<.

Now, you can switch between keyboard languages using the globe icon whenever you are entering text. Tap and hold the globe icon to bring up a list of input languages, then select which one you want to use.

Install a Japanese Keyboard on an Android Smartphone

First, download Google Japanese Input to your phone.

Google Japanese input app

Click on Enable in settings, choose Google Japanese Input. If you want, select Google Japanese Input as the default input method in the Language & input settings.

Choose your theme then click on Get Started.

Now, you can switch between Japanese and English using the あ/a icon whenever you enter text. Slide your finger to the kana.

If you are more familiar with a standard romaji keyboard layout, switch to QWERTY mode in the Keyboard Layout settings.

Typing in Japanese with Romaji

Now you are ready to start typing in Japanese. Since you are typing Japanese using an English keyboard, you need to know the romaji (pronunciation) of each character in order to type it.

In fact, many Japanese people use romaji to type in Japanese too, even though they have hiragana printed on their keyboards. Becoming familiar with romaji is essential.

Type Japanese Hiragana Using Romaji

Romaji is a literal spelling or romanization of how you would pronounce the various Japanese kana. Most Japanese language input methods on both computers and smart devices accept both the Hepburn system (below) and the Kunreishiki system.


How to type the Japanese character ん

Be careful when typing a word with ん in it, especially when it is followed by another n- character. For example, you need to enter three n’s or minnna to type the word everything in Japanese – みんな, or onnna to type the word for woman – おんな。

To type long vowels in katakana, use a -. For example, ha-to will convert to ハート.

Typing Japanese: Contractions Using Romaji

Typing contractions works in much the same way – type how they are pronounced and the input method will automatically format the smaller characters.


Form the long contractions simply by adding a u at the end. For example, kyuu will type きゅう, and nyou will type にょう.

Typing Japanese: Dakuten and Dakuten Contractions

This works roughly in the same way – type how they are pronounced using your English or romaji keyboard.


For the long dakuten contractions, add the extra u. For example kyou for きょう.

Typing Katakana or Kanji Using Romaji

After typing your word in romaji, you will see your computer automatically convert it to hiragana, katakana or kanji (and a few other smart options), based on its Japanese conversion rules and your past preferred characters.

If you want to select specifically the hiragana version after it has converted it to katakana or kanji, or see what other conversions are available, press space on your keyboard.

Typing Katakana or Kanji On A Computer

For example, typing kyou, automatically converts to きょう to 今日. Press Space to see what other options are available. Keep pressing Space or Tab or use the arrow keys to cycle through the options, then press Enter when the one you want to use is highlighted, or immediately if you want to use the word your computer selected for you.

Typing Katakana or Kanji On A Mobile Device

Various auto-suggest options will be shown above the keyboard when you are entering Japanese on a smartphone or tablet. If you don’t see the option immediately in the auto-suggest bar, tap to see the full list, then tap on the one you want to use.


Typing Japanese: Small Tsu and Casual Half-Height Characters

The small tsu character っ or sokuon indicates a short and sudden stop between two kana. To type this, type the Japanese word in romaji using a double consonant to indicate this pause. For example: yatta, やった or or mittsu みっつ .

The more casual Japanese you see on social media often uses half-height characters for vowel sounds. Type these with an ”l“ (lowercase L) before the vowel, for example: la ぁ, li ぃ, lu ぅ, le ぇ, loぉ.

Type Classical Japanese Old Kana

If you are studying Kobun, or classical Japanese, there are a number of old characters you’ll also need to be able to type. Note that the input methods on all operating systems and devices will try to autocorrect away from these old forms.



Most applications, including Google Docs will have trouble with the older forms of yori and koto .

How to Type Japanese If I don’t Know the Pronunciation of a Kanji?

If you are using Windows 10 or macOS, you can install a hand-writing recognition ‘keyboard’ or input method where you can draw the kanji on a touchpad or with your mouse. Smartphones and tablets also have this as an input option.  Look for the handwriting input method for Traditional Chinese.

As these characters are also used in Japanese, this is a handy shortcut when you don’t know how to pronounce the kanji.

Once you have selected this input method, draw the characters with your mouse or finger to input the kanji.

Alternatively, look up the pronunciation in an online dictionary such as Jisho.

Typing Japanese: Punctuation and Symbols

Of course, now that you know how to type in kana and kanji, you need to know how to use Japanese punctuation.


There are also a number of Japanese symbol shortcuts you can input using romaji.


There are many variations of some Japanese symbols and the input method often lets you access related emojis easily. Type the romaji, then step through the options and choose the one you want. These may be different depending on your operating system and/or device.



How to Type Japanese Face Emoji “Kaomoji”

Most Japanese keyboards offer quick access to the common kaomoji – the text-based facial emoji Japanese use to indicate emotions and actions. Type kaomoji in romaji and you’ll be presented with a long list to choose from!

Sometimes when you type a word, you’ll see a corresponding kaomoji you can select.

sleepynemui(( _ _ ))..zzzZZ(@ ̄ρ ̄@)
to greethaisatsuヾ(@⌒ー⌒@)ノ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ


Typing in Japanese may seem difficult at first, but it’s worth the effort. Once you’ve learned how to type in Japanese, you’ll have access to more Japanese content online. So start practicing today with an online Japanese keyboard to accelerate your Japanese learning. If you need any help with Japanese learning, don’t forget to try the LingoDeer app for a comprehensive learning experience! 

We welcome reposting, but a link back to the original is required.
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2 years ago

[…] out your search terms in Romaji is the most efficient way to find what you’re looking for! Read this article to learn how to type in […]

Akash Pratap Singh
Akash Pratap Singh
2 years ago

Hi, I’m trying to type directly in japanese (not using romaji but hiragana) and I have found out almost all of the keys for the hiragana characters except ‘ro’. Is there any way for me to find out the keyboard layout of my pc in hiragana?

Kevin Wright
Kevin Wright
2 years ago

Hi, buy a set of keyboard overlays from eBay. Quite low cost, and don’t have to remember which key does what.

Cindy Fan
Cindy Fan
2 years ago

Hi Akash,

Thank you for your comment. You might find the image attached useful. It shows the layout of hiragana keyboard. If you have any further questions on this, please let me know.

2 years ago

i whant to know how to right japenese in my compiuter cps edu

Wulf Nesthead
Wulf Nesthead
1 year ago

This told me literally nothing about typing in Japanese.
I came here quite reasonably expecting to find out how to type on a Japanese keyboard: you know, A Ka Sa Ta?
Because I can’t make the sokuon or any of the dakuten on a Japanese keyboard at all.
You have a screenshot of a Japanese keyboard, but then the article says nothing about how to use it, it just goes on and on and on about using a roumaji keyboard.

Plus sign in japanese keyboard ❤️ Latest 2022
11 months ago
Gamoboy90 see me on roblox
Gamoboy90 see me on roblox
2 months ago

🤬🤬 told me nusing

blogger deer
blogger deer
1 month ago

Sorry to hear that. What do you want to learn?