How to Input Japanese via Keyboard

「キーボードで日本語の入力」
“Japanese Input via Keyboard”

Google Japan solved the problem of inputting >2000 glyphs with this treasure (1 April 2010). Don’t worry, there are easier ways.
Some of the original full Japanese keyboard concepts, evaluating possible keyboards with >2000 glyphs (Google Japan).
Why not just hold a big bulge of buttons? Or we could project all the shapes onto a table! (More Google Japan Concept Art).

Modern Mobile Japanese Input Methods

Modern Input Methods on Mobile tend to look like this.

Each button is actually a mask of five letters. Since Japanese is consonant-vowel pairs you can simply choose the correct consonant (K or T) and then choose the correct vowel (A or O) and end up with your result when you release (KA or TO).

Default is か … drag left to make き drag right to make け (this is called “Flick Input”).

Each button has its vowels attached in clockwise fashion:

  • あ in the middle
  • い at 9:00
  • う at 12:00
  • え at 3:00
  • お at 6:00

Remember that い starts on the left side and eventually your muscle memory will take over with the sequence あいうえお。

More of this amazing concept Google keyboard of brute force enumeration of glyphs (Google Japan).
Good luck with Touch Typing. (Google Japan).

Japanese Input via Traditional Keyboard

Traditional keyboards are very biased to English, so most of the world’s languages have found a way to adapt with the prominence of English as a world tech language and tool language.

Japanese Macbook Pro with Kana keyboard. If you buy in Japan, it can look like this.

Some keyboards have Hiragana printed on them, and you can actually buy Hiragana stickers for your keyboard if you choose to use one of these complex layouts. Like IME “Layout 1” or “Layout 2,” each is a little different in where some letters are placed, but the idea is that each key on the board represents one Hiragana glyph.

Modern Romaji-based Input

By and large the most common way to input Japanese is through a standard keyboard, where you simply type the character out as if writing it in romaji.

Output Hiragana | What to Type

あ a
い i
う u
え e
お o

か ka
き ki
く ku
け ke
こ ko

さ sa
し shi, si
す su
せ se
そ so


た ta
ち chi, ti
つ tsu, tu
て te
と to

な na
に ni
ぬ nu
ね ne
の no

は ha
ひ hi
ふ fu, hu
へ he
ほ ho

ま ma
み mi
む mu
め me
も mo

ら ra
り ri
る ru
れ re
ろ ro

わ wa
を wo
ん n, nn

ぁ LA
ぉ LO
ぅ LU
っ LTSU, LTU
(L for Little)

じゃ ja, jya
じゅ ju, jyu
じょ jo, jyo
きゃ kya
きゅ kyu
きょ kyo

Some characters have interesting tricks!

You can type し with simply “si” or つ with just “tu” as well as with”shi” and “tsu” as expected.


ふ can be typed in as either “hu” or “fu.”

The sound of ふ is made by bringing the lips together to contract air flow – the same shape you make with your lips to make a “woo” sound in English. However, unlike “woo,” ふ is not voiced, meaning the vocal chords do not vibrate (no humming in the background) when you say it.

Little letters (half-height) can be invoked by preceding them with letter “L,” as in LTSU or LTU for small tsu: っ。

Additionally, small っ will automatically occur in romaji input when the consonant in doubled. Yatta = やった。


Sunset on Lake Biwa

Learn more about Google Japan’s April Fool’s Keyboard from 2010.

Learn more about Japanese Complete and how important it is to build a solid foundation.

Get a subscription to Japanese Complete and start mastering Japanese today.

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