Tools

Get Your Free Japanese Keyboard

Earlier I showed you how to write in Japanese, which is still a necessary skill in case you want to write a personal letter to someone or need to look up a new Kanji in a dictionary.

But Japanese, just like English, is not actually written all that often anymore. Of course almost everything is now typed or texted in the digital world. You could buy yourself a physical Japanese Keyboard, but that will take time and money.

I’ll show you how to get one for free within the next five minutes!

I cover Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android so be sure to read both computer sections or both phone sections as I only explain how to use the keyboards after one of each.

For Windows:

  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. Under Clock, Language, and Region click Add a language
  3. In the upper left click Add a language
  4. Select Japanese and in the lower right click Add

windowsNow in the bottom right of your tool bar you should see something that says ENG. Click on it to bring up your different keyboards. Select Japanese and you should notice an A to the left of it. That’s for typing in English. Click on it to change it to an and you can now type in Hiragana.

Now just type word in Rōmaji (desu = です) and the Hiragana will appear. If you need to type in Katakana or Kanji, just spell it out in Hiragana and then press the Space Bar. This will allow you to cycle through the different possible choices. Once you’ve got the correct one, press Enter.

For Mac:

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click Language & Region
  3. Click on the + (plus) symbol in the lower left
  4. Select Japanese and click Add in the lower right

Now in the top right of your tool bar (right next to the clock) you should see an American Flag. Click on that and then select あ Hiragana. It works the same way as the Windows version, except I’ve noticed that the Mac has a predictive feature to it that can help speed up typing.

For iPhone:iphone

  1. Tap the Settings app
  2. Then tap General
  3. Then Keyboard
  4. Then Keyboards (right at the top)
  5. Then Add New Keyboard…
  6. Then Japanese
  7. Then select Kana and tap done

Then anytime you are able to type anything, tap on the World Symbol to switch to the Japanese keyboard. You should see Hiragana displayed on a grid, but only the A’s (あ、か、さ、etc.).

To select other Kanas you can either tap on the same Kana multiple times and it will cycle through them in order of あ、い、う、え、お、or you can press and hold a Kana and it will display all the different choices and you can drag your finger to highlight the one you want and release.

To use Katakana or Kanji, simply spell out the word in Hiragana and the different options should appear right above the Hiragana grid.

If you need to know which buttons mean Enter, Space, etc. then you can read the list of them here.

For Android:

  1. Tap the Settings app
  2. Then tap Language & Input
  3. Then tap on the Gear Symbol next to Samsung Keyboard
  4. Then Input Languages
  5. Find Japanese and select it
  6. Choose the Kana option

Once you have added it, you can switch between languages by swiping left or right on the Space Bar. It works just like the iPhone keyboard except that you can’t press and hold on a Kana to display all the options (at least not on mine).

Was that helpful? Were you able to get it? Or have you already been using one of these keyboards for a while?

Let me know in the comments below!

6 Comments

  • Brad

    I love the fact that is it so easy to utilize different languages in today’s day and age.

    So I do not know any Japanese or any other language for that matter. But how does utilizing that typing ability impact your ability to learn a language?

    It is incredibly difficult to learn a language and one of the most important things in doing so is practicing it. Is it something that would be valuable or would it just be too difficult and not helpful? Thanks!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Brad, typing and writing in your target language definitely helps you with learning it. Anything that promotes you thinking in your new language is a benefit towards your success. Plus you’ll be able to talk directly with natives over the internet! I use Twitter for this and it’s great!

  • Ben

    Wow! I knew that you can change keyboards in Android and iPhone, but i neve knew it was possible in Windows! I always thought that it would be necessary to actually purchase a new keyboard with the new language and connect it manually. Do you have any tips on becoming comfortable with using your method in Windows without getting confused between your actual keybaord and the Japanese letters you are typing?

    • Hoyt Nick

      Hey Ben, of course! Since you will be typing the information on an English keyboard, the first tip is to know the Romaji version of the words you want to type and then type them in EXACTLY the same way.

      This first tip should automatically take care of the punctuation marks like the Japanese version of commas and periods. It will also take care of the Dakuten and small tsu that appear with Hiragana.

      Then when it converts to Hiragana, you can keep it in Hiragana or choose some Kanji. The second tip is to use what you know. So if you know what the correct Kanji is, then use it! But if not, then just stick with the Hiragana version.

      Katakana is mainly used for loan/foreign words, so it won’t convert into any Kanji.

      As a third and final tip, if you want to type from top to bottom, and right to left in a Word document, then click on Page Layout >>> Text Direction >>> Vertical.

      I hope those were useful! Thanks!

  • Amberlee

    Wow! I never knew it was so simple to swap my keyboard to Japanese on both my Mac and iPhone. For some delusional reason, I thought it required me to do a lot more than that.

    I also appreciate that you’ve included all different types of phones and PC Systems in your instructions as there is nothing more frustrating than having to go to multiple websites to find the answer I am looking for.

    • Nick

      I’m glad I could help! I think you used to have to download special software or an app to get a Japanese keyboard in the past, but now it comes as a standard feature. Pretty cool! (^_^)b

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