Monday, June 1, 2009 | Posted by Jay
This post is a semi-tutorial on how to make Japanese characters (essentially most asian
and non-english characters) website-compatible. I've been thinking about posting this
for a while now, but had to do quite a bit of research before giving any definite
answers. Since I started learning Japanese, I've been interested in figuring out
exactly how it works with webpages and even web coding and forms. However, since I
haven't studied any other asian language besides Japanese, I'm afraid the focus of this
post will focus on Japanese. Through a few tests and lots of googling through many
boring tutorials and specs, I've compiled a list of basic rules on Japanese
Configuring Operating Systems
Since Windows 2000, Japanese text can be inputted and read.
If you're using this system and can't read or type in Japanese, you'll need to enable
Japanese text display:
- Windows XP:
Start > Control Panel > Date, Time, Language & Regional Options >
Languages tab > Install East Asian Languages > Apply > Ok.
- Windows 2000 Professional:
Start > Settings > Control Panel > Regional Options > General tab >
check Japanese. You may need to insert Windows 2000 Professional CD.
For Macs, reading and modifying Japanese and asian text is already supported.
However, if for some reason you can't read or modify the text, or you want to
input in Japanese, you'll need to take a few extra steps:
- Go to System Preferences and click on International under "Personal"
- Go to the Input Menu tab
- Check the languages you wish to use.
For Japanese, you'll want to check the languages under Kotoeri (which literallytranslates as "to choose one's words").
- Lastly, if you check "Show input menu in menu bar," you'll be able toswitch from English to whatever languages you selected, and vice versa, bynavigating to the language icon at the top right of your screen.
This may or may not be necessary after you've set
your Operating System (OS) to read Japanese. Most of the newer browsers already
come compatible with asian languages, but if for some reason you still can't
read/type, you can try the following:
In your browser's menu bar, go to Tools > Options, and add Japanese to the
In your browser's menu bar, go to Preferences > Languages, and add Japanese to
the languages list.
With English, the default font for all webpages is Times New Roman. This font is
also installed by default in all Operating Systems. And because it's already
installed by default, web browsers such as Firefox and IE (Internet Explorer)
have set the default font for webpages to Times New Roman (which can be overruled
by HTML, CSS, etc).
As Times New Roman is the default font for English, MS Mincho (or MS
is the default serif font for Japanese. There are also gothic fonts - as Arial
works for English, MS Gothic works for Japanese.
I use a mac, and these fonts were already included in the OS packaging. I cannot
say for sure about Windows, but if it's not included you can simply download and
install the font yourself.
Here's a list of useful links for more on fonts:
What is Unicode?
Unicode provides a unique number for every
matter what the
matter what the
matter what the language.
- You don't necessarily have to encode all HTML and XML pages asUnicode.
- However, documents require some form of Unicode in order to have charactersin them.
- Any encoding can be used if properly declared.
For this particular tutorial, I would recommend you use UTF-8. It's the most
efficient standard to support asian characters as well as english (roman)
characters in one page, or even a page with only one or the other. If you change
the encoding to UTF-8, it usually will not affect the roman characters already on
a previously-existing document.
How to use UTF-8
1. Save the data as UTF-8.
If you're hand-coding your files, you should be able to do this through your
If you're using a software like Dreamweaver, you can set your document to UTF-8
in your Preferences (these vary from software to software).
2. Declare UTF-8 Encoding in your web documents.
Declare UTF-8 encoding in HTML & XHTML documents:
<meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html;charset=UTF-8"
Declare UTF-8 encoding in XML documents:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
3. Check your server.
Declare UTF-8 encoding in CSS documents:
This may or may not be a problem, and varies with different servers.
Some servers may contain HTTP headers that can set their own character encoding
(besides UTF-8) which could end up overriding everything you did in steps 1 and
First, you'll want to check if your server has this problem. You'll be looking
for something called an HTTP Request Header
. It's expressed in MIME type
'text/html' which looks something like this:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 05 Nov 2003 10:46:04 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.28 (Unix) PHP/4.2.3
Expires: Wed, 05 Nov 2003 16:46:04 GMT
Last-Modified: Tue, 12 May 1998 22:18:49 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Look for the line that has the Content-Type: text/html;
parameter. In this example, it's set to UTF-8 so it's fine
for what we want to do.
However, if it says Content-Type: text/html; charset is ISO-8859-1
you'll need to take a few extra steps to change this later.
Here are a few web-based services that can check your HTTP headers for you:
If the Content-Type is set to something other than UTF-8
, there are
several ways of fixing this. The method I prefer is to simply input a line in my
PHP index page:
<?php header('Content-type: text/html; charset=utf-8'); ?>
For other methods, check out the list provided by W3C here
A Bit of Common Sense
- Asian characters, especially Chinese-based (in Japanese it's called Kanji),are very complex. Meanings can change with one small hook or stroke difference,so it's important for a reader to notice all the little details. Because ofthis, I would recommend you set the font size to at least 14 pixels (thestandard font size for English characters is 12 pixels). Any smaller and it maybe illegible and you will lose your audience.
- While asian languages are great to learn and are very useful when travelingabroad, the current international language of business and marketing isEnglish. In other words, if you want your site to flourish, have an Englishtranslation readily available. Most of the Japanese business websites I've seenso far almost always include an English version (even my host university hasone!).
And still there are some unknowns
I did mention this was a "semi-tutorial" right? While I'm about 95% certain most
of what I've written here is correct, I haven't tested every possibility in
Windows or IE since I'm a Mac + Safari/Firefox person. I am also a newbie when it
comes to UTF-8 and other encoding languages - I never ran into this problem
before I started blogging in
If you happen to be a UTF-8 guru and notice any errors on my part, please don't
hesitate to correct me!!
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Read more about Jay
My name is Jay Lee, and I have traveled to the East Coast of the United States, studied in Kyoto, Japan for a time, and currently live in Southern California.
My preferred art mediums include: digital on adobe products, corel, web; fine on oil-on-canvas or charcoal; photography in black and white, with a focus on portraiture and music; and classical music on piano.
I work as a graphic designer and web developer with a primary interest in marketing, advertising, and business.