In the past year things have changed tremendously. Microsoft is finally offering some enriched language capability in some of its products. In the case of Internet Explorer it is now so easy to install seamless, high quality Asian font rendering that we are finally prepared to suggest that if you only wish to read Web pages in Japanese, downloading that browser and its add-ins is really your most convenient choice.
In Microsoft's case, we suspect that this progress was not motivated by customer need (I and many others had sent torrents of mail to Microsoft over the years, taking them to task for making their operating system so obdurately language-challenged), but by the growing realization that there were still some companies they hadn't put out of business yet. This is by way of saying that if you're interested in the third-party solutions on this page, we'd suggest you get hold of them as soon as possible.
Judging from the volume of mail we still receive all the time from people who prefer using Netscape, Eudora and other non-MS applications, and our correspondence with people who are still producing aids that do not limit users to MS products, this page still
You get to a Web page, open an application or come across a Usenet message that's clearly from Japan, China or Korea, but all you see is incomprehensible jumbles of letters.
Because of their complexity, Chinese, Korean and Japanese written languages require a system that utilizes twice as many bytes of information to render each individual character on your computer display.
These will depend upon the nature and needs of your particular Internet practices, but as you'll see, there are many, and many are free. I've selected some favorites below.
This page is by no means authoritative but I'm willing to make it a repository of all the best knowledge on the subject. If you've anything to contribute, please let me know.
For those who primarily wish to view Japanese Web pages, but generally do not require a Japanese language reader for other applications, there is an excellent, easy solution.
If you use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, download the "Japanese Extension" from their site. This will enable you to read Japanese in a clear, bold Tohaba typeface.
Once again, a Chinese developer comes to the rescue of Japanese-reading Net users with an easy, sensible way to apply Microsoft's Japanese Extension in Netscape Navigator or Communicator, so that you can read web pages and news groups (using Netscape's news reader). The results are outstanding. This also establishes one of the easily numerable cases on record of the Microsoft Corporation doing something to benefit the world at large; although, of course, as in all such cases, it is inadvertent.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Microsoft is no longer offering this
font as a download, as they have improved language support in newer versions of
their Internet Explorer (and clearly they didn't want people to be able to use
the font with other browsers). However, I have located the font file and placed
it in a private download area. You should still follow the directions on
Patrick's site, but you can get the font by clicking HERE. I believe Patrick may also have posted a link to a font somewhere that is suitable for this. Many, many thanks to Mr. Patrick Pang of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada for his efforts on behalf of Asian language readers everywhere.
AND NOW...TIME FOR A CONFESSION: I'd been swimming upstream, bearing with shaky shareware in order to read and write in Japanese while avoiding the use of Microsoft Internet Exploiter. Then along came Y2K and I found that my Japanese mail client, KMail 2.1, was not compliant, and the developer has apparently vanished.
It is with not a little reluctance that I admit I have installed and used MSIE and Outlook Express with Microsoft's free Global IME/Japanese. It allows you to read Web pages, place entries in forms, read and write e-mail and post to newsgroups. It works, it offers excellent results, it's easy and it's free (not wishing to argue the toll the attendant animus takes at the moment).
I am calling these "preferred" solutions because they are excellent programs, inexpensive, and the majority of inquiries we've received have been from individuals who expressed the desire simply to be able to view Web pages and read news/e-mail. Both of these programs work well with everything I've found, are easy to obtain, and both are minimally intrusive upon system resources.
Go here to get NJWin
Go here to get AsiaSurf
|Mr. Ni Hongbo has been offering this lightweight
versatile Chinese, Japanese and Korean reader as
shareware since early 1995. Mr. Ni's company, Hongbo Data Systems, also makes the NJStar Japanese word processor, which is a pleasure to use.
You can find both on their site, as well as some useful links to learn more about the subject.
Combine NJWin with the NJStar word processing system (a bit more costly - it's the company's flagship), and you have a complete Japanese front-end IME/reader.
Mr. Ni's active support and constant development of his programs has earned him great respect in the field.
has discontinued selling|
their AsiaSurf product, and in fact have discontinued their original site. You
can still obtain AsiaSurf at a discounted
price from the linked site above.
Dynalab's new product, GlobalSurf,
claims an input method and several other conveniences. It is modestly priced at
USD $59. At present we are not familiar
with GlobalSurf, and so cannot yet
AsiaSurf works with the same ease as NJWin. It has a slightly slicker (but not really better) interface.
The primary difference between the two programs is in the way they each handle font displays (see comparisons below).
AsiaSurf offers one thing that NJWin does not, which is an outline font (NJWin's font is bitmapped). It is slightly more expensive than NJWin.
|A note about both products: All of the notable work in this area can be credited to the efforts of Chinese developers. Native Japanese readers were evenly divided on which of these programs they found easier to read -- neither was deemed "superior", and each was praised for specific features. But as good as these programs are, native readers of Japanese repeatedly told me that there was something awkward ("unnatural") about the way the fonts were rendered (Chinese and Korean readers did not report this). From my standpoint as a non-native reader, both programs perform to the height of my expectations. Individual users will draw their own conclusions on the basis of their experience.|
Click for full-sized images.
MANIFORM uses both the Mac and Win95 platforms. We have found the Japanese
Language Kit with US English MacOS to be fairly flawless, although it is might become weirdly
unfriendly with certain (mostly communications) programs, and may sometimes, not
often, be at the root of lock-ups when connected to an external network. It is still a
lighter-weight solution and more compatible with Western hard- and software than
the Japanese MacOS. The input is smoother than ATOK, and the output is
professional. The JLK costs between $125 ~ $150.
Mr. Valencia explained that:
|"For a US system (and presumably others) WorldScript I and II with
basic fonts and some input systems are available as an optional install in
Mac OS 8.5, it's the option called "Multilingual Internet Access". Chinese
(Simplified and Traditional), Korean, and Japanese are among the languages
So, if the reader is only interested in reading Japanese on a Western OS, she can choose a Custom Installation of Multilingual Internet Access and select only the software 'for the Japanese language' -- this adds the two Osaka fonts, WorldScript II extension and the Japanese resources (scripts and keyboards) for using them. This package only adds 5.5 MB to the hard drive. A full romaji-style input system, like that sold with Apple's JLK, is not installed."
Even better...Apple's newest OS versions actually include full functioning versions of the language kits, including the means to input characters.
The site this is on is very much worth viewing. It has an entire section on the Japanese Language kit and it was put together by Mr. Funado Yoichi. You can jump to his main page here.
Matthew A. Davis wrote to tell us that Microsoft has made Japanese language capability much easier with Windows NT. Apparently they've chosen to include language tools right on their OS installation disk, much as Apple did with OS 9, some time ago (who would have thought that Windows would get an idea for its OS from Apple? Imagine!)
|The Windows NT CD includes a directory called "langpack" - just browse to that directory, right-click on Japanese.inf, and select "Install". In Netscape you have to go to your font options and select MS Mincho as the font for Japanese encoding. When you come to a page with Japanese text, use the View menu to set the character encoding to Japanese.|
Note: Many pages, such as the ones on this site, will be encoded so as to force newer browsers to use a Japanese character set automatically. In these cases the final step Matthew mentions will be unnecessary.
Japanese Windows and Windows 95 can be purchased from a variety of sources, including some on the Web, such as Asiasoft. However, Japanese software is often much cheaper when obtained in Japan. Our experience indicates that using a Japanese OS with Western software is generally more successful than the other way around, but users can forget about support from US applications developers when things go wrong. If you are possessed of the frontier spirit or are very experienced in the field, AND if you plan to use Japanese software, obtaining the local OS is the way to go.
Union Way works under both Windows 3.x and Windows95.
We'd lost the first and the best on-line
Japanese reader, SHODOUKA, a few
months ago, and I can't tell you how many people wrote to me to express their
I'm extremely happy to report that Mr. Ka-Ping Yee has written to me to say
that his SHODOUKA is back, and it's more brilliant than ever. Thanks to its use
of the HTTP/1.1 protocol and other changes the author has made to the system,
SHODOUKA is reportedly even faster than before. Its page renderings were always
sharp and faithful to the originals.
Set a bookmark to SHODOUKA, and enjoy easy and convenient access to Japanese Web sites without any extraneous software.
Monash University came to the rescue with their Japanese resource page, which
can be accessed by clicking on the name above.
The site offers a Web reader that appears to have much of the same functionality that SHODOUKA offered. You'll compromise in the look of the page but the text will be clear and easy to read. Bookmarking this site is also highly recommended to those whose need to read Japanese on the Web is more occasional.
You'll need to have MS Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator/Communicator version 4 or above to use it, as well as the font add-ins I describe above to enable Japanese font rendering in your browser.
RIKAI does let you read the Japanese page of your choice in proper format, and when the mouse is moved over some kanji, a little tip-box will pop up near the word with the Japanese readings and English definition (the tip-box data is from Jim Breen's renowned EDICT dictionary).
RIKAI is a must-bookmark for Japanese users at all levels.