Setting up Japanese on Mac OS X Mavericks

Setting up Japanese on Mac OS X Mavericks

Setting up Japanese to work with your Apple computer is a pretty easy affair. All of the recent versions of Mac OS X—including the latest version, Mavericks—have included Japanese language support out out of the box.

Windows, Android or Linux user? Check out our full Japanese reading & typing guide

Reading Japanese on Mac OS X

When you go to a webpage that shows text in Japanese, it should display as it would if you bought your computer in Japan. Nothing more to do.

However, a number of different encodings are used to display Japanese characters, and it may be that your browser is not recognising that the web page is encoded in Japanese if the text is not displaying properly: usually because the web page did not specify in the HTML which one to use, and the browser cannot work it out for itself.

If you’re having trouble with a particular web page, in Safari, select Text Encoding from the ‘view’ menu, then select one of the different options until the characters display as it should. You’ll need to manually change this encoding back to default after you’ve visited the page.

Typing Japanese on Mac OS X

There is actually nothing you need to install separately in Mac OS X Mavericks to type Japanese - you just need to click a few buttons in the settings panel. You can type Japanese perfectly with a non-Japanese keyboard with the help of an IME.

  1. Click System Preferences from the Apple menu,
  2. Click the blue flag icon labeled Language and Text
  3. Select the Input Sources tab.
  4. Scroll, and find Kotoeri, and select Hiragana and Katakana
  5. Click the box next to Show input menu in menu bar at the bottom of the preferences pane. This will add a little flag to the top-right hand corner of your screen.

Alternative Japanese IMEs

Google IME is simple to install and use, but does not offer any benefits over the default MS IME. The main difference is that kanji autocomplete options tend to be slightly more colloquial, as the suggestions are pulled from language used online instead of a pre-built dictionary. I use it myself, as I think it better handles place names better, but I probably wouldn’t notice if I used the default one.

The input method used by most Japanese companies and preinstalled on many computers in Japan is ATOK IME. It is one of the most advanced IMEs on the market, with many useful features for professionals working with Japanese on a daily basis, though they come at a steep price of almost $100.