Reading Japanese Text on the Web

Frequently Asked Questions about Reading Japanese Text on the Web

by Jack Palevich

Q: I'm using Netscape Navigator 4.x on a non-Japanese version of Windows 95/98/NT/2000, and I see funny characters when I visit a web site like . How do I read Japanese text on the web?

A: There are two things you have to do:

  1. Install a Japanese font.
  2. Tell Netscape Navigator to interpret the document as a Japanese document.

Step one is most easily accomplished by installing Internet Explorer 5. (Don't worry, you can still use Navigator as your browser.) Go to this URL and follow directions:

Once you have installed IE 5, start IE 5, and go to the View menu and choose the menu item "Encoding:Auto Select". Then use IE5 to visit the web site  Once you're there, you'll either see the site in Japanese, or you will get a dialog box that says something like "I need to install Japanese Language Support to view this page". If you get the dialog box, click "Yes", or "OK", to install the Japanese Language Support. After that's downloaded and installed, you should be able to surf the web in Japanese using IE 5.

Now, you can either continue to use IE 5, or you can go back to using Netscape. Once you have the Japanese Language Support installed for IE 5, it will also work for Netscape.

It has been several years since I've used Netscape, so I'm a little hazy about what you have to do to make it use the Japanese fonts. I think it's as simple as going to the View menu, and then choosing "Encoding", and then "Auto detect", or "auto", or "Japanese (auto)", or something like that.

Good luck! As you can see, I've pretty much switched over to using Internet Explorer instead of Netscape Navigator. In the area of reading Japanese fonts, they're somewhat ahead of Navigator right now in the ease-of-use department. Hopefully, Netscape Navigator will catch up in the future.

Q: What about me? I've got an Apple Macintosh and I want to read Japanese text on web sites.

A: I have been told that Japanese language support is built in to MacOS 8.6 and later. For earlier versions of MacOS you will have to install the Japanese Language Kit from Apple Computer.

Q: What about me? I've got a Unix machine and I want to read Japanese text on web sites.

A: It depends upon the machine and exactly which version of your OS you are using. Contact your vendor to find out what to do. Sorry to be so vague.

Q: BeOS?

A: I don't know. I think it works out-of-the-box, but I haven't run BeOS in a while, so I don't remember.

Q: How come some Japanese pages look fine, but others are garbled?

A: Japanese web pages are encoded in one of several different text encodings. Some Japanese web pages contain special HTML tags that tell your browser which encoding the page is using. Unfortunately, most Japanese web pages don't contain these tags. As a result, your browser has to guess which of the possible encodings is being used. Most browsers have a View:Encoding menu with an option named "Auto-Select" that tells the browser to try and guess which encoding is being used. You should normally select that option.

Even with that "Auto-Select" selected, you may occasionally find a web page which displays garbled Japanese text. In that case, use the View:Encoding menu to  manually select each of the Japanese encoding options in turn. First try "Japanese (Auto Select)", then the others. One of them should work for that page. If you know that the author of the page used a PC or a Mac to create the page, the encoding is probably Shift-JIS. If the author used unix, the encoding is probably EUC.

Q: Are there any online dictionaries that let me look up the English meaning of a Japanese phrase?

A: Check out Jim Breen's Japanese Page for a list of dictionaries and utilities. Also, I wrote a little program called j2edh for Internet Explorer 5 that makes it especially easy to use an online dictionary.

Q: I want to write a program to process Japanese text. How do I get started?

A: Visit Jim Breen's Japanese Page, and also buy "Understanding Japanese Information Processing" by Ken Lunde.