1. Japanizing your micros

When one buys a PC or a Mac in the U.S., system software that comes with it can only handle languages which employ the roman alphabet[1]. Let's call this system software simply "an English system" for the ease of reference. There are two ways to Japanize your micros: use of add-on software or a localized operating system. The first kind of software functions as a Japanese language module which installs on top of the English system, providing Japanese fonts and the ability to handle 2-byte characters[2]. By a localized operating system, we mean system software specially tailored to handle Japanese. This type does not install on top of the English system, but rather, it replaces the English system. We will discuss these two types of software below for each platform.

1.1. Japanizing your PC's

For PC's, we know of two different add-on packages: WIN/V (Kureo Technology Ltd.) and Twin Bridge (Easternwell Technology). Both claim to convert (English) MS-Windows into a bilingual Japanese/English Windows environment. (Twin Bridge may be able to Japanize the DOS environment as well.) Obvious advantages of this approach are:
  1. It is possible to retain the English Windows environment.
  2. It is less expensive than the alternative.
The alternative approach is to purchase DOS/V, a bilingual version of DOS and Windows-J, a Japanese version of Windows, both of which are available from MicroSoft Japan. DOS/V has two modes; Japanese and English. One can switch between the two with the use of the "switch" command, which shuts down the current system and reboots with the other. Many DOS applications require that the computer be in the English mode. Most English Windows applications seem to run fine in the Japanese DOS mode with Windows-J running on top of it.

This latter approach, originally intended for Japanese users in Japan, provides a little more complete Japanization. For example, even menus and system messages are in Japanese. Disadvantages of this approach include
  1. a higher price tag, and
  2. added trouble to go back and forth between the English and Japanese modes (if you have software that only runs under one but not the other, or if you need to share the computer with someone else who doesn't know Japanese.)

1.2. Japanizing your Macs

The Macintosh computer has always handled foreign languages better than PC's. Starting with System 7, Apple has supplied software technology called "WorldScript", which enables a Mac to handle many different languages. For Japanese language support, all you need is the Japanese Language Kit (JLK) from Apple. It is a World Script language module to be installed on top of the regular English system. It comes with three TrueType (scalable) fonts (Osaka, Honmincho, Marugosshiku) and a front-end processor (a keyboard input program that handles romaji->kana->kanji conversions) called "kotoeri". The JLK allows one to run Japanese software and input Japanese in English software as long as it is WorldScript-savvy. The system menus and messages remain in English, so people who don't know Japanese can still use the computer.

If you need complete Japanization including system menus and messages and more fonts, KanjiTalk is the alternative. This is a localized version of MacOS developed and marketted mainly in Japan. This package comes with four more fonts than the JLK. If you also need to use the English system, you need to install it separately and switch between the two. (This requires rebooting.)


[1] How to handle characters containing accents, umlauts, etc. (for instance, for French, German, and Spanish) in e-mail messages is a whole another issue. For a good overview and specific recommendations, see Larsen (to appear).

[2] One byte (=8 bits) can only represent 256 different values, which is not enough to represent hiragana, katakana and several thousand kanji characters. For this reason, two bytes (=16 bits) are used to represent one kana or kanji character.

Larsen, Mark D. to appear. "Internet with an Accent: Towrds a
    Standardization of Diacritics" In M. Warschauer (Ed.),
    Telecollaboarion in foreign language learning: Proceedings of
    the Hawai'i symposium.  Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii
    Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center.