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Japanese studies

Finding Japanese resources


  • Japanese characters (Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji)
  • Romanized Japanese
  • Keywords in English

Click on the tabs above to find out how to use these different methods.


How to input Japanese characters (Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji)

Japanese language has three writing systems:

  • Hiragana  ひらがな
  • ​Katakana カタカナ
  • Kanji 漢字

​These three writing systems are differentiated both by their distinct appearance and what they are used for. 

The Input method editor (IME) allows you to type Japanese characters. Add Japanese language from the list of languages and language settings in your PC or Mac — then, simply switch between languages.

How can you add the IME in your computer?

Windows 8: Adding IMEs (Input Method Editors)

Mac: Japanese for your Mac

Note: Make sure that the language bar is visible.  The IME Pad becomes useful if you don’t know how to read the characters. Write the characters by hand on the pad and it will recognize the right characters. There are also options for soft keyboard.

Please contact eSolutions if you have problems activating the IME on your device. The computers in the library have the IME enabled by default.

IME Tips

Below is an overview of the more tricky inputs for Japanese using the IME.

You can also download an IME cheat sheet for Japanese that lists all the Hiragana and Katakana sounds and what you need to type using the IME. Please note that the transcription of Japanese that is used with the IME is not the same as the Modified Hepburn Romanization System which is used to convert Japanese into the Roman alphabet when searching for Library resources.





















<Typing for little words>         
                      ぁ          ァ          x + a             
                      ぃ          ィ          x + i
                      ぅ          ゥ          x + u
                      ぇ          ェ          x + e
                      ぉ          ォ          x + o

When to use Japanese characters

Use them if you:

  • know the title of the item in Japanese
  • know the name of the author in Japanese
  • are looking for recent publications

Using Japanese characters in these cases will give you the best results and will include all recent publications. But make sure you have typed the exact title or the author's Japanese characters correctly, or you might not get any good results!


Step 1. Search the exact title or name in Japanese characters

basic search example


Step 2. Find the call number for the physical items in the brief record on the results list


item record


Step 3. Click on the record to view more details about the resource, or to find out how many copies are available

detailed item record


item details

Use of Romanized Japanese

Romanization converts Japanese characters into the Roman (Latin) script to express the language in a phonetic form that allows typing on a standard keyboard.

There are different systems of Romanization for Japanese. The library uses the “Modified Hepburn Romanization System” (修正ヘボン式 Shūsei Hebon-shiki) which is also known as “Revised Hepburn”.  You can easily recognize it from the long vowels which are generally indicated by macrons ( ¯ ).  This Romanization system is also used by the Library of Congress (as one of its ALA-LC Romanizations) and is the most common system today.


   お婆さん(おばあさん) = obāsan – Grandmother

   勉強(べんきょう)= benkyō – Study

   大阪(おおさか)= Ōsaka – Osaka

Note:  It is not necessary to type macron in Library Search.

You can find the official Romanization tables at the links below:

When to best use Romanized Japanese

Use romanized Japanese if you:

  • know the title of the book but are unsure about the correct Japanese characters
  • know the name of the author but are unsure about the correct Japanese characters
  • are looking for older publications

Using Romanization will give you a greater number of results, including the records for older publications that have not been updated with Japanese characters. Romanization also picks up resources in English and other languages.


Step 1. Search in Romanized Japanese if you are not sure about the correct Japanese characters


basic roman character search



Step 2. Refine your results by limiting the language in Japanese.  Then select the resource and find out in which collection the item is available.

Note: The Japanese language resources are in two different collections in the Matheson Library. One is the Japanese collection in the Asian Collections, and the other collection is in the Japanese Teaching Collection.​


japanese language filter

Keywords in English

You can also search for Japanese material using English keywords.

Using English keywords will lead you to the subject headings, which are another way to find suitable resources.

When to use English

Use Japanese or English for keyword searches. Nearly all records in Library Search include English-language subject headings, which describe the contents of the item. Through English-language keyword searches, you can use the subject headings to find suitable resources.

Step 1. Search using keywords.

basic broad search using keywords


Step 2. Refine your results by limiting the resource type. Then select a resource and inspect the subject heading used to describe it. If one is suitable, click on it and run a new search.

refine results by book and look at subject headings on an item


Step 3. Run the new search using the subject headings and inspect the new, more concise results list.

new search using subject headings only

Macron: A written or printed mark (¯) used to indicate a long vowel in some languages, or a stressed vowel in verse.

Input Method Editor (IME): A software tool allowing you to type in Roman and non-Roman scripts on a standard keyboard.

Romanized Japanese/Romanization: Conversion of Japanese characters into the Roman (Latin) script or alphabet.

Modified Hepburn Romanization System: Also known as “Revised Hepburn”, this system is easily recognized from the long vowels which are generally indicated by macron.

Subject headings: Standard keywords used to describe the topic of an item.

Below you can find some activities to test yourself how well you can use Japanese to find resources.

These activities are optimised for viewing using Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari on a screen in landscape.

Click on any of the banners below to start the activity in a new window.


Test Yourself: Using the IME

Test Yourself: Using the IME (this link will open in a new window)

Test Yourself: Input Methods for Japanese

Test Yourself: Quiz - Input Methods for Japanese (this link will open in a new window)

Test Yourself: Japanese Resources in Library Search

Test Yourself: Japanese Resources in Library Search (this link will open in a new window)