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Finding non-English resources: Japanese

A guide to help you find non-English resources

Lanterns at Yasaka Shrine [八坂神社] in Kyoto. Photo by Anna Rubinowski.


Liaison Librarians

Library Search


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.

Finding Japanese resources

This page will help you to find Japanese language material in Library Search.

If you can't find what you're looking for, don't give up. Persistence will pay off! 

But you may need to try different methods to find suitable resources.

You can find an overview of the different input methods and their best application.
More information on Japan-related resources, please visit the Japanese Studies subject guide.


You can type:

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

Click on the tabs above to find out detailed information on using these different methods and when to best use them.

We have also included some practice exercises on the tab "Test yourself" for you to understand the different input methods.


Tip: Browsing the shelves at the same call number in different collections will find similar topics.

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 best use Japanese characters

Use Japanese characters 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!

Library search results for the keywords "日本語教育のためのコミュニケーション研究" yielded 59 results, with the first one being 日本語教育のためのコミュニケーション研究 Nihongo kyōiku no tame no komyunikēshon kenkyū (2012).

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.

Library search results for the keywords "Kanji jiten" yielded 354 results.

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 best use English

Use English if you:

  • are not looking for a particular title or author
  • want to search for keywords or topics

If you are not searching for a particular title or author, you may want to do a keyword or topic search.  You can use Japanese or English for keyword searches, but in general English will give you more results. Using English keywords will lead you to the subject headings. 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.

Library search results for the keywords "Japanese food" yielded 1,0999,675 results, with the first one being "Japanese food past and present".Details of the book "Japanese food past and present" is displayed and the subject heading "Food-Japan-History" is highlighted.

Library search results for the subject heading containing "Food-Japan-History" yielded 326 results. When searching, the option "contains" must be selected in the second dropdown.

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)