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Erlkönig: Japanese Orthography

Documents on Japanese hiragana, katakana, kanji, etc.
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At last count there were about seven and a half thousand files in this area, mostly kanji.

Random Notes from 日本語 の クラス
More Syntax Tidbits from other sources.
Additional restricted information.

Technical Note to XHTML 1.1 Authors

The W3C, in 2009, published an extremely detailed discussion of Japanese typesetting in Requirements for Japanese Text Layout.

Ruby Annotation has been incorporated into XHTML as of XHTML version 1.1, allowing a somewhat straightforward approach to adding furigana to text, as in:

ほん nippon

...or the more involved below (there are some quirks, like cuisine being split, that are to work around certain effects like <rbspan> not working quite right anymore in some browsers):

わたし I   and わたし my ともだち friend [-topic] ほん nippon
りょう cuisine   [-subj]   liked(=tasty) です。   [is/copula].

The above should look roughly like the image below, unless addons are screwing with your ruby markup (like the HTML Ruby 6.22.3 addon in Firefox, which casually overrides an author's hand-constructed ruby), or your browser doesn't support styling of ruby tags (possibly by not recognizing them):

However, stylesheet construction for the table-like ruby code is tricky (especially if you want to obviate rbspan with its annoying default of 1 instead of full-width); see this document's CSS data for one approach. Unfortunately, Ruby doesn't expose the full table interface, and so has a hard limit of two ruby texts even though three could be trivially supported with table-header-group, table-footer-group, and table-caption (with the last, in particular, making rbspan unnecessary in many cases, although whether it would work in vertical text like traditional japanese is an interesting question). Furthermore, more than two ruby texts could be clearly useful in cases where, for example, some 17th century japanese text is being compared to the current kanji replacement, with the pronunciation for each and an english gloss. Being able to actually use CSS table-row would have been nice. Such multiplicitous annotations could still have been easily listed in square brackets, for example, in a case where in-line text was required. Many of Ruby's limitations might be due to its last revision being from 2001, at a time when an implementations of the CSS2 spec may have been absent or notably incomplete. XHTML's modular nature should allow some kind of improvement on this limited mechanism in the future.

Anyway, as of 2003-10, I've seen Mozilla display Ruby content perfectly (especially since v1.5). IE renders it remarkably badly, and Opera totally fails to execute the CSS.


VR - Kotodama

A role-playing game in which players must master concepts of Japanese language and culture to gain in-game abilities. Not yet available, unfortunately, as of 2005-05.

Voice Recognition - Julias

Julius is a high-performance, two-pass large vocabulary continuous speech recognition (LVCSR) decoder software for speech-related researchers and developers. It currently supports Japanese, with about a 20k work vocabulary, and runs under Unix, with and older version for Windows.

Toy - ZKana [ZKana image]

There's source code (totally unsupported) for an exploratory C++/OpenGL kana-matching game (same consonant or vowel makes a pair) named ZKana in my public software area. It uses images from the (protected) kanji charts as textures, and in the snapshot す has just been picked.


  • ACCESS-JJapanese WWW Viewer - replaces JP charset references with images for non-japanese browsers. Note: this works on the UTF-8 and utf-8 webpages on this site, too.
  • jgloss - annotation of japanese text
  • im-ja - japanese input module for GTK2
  • gktkanjipad - japanese kanji handwriting recognition
  • gjiten - japanese dictionary for GNOME
  • kdrill - kanji quiz (X11 or java)
  • kanjipad - japanese kanji handwriting recognition
  • JM pages - unix manpages in japanese (1st link is download page)
  • padict - japanese/english dictionary for Palm devices.
  • tkjmdict - word lookup within the JMdict japanese dictionary

Kana (Hiragana and Katakana)

All hiragana in one verse

Hiragana Form
(Note the archaic ゐwi, ゑwe)

いろはにほへど ちりぬるを
わがよたれぞ  つねならむ
うゐのおくやま けふこえて
あさきゆめみじ ゑひもせず

(vowels are as: Ah, Ski, sUe, theEy, nO)
IRoHaNiHoHeDo  ChiRiNuRuWo
OGaYoTaReZo  TsuNuNaRaMu
UWiNoOKuYaMa  HaHuKoE Te
ASaKiYuMeMiJi  WeHiMoSeZu
Kanji version:

色は匂へど 散りぬるを
我が世誰ぞ 常ならむ 
有為の奥山 今日越えて
浅き夢見じ 酔ひもせず

Modern hiragana form
(First は read as わ)

いろはにへど  ちりぬるを
わがよたれぞ   つねなら
のおくやま きょうこえて
あさきゆめみじ  えいもせず


As flowers are brilliant but [inevitably] fall,
who could remain constant in our world? [No one could]
Today let us transcend the high mountain of transience,
and there will be no more shallow dreaming, no more drunkenness.

Special Numerals - the heavenly stems

See the Heavenly Stems Wiki page for information on: 甲乙丙丁戊己庚辛壬癸

漢字 - Kanji

The best reference I've seen so far is The Kanji SITE, upon which the references below were based. Of course, since it's on a crippleware IIS webserver, you'll get the occasional "too many people" failure.

Kanji charts [lock]

If you have access to the authenticated areas on Talisman.Org (limited to keep bandwidth usage under control), you can see the full kanji JLPT charts, including small and large versions and black-on-white and black-on-transparent GIFs, with full linking for every kanji glyph to a detailed description.


Tutorials/Study Aids

JLPT - Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Japan Periodicals

Window System Support

Toukyou Daigaku 東京大學


Online Shopping (in the U.S.) for Japanese Things

Teaching English in Japan


Yasu recommends you bring some items that Americans take for granted but which Japanese might find quite unique, like A-1 Steak Sauce, candy like jellybeans or gummy bears, tortilla chips and salsa, or "that Tabasco sauce that isn't Tabasco" (we're pretty sure he means Cholula pepper sauce, which isn't sold in Japan and is thus very exotic). I think anything from your part of the world would make a good gift, and if your city or state is famous for something, a gift along those lines is a good idea. If the people you'll be visiting like coffee, you might consider a large bag of Starbucks beans, since it's quite expensive to buy here.

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