With over 1,800 commonly-used kanji characters, plus two different sets of 46 phonetic characters each, typing on a word processor in Japanese works a little differently than in English. Many words in Japanese have the same pronunciation but are written differently, so first you have to type the word phonetically, then select the proper rendering from a list that pops up.
The cool thing is that sometimes the selections aren’t just written characters, but drawings of the object in question. Poking around in a Japanese word processor is like a linguistic treasure hunt, and our searches turned up illustrations of mythical creatures, delicious food, and famous landmarks of Japan.
Before we dive into our discoveries, let’s take a closer look at how the Japanese input method editor (IME) works. For example, if you wanted to write Yokohama in kanji, you’d first input the letters just like you would in English.
Doing this causes the corresponding phonetic hiragana characters, よこはま, to appear on screen, plus a list of possible renderings. Tapping the space bar toggles into the list, after which you pick which writing you want using the arrow keys, hit enter, and you’re done.
Sometimes, though, the Japanese IME offers you the helpful suggestion of a visual representation of what you’re typing. For example, entering sankaku, the Japanese word for triangle, will give you a list not just with the word in hiragana and kanji, but also a bunch of triangles pointing in all different directions.
Granted, these are pretty dull, if still convenient for technical or scientific documents. Other words, though, produce more visual impact. For example, typing in ha-to, the Japanese pronunciation of “heart,” yields so many romantic results we feel like chumps for buying Valentine’s Day cards all these years.
▼ We also spotted one break-up letter candidate and a possible Legend of Zelda reference.
Of course, this being a Japanese IME, many of the hidden gems are regionally or culturally specific. Perhaps the most obvious is the result for Nihon, what people in Japan call the country.
Want to make it look even more Japanese? Try surrounding it with sakura cherry blossoms.
If you want a more zoomed-in look at the nation, how about fujisan/Mt. Fuji, the shinkansen/bullet train, or even toukyoutawa-/Tokyo Tower.
▼ We’re gonna show Kanagawa Prefecture some love by pretending that kanransha on the right is the Ferris wheel in Yokohama.
The trappings of traditional culture are available too, such as kimono and hanafuda playing cards, or a castle (shiro).
Seasonal events are also represented, with the koinobori carp streamer flown for Children’s Day plus the strips of paper with wishes on them that are tied onto bamboo stalks during the Tanabata star festival.
Seeing as how Tanabata is held in mid-summer, let’s spruce it up with some kakigoori shaved ice, the soothing sounds of a fuurin (wind chime), and a couple of nice cold glasses of bi-ru (beer).
▼ You can also get those two glasses clinking by typing in kampai, or “Cheers!”
Of course, if you’re interested in Japan, maybe you’d prefer to slake your thirst with some sake instead. Like wine, though, sake is best with food, so let’s pair it with some sushi. Heck, let’s splurge and spring for a nabe hot pot while we’re at it, plus some oden stewed vegetables on a skewer.
Looking for cheaper fare? The IME can also whip you up some kare- (curry), a bentou boxed lunch, or some onigiri rice balls.
If you’re not quite that hungry, you might be better off with just a cup of ocha (tea) and some senbei rice crackers. You can even have some purin custard or sweet dango dumplings, as long as you promise to eat all your vegetables later.
Japan loves cute animals, whether or not they’re indigenous to the country. With kuma (bears), pengin (penguins), rakuda (camels), panda (pandas, naturally), koara (koalas), and hamusuta- (hamsters), there’s practically an entire zoo hiding inside Japanese word processors.
Or, alternatively, an aquarium.
▼ Iruka, tako, two kinds of kujira, and a whole school of sakana
Inu (dogs) and neko (cats) also have plenty of variations.
As a matter of fact, the entire Chinese zodiac is present and accounted for.
▼ Nezumi, ushi, tora, usage, ryuu, hebi, uma, hitsuji, saru, tori, inu, and inoshishi.
The dragon isn’t the only supernatural creature you can find, either, as there’s also an oni (ogre) and obake (ghost) lurking about.
Scary stuff. Let’s cast off that creepy vibe with some more aesthetically-pleasing imagery, like a whole field of flowers (hana).
Even better, let’s turn our eyes skyward to gaze upon the sun (taiyou), moon (tsuki), and stars (hoshi).
▼ There are literally dozens of options for hoshi, including the Captain America logo.
One of the best things about all of these being preloaded into the IME is that you can easily change their colors the same way you would any other text in a document.
Hmm…you know, looking at that star has us thinking of space, and maybe we’re being a little narcissistic here, but…
We’ve gotta say, we’re honored.