Accessing Japanese Character Text on the Web

[Note: The following discussion is now somewhat out of date. It will be replaced by a revised version by mid-March, which will discuss the latest developments in Unionway, Kanjikit, Dragon Writer, Twinbridge, and other ways of accessing Japanese texts. 2/25/97]

In order to display Japanese kanji and kana characters on your computer, you need programs that can accommodate one of the three basic Japanese encoding methods: JIS, shift-JIS, or EUC (Extended UNIX Code). (For the Japanese Text Initiative, we use EUC encoding.) We strongly recommend that anyone who wants to understand Japanese encoding methods should read Ken Lunde's Understanding Japanese Information Processing (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 1993). An early version of this book used to be available on the Internet, but has now been replaced by a document on CJK information processing at Lunde's useful home page.

The most direct way to find out how to display Japanese on your computer is to consult "Accessing Japanese Character Text on the Internet" by the Council on East Asian Libraries, or CEAL (which, incidentally, offers one of the best-maintained and most elegantly designed sites on the Web). Note particularly the documents on "How to Use Japanese on the Internet with a PC," on Twinbridge, and on "How to Access WWW Servers in Japan Using Mac Browser 'Netscape'." More problematic is display of Japanese characters in X-windows. A document on multi-localization enhancement of NCSA Mosaic has been available for some time (and is linked to the CEAL page), but seems not to have been updated for recent versions of Mosaic or for Netscape.

In the University of Virginia E-Text Center we use a commercial product called Twinbridge Japanese, available from vendors such as Character Language Resources, 2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025 (1-800-900-8803). Twinbridge runs under Microsoft Windows 3.1 on a PC (a Windows 95 version is expected), and supports the display of Japanese characters in Windows applications such as Netscape or a word processor. Almost a requirement for displaying Japanese text through the Web is Netscape. Versions 1.1 and later allow users to set their default font to JIS, shift-JIS, or EUC. Suppose that you set shift-JIS as your default. Then when you try to read a Web page encoded in, say, JIS, the JIS is converted on the fly to shift-JIS for your Japanese reader. The CEAL page above has information on how to configure Twinbridge to work with Netscape to display Japanese characters. (In the E-Text Center we set Twinbridge to shift-JIS encoding. For Netscape 1.2, under fonts in Options, we set Encoding to Latin 1 and Default Encoding to Japanese-EUC. For Netscape 2.0b3 we set Options/Document Encoding to Japanese (EUC). We turn off automatic spacing between characters.)

In addition to products such as Twinbridge, shareware or freeware is becoming available to display Japanese, as well as Chinese and Korean. The CEAL home page does a good job of reporting on such computer programs, often under a "What's New" heading.

Japanese character input: To test that your Japanese client is handling EUC input correctly, try a search in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu search page. Enter a character such as ("yama" in Romaji). You should get 21 hits. If instead you get a no-hit message, check your EUC client set-up.

To the Japanese Text Initiative home page