Twenty years ago, using Japanese on an English-based computer was ... er ... a challenge. Thankfully, today is not twenty years ago.
On a Windows computer or laptop
1) Click the windows button
2) Start typing "Language" and click on the Language Settings above.
3) Click on "Add a preferred language" or it may say "Add a language"
4) In the window, type "Japanese" and you should see that option. Select it and click Next
5) Unless you want Japanese taking over your system (not a bad idea for upper beginners who know their OS well), make sure "Set as my display language" is unchecked.
6) Click Install
Now, at the bottom right corner of your monitor, you should see either an ENG
Or a hiragana あ
As you may guess, the ENG means you will type in English and the あ means you will type in Japanese.
How to Switch Languages
You can left click the ENG or あ to switch language, but a more convenient shortcut is ALT + Shift. You'll see something like this:
See your distribution documentation for more details, there are several ways to input foreign characters under Linux. The most popular method is a combination of programs.
- Smart Common Input Method (SCIM) — SCIM is a front-end to various back-end modules for different languages. There are back-end modules for Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Swahili, Arabic, you name it. SCIM provides a central place to select and configure these various back-end modules.
- Anthy — Anthy is a Japanese input module that provides Hiragana, Katakana input and dictionary lookup for Kanji.
Most Linux distributions make this easy for you by providing packages that you can just install and be done with it. For instance, in my distribution (Gentoo) I just had to install the ‘scim’ and ‘scim-anthy’ packages.