Nifty Japanese Input Trick

One little-known feature of the Japanese Input tools on OS X is the ability to easily access a whole lot of unicode symbols without having to go dig through the Character Palette each and every time. If you enable Japanese Input (also known as Kotoeri) on your mac, hitting a keyboard shortcut (apple-space by default, I think) will toggle kana input on and off, whereby you can type japanese words in kanas and press the spacebar to pick a matching kanji (followed by ‘enter’ to validate the transliteration).
The nifty bit comes from the availability of UTF-8 characters that are not kanji, but nonetheless useful in a lot of situations. Just as any other kanji, typing a kana sequence (usually the name of the symbol in Japanese), followed by a press of the spacebar, will automatically let you insert the desired symbol.
Note: Apparently, most of these work equally well on Windows Japanese Input system, but I haven’t tested it.

For example, any Japanese girl knows all too well how to obtain the following cutesy icons:
おんぷ[onpu] → ♬♩♪♫
ほし[hoshi] → ☆★

On a more pragmatic note, you can also choose from a very complete set of arrows:
やじるし[yajirushi] → ↑↓☝⇔ etc.

And one of my personal favourite: european currency symbols that would otherwise take half an hour to find on a standard US keyboard:
ゆーろ[yuro] → €
ぽんど[pondo] → £

Another very cool set for your scientific paper-writing needs:
すうがく[suugaku]/えんざん[enzan] → √∃∀≠±∇

Not to mention the entire greek alphabet:
あるふぁ[arufa] α
べーた[be-ta] β
がんま[ganma] γ
でるた[deruta] δ
しぐま[siguma] σ

etc. etc.

You will find even more of these in this large (albeit probably not exhaustive) list of special character shortcuts.


  1. There are these on a mac too with the option key. eg option + Y -> ¥ Yen symbol.
    Option + R = ®

    I use these all the time. Gotta just keep them stored in memory though. But I do find the character palette input easy enough.

    BTW we use all the phonetic symbols with our dictionaries.. I spend most of my days doing this stuff. I thought it was my little secret!! 🙂

  2. This is great! I was getting frustrated with the Kotoeri input on my iMac. (The first thing I did was set it to “act like Windows IME” so that typing the letter L before the romaji for a character makes it small. I used to have to do even that simple action – frequently – through the menu system.) Your tips are going to help me out. So, again, thanks. 🙂

  3. Deas:
    I recommend you google around for more kana-specific tips on Kotoeri… I’m no specialist either, but found some pretty useful tips for things that were getting a bit annoying. For instance, what you are looking for is the letter ‘x’: typed in front of a kana, it’ll print the small-size version. That aside, I really love Kotoeri, particularly its kanji-warning tips, which are just awesome if you aren’t fluent…

  4. Works for linux/BSD also, quite well with anthy…
    The ones I use most are
    … さんてん
    〜 なみ
    ○ まる
    × ばつ
    Skype すかいぷ
    Λ、λ らむだ

  5. How do you input small letter like イ in “メディア”.

    Thanks for your help.


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