Browsing the Web in Japanese
In the past, different browsers had different feature sets and preference settings for browsing in Japanese, but today modern browsers can display most Japanese pages seamlessly, without any special measures. (If you want to enter Japanese text to do a web search, however, you need to enable Japanese input as described on the first page of this site.) If everything is working correctly, you should be able to read this Japanese sentence:
If you can't read the sentence above, see the section on troubleshooting encoding settings below.
All modern browsers can display Japanese, but there are a few small differences between them.
- Apple's Safari integrates well with Apple's Dictionary application, allowing you see the definition of Japanese words by control-clicking or force-clicking on them. See the Dictionaries Page of this site for details.
- Firefox can display an encoding pull-down menu right in the tool bar, to make it easy to switch encodings (see below), and you can install a range of plug-ins for adding extra Japanese functionality.
- Omniweb is a less common browser but it has the most detailed and flexible settings for for multilingual browsing. Omniweb can display an encoding pull-down menu right in the tool bar, like Firefox; you can even specify different encoding preferences for pages you visit regularly and Omniweb will remember them.
- Google Chrome integrates with Google translate, and like Firefox you can add this or other Japanese functionality with extensions. But it does not have an encoding menu.
Firefox and Chrome can incorporate plug-ins that extend their Japanese functionality, for example displaying translations of unfamiliar words in pop up boxes. To see the full range of what is available you can go to the Firefox Add Ons Page or the Google Chrome Extensions Page and search for terms like "Japanese," or "translate,". (Safari takes plug-ins too, but at this point there's not much available related to Japanese.)
Troubleshooting Encoding Settings
Japanese on the web is represented in several different formats or encodings. In order to display a Japanese page correctly, the browser needs to realize that it is a Japanese page and figure out which of several possible encodings are used. These days the browser can almost always figure these things out by itself, but if it cannot, it will display the Japanese as a series of nonsense characters. If this ever happens, you can tell Safari or Firefox to try a different encoding, using the following steps. (Google Chrome does not have an encoding menu, so if the browser guesses the wrong encoding, you may be out of luck.)
In Safari or Firefox, select the "View" menu and move down to Text Encoding, then select different options until the page displays correctly. Japanese pages may use the encodings labeled as "Japanese" or the ones labeled "Unicode". Firefox also has an Auto Detect > Japanese option.
Note that when you go on to a new page in Safari, you will need to manually set the encoding back to "Default". Firefox does this automatically.
For some browsers, you can tweak the way the browser guesses uncertain encodings by specifying a default or fallback encoding choice in the browser preferences, but you probably will not need to change this.