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:

日本では、いわゆるポストモダンという時代は、18世紀にもう既に終わりました。

If you can't read the sentence above, see the section on troubleshooting encoding settings below.

Browsers

All modern browsers can display Japanese, but there are a few small differences between them.

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.)

Safari encoding menu

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.