Have you ever wanted to start writing Japanese 🇯🇵 without investing in a some special hardware? It could be part of your learning journey or to say ありがとう to a friend! Then you are in luck because you can just do that from the comfort of your old keyboard on Mac (OSX).

Set up

Enable the keyboard

You can set your Mac to use your keyboard as a Japanese input source (Romaji, Hiragana, Katakana).

For that go to:

  • Apple menu > System Preferences > click Keyboard
  • Click on the + button and select Japanese
  • Click on the ‘Add’ button, and you should now see it on your screen

Bravo, you’ve done it! おめでとう御座います!! 🎉


You should be able to switch language using icon on the top bar. There are even some handy shortcut (to easily switch once you’ve selected one of the three):

  • ^ + + ; for Romaji (A)
  • ^ + + J for Hiragana (あ)
  • ^ + + K for Katakana (ア)


If you are using a western keyboard (i.e. QWERTY) it will transform automatically the letters into hiragana / katakana, and you’ll be able to select kanji or different typing.

Capslock does not exist in Japanese, so it will switch to romaji or an emoji, if you try for example to write a caps あ → A or 🅰️.

Also the romaji doesn’t handle the accents, usually done by pressing a key more than 1 seconds. That’s because there are no accent equivalent in Japanese.


I did use the japanese input to write it all done, and it needs some getting use to. Don’t forget to validate your kana by pressing enter twice before trying to move around your cursor with the keyboard’s arrows.

What, Which, Where, Why

All of them can be written with 何 so I grouped them together.

A What question using 何 (なん or なに)

  • 彼女 は 何 を もっていますか
  • What does she have?

A Which question using どれ or 何れ

  • どれ が あなた の 本 ですか
  • Which is your book?

A Where question using どこ or 何処

  • 私 の 白いシャツ は どこに ありますか
  • Where is my white shirt?

A Why question using なぜ or 何故

  • なぜ あなた は それ を 言うの ですか
  • Why do you say that?

なぜ is more formal in contrast with:

  • 如何して (どうして) which is less formal and to say in what way?
  • 何で (なんで) which is very much informal used to say for what?

Who and Whose

Adding a like for se makes a who into a whose.

A Who question with (だれ or 誰)

  • あの 男の人 は 誰 ですか
  • Who is that man? (over there)

A Whose question using 誰の

  • それ コート は 誰の ですか
  • Whose coat is it?

How, When

Let’s be thorough and add some more example shall we:

A How question using どう

  • 彼 は どう ですか
  • How is he?

A When question with いつ

  • 彼女 は いつ 食べますか
  • When does she eat?

Other resources

You would like to expand yor horizon with some digital resources. Here are some options that you may consider for your journey:

  • DuoLingo: The most famous one for practical language lesson
  • LingoDeer: A bit like duolingo but gives a different vibe
  • Memrise: If you wish to memorise the hiragana, katakana and other kanjis
  • Satori Reader: When you get more experienced and want to try reading stories in Japanese