Update: Instructions for Ubuntu 18.04 can be found here.

This is a follow-up on the former articles "Writing Japanese with Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr", "Writing Japanese with Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin" and "Writing Japanese with Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx".

Compared to Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr, setting up the Japanese input in Ubuntu again became simpler and better integrated. The default Japanese Input Method is now Mozc (the open-source component of Google's Japanese IME, which is used in Android and Chrome OS) instead of Anthy and I won't explain how to set up Anthy anymore since Mozc really works great.

The installation is actually very simple with one little stumbling stone which I will guide you over so you won't trip. So let's start:

  1. Because Mozc is not installed with the base-system, you have to install the Japanese language support first. Otherwise Mozc won't be available as input-method in the Text Entry settings. Additionally this will install some nice Japanese fonts and Japanese translations for Ubuntu if you ever want to use your System in Japanese. So let's begin by opening the System Settings and then the Language Support.
  2. If you get a message saying that the language support is not installed completely, you can either ignore it or let it install documentations and translations for the other installed languages on your system. In the Language Support-window, click on "Install / Remove Languages...".
    Screenshot from 2014-03-28 06:32:01
  3. Scroll down or type "J" and check the checkbox next to Japanese in the "Installed"-column. After this, click on "Apply Changes".
    Screenshot from 2014-03-28 06:32:19
  4. Next you have to enter your password.
    Screenshot from 2014-03-28 06:32:45
  5. The necessary packages will now be downloaded and installed. Nothing to do for you in this step, but you can already start to save open documents and close unused windows in preparation for the next one. :-)
  6. After the Japanese language support is installed, you have to log out. This is the small stumbling stone I mentioned before. For Mozc to show up in the list of input-methods, the session needs to be restarted. This is really kind of annoying but there's nothing you can do about that at this point. :-(
  7. Once you did a logout / login-cycle, open the System Settings and click on Text Entry.
    Screenshot from 2014-03-28 06:29:52
  8. In the "Text Entry"-window, click on the small Plus-sign at the bottom of "Input sources to use".
    Screenshot from 2014-03-28 06:30:17
  9. Select the entry "Japanese (Mozc) (IBus)" from the list and click on "Add".
  10. "Japanese (Mozc) (IBus)" should now show up inside the "Text Entry"-window and Mozc should be available in the menu-bar's menu. You probably want to change the setting "Use the same source for all windows" to "Allow different sources for each window" and switch to "New windows use the default source". Additionally you eventually want to reassign the key to switch to the next input source. I normally use the "Pause"-key to toggle between languages.

  11. Now fire up some text-editor and try it by clicking on "Mozc" in the text entry menu, set the input mode to hiragana and type some japanese. Switching between candidates is done by pressing the spacebar and katakana-conversion is done by pressing F7.

I hope, this article answered all your first questions regarding Japanese input in Ubuntu.

If this article was useful to you, you might also be interested in my (short) list of Japanese learning materials and software for Linux and how to type specific symbols and radicals in Mozc / Google’s Japanese IME.

31 Responses to “Writing Japanese with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial Xerus”

  1. Mariko
    September 2nd, 2016 at 07:50

    This helped me. Thank you!

  2. Karen
    September 10th, 2016 at 19:19

    Thank you for the tutorial! Setting Japanese input on Ubuntu was easier than I expected.

  3. David Crespo
    October 2nd, 2016 at 14:49

    Vielen Dank für deine Hilfe!

  4. saris
    October 4th, 2016 at 06:28

    thanks a lot

  5. Haru
    October 6th, 2016 at 13:27

    Lovely, this helped!

  6. Gabriel
    October 8th, 2016 at 06:14

    Thank you,I was looking a long time for a tutorial like this, good job.

  7. Pete
    October 16th, 2016 at 04:18

    Thank you! I’d been trying to work this out for a while without success. Now all is good in the world!

  8. Sophie
    November 11th, 2016 at 12:30

    Hey and thanks for the instructions! I’m getting a little desperate here: I’ve followed all the steps (including logging off and on or even rebooting), but I don’t get the option “Japanese Mozc Ibus” in my language settings, no matter what I do. Any ideas?

  9. Moritz
    November 12th, 2016 at 00:19

    Test whether the entry shows up in a guest session. If the entry shows up there, then deleting the folder ~/.config/ibus and a
    dconf reset -f /desktop/ibus/
    in a terminal might help for the user account. Else make sure that the package ibus-mozc is installed.

  10. Diego
    December 5th, 2016 at 16:16

    I couldn’t figure out how to do it. This helped me a lot! Thank you.

    No podía descubrir como hacerlo. ¡Esto fue de mucha ayuda! Muchas gracias.

  11. Aswyn
    January 10th, 2017 at 00:14

    This worked ! Perfect. Thank you for helping.

  12. Rayan
    January 13th, 2017 at 04:00

    Thank you! It helped a lot.

  13. Niloct
    January 17th, 2017 at 16:36

    It worked fine on 16.10 too. Thanks for the hint!

  14. Meh
    February 2nd, 2017 at 19:53

    Thanks! your instruction was really helpful. i don’t know in detail about IBus, but it somehow seems me a part of critical procedure to select out “IBus” from an input method list.
    i was really in jam for the hindrance from inputting my mother-tongue. Now I’ve emancipated like this:本当に助かったよ、ありがとう!拙い俺の英語が込めた意を伝えることを祈ってるぜ。bye!


  15. marti
    February 16th, 2017 at 08:03

    worked very well, great. Thank you!

  16. silf
    April 24th, 2017 at 11:12

    Thanks for the explanation.
    But there’s a problem: After I select Japanese in the “Add/Remove Languages…” section and click apply, it downloads all the packages except for one: the firefox-ja-locale (Failed to fetch http://security.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/f/firefox/firefox-locale-ja_52.0.2+build1-0ubuntu0.16.04.1_amd64.deb 404 Not Found). The file doesn’t exist anymore on the ubuntu-server. How can I still add Japanese input? I tried downloading the mozs-files through the repository, but I still can’t select mozs in the Text Entry Settings… What can I do?
    Thanks in advance

  17. nalsdixit
    April 29th, 2017 at 06:33

    i installed it in linux mint 18.1 xfce, and all is working except i get no dropdown menu. if i press the space bar, it runs through the same options as in your example above, but it does not show up in a dropdown menu. i would very much like to have the dropdown menu show up. any guidance on how to set it up, or is this an issue with xfce.

    in anycase あいがとございます

  18. Marcelo
    May 11th, 2017 at 00:02

    Thank’s a lot. It worked fine!

  19. Ian
    June 27th, 2017 at 00:26

    Thanks a lot, worked perfectly and your tutorial gets right to the point!

  20. ahtl
    July 17th, 2017 at 17:51

    Thanks a lot. It worked perfectly.

  21. Anonymous
    August 13th, 2017 at 08:03

    Thank you for your help.

  22. Kevin
    August 17th, 2017 at 16:23

    Really thank you for this!

  23. Michael
    November 13th, 2017 at 22:34

    I can only repeat: Thanks a lot, worked perfectly and your tutorial gets right to the point!

  24. Maxolasersquad
    November 29th, 2017 at 19:04

    If “Japanese (Mozc) (IBus)” doesn’t show up in the list install the anthy package.

    sudo apt-get install anthy

  25. Bob the blob
    December 26th, 2017 at 08:23

    This is a real newby question but I can’t find the system settings section of my computer. could anyone help?

  26. Fabrice
    January 2nd, 2018 at 14:37

    Yeah that did it….so greatfulllll !

  27. Vash the Stampede
    June 26th, 2018 at 00:48

    Thanks a lot!

  28. Mei
    July 1st, 2018 at 08:29

    In my Xubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xaurus, I didnt see Text Entry anywhere. IBus Preferences appears to be the replacement or equivalent.

    I dumped Anthy and got my Japanese input working thanks to you!


  29. Antonio
    September 16th, 2018 at 18:39

    In my Ubuntu 16.04 I had to Open Mozc settings (Super+A, write Mozc and select the app from the Dashboard) and in General > Basics > Input mode, set it to romaji (not kana) in order to type the characters using the romaji transcription of the character (i.e go becomes ご and not きら). My guess is that otherwise a character map is loaded i.e each key gets assigned a character, but I found this much less convenient.


  30. centaurus21
    November 19th, 2018 at 03:10

    I need to use the kana keyboard, not the romaji keyboard. I mean, I am Colombian and it is easier for me to type Japanese in Roman alphabet instead of kana, but I own a computer bought in Japan with the regular qwerty keyboard but also with the kana characters on the corresponding key, but it still won’t allow me to set up the kana input, which is what I want.

    Thank you in advance.

  31. boltronics
    January 27th, 2019 at 14:57

    Despite things looking a little bit different in Debian GNU/Linux 9 (Stretch) with Xfce, this post helped me figure out what I needed to do. どもありがとうございます。

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