Romaji vs Kana Input

Hey everyone! (First post here!)

Apologies if this is a duplicate post, but I’ve reviewed similar posts and most of them don’t get at the questions I’d like to ask here. They either seem to be feature suggestions or not provide a great overview.

To put it simply, “should I use romaji input or kana input?”. From what I have gathered, this depends on

  • the platform you’re using
  • the keyboard you’re using (if one at all)
  • personal preference
    Additionally, because of issues like IME auto-suggest, it seems like your preferred method of typing Japanese may change depending on whether you’re using WaniKani or not.

To put my specific problem simply, I mostly use WaniKani on my Surface Book with Windows 11 connected to an external monitor and an EN-US gamer keyboard. I also do reviews on my phone, a Surface Duo, when I do not have access to my computer. I connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse if I have a flat surface, but I usually just use Microsoft Swiftkey 12-key swipe input.

My reasons for creating this post are two-fold: I find,

  • I downgrade around 1% to 3% of my reviews because of reading misinputs.
  • I would like to do my reviews as fast as possible.

So far, I haven’t done much about either of these. Getting a few reviews wrong each time means they’ll just pop up again later so I can “learn them better” or something. I also feel like I can crank out my reviews pretty quickly with a high accuracy rate.

It seems that resolving one problem makes the other worse. Slowing down takes longer but I get fewer wrong, and speeding up is faster but I’ll likely get more wrong. I’d like to attack one or both of these problems by improving my typing setup.

As for mobile, it seems like 12-key is not necessarily more popular than romaji, so I could try the romaji keyboard. Or I could just get better at swipe input.

As for desktop, I can turn off predictions completely in IME settings. I can also use kana input to emulate a Japanese keyboard. Based on what I know about Japanese keyboards and this link, it seems like kana input would be difficult to use on a US keyboard, as there are special keys for the IME and switching inputs (not to mention memorizing the kana locations).

Should I get a Japanese keyboard? Is it faster? My friend who does Japanese-to-English translation for a living has one, but I don’t know which input mode he uses. Even if I don’t use kana, are there any benefits that make a JP keyboard better for romaji input? And even if I can’t get kana to be faster for WaniKani, what are the advantages and disadvantages to switching input modes and/or keyboards?

If using kana input and/or buying a JP keyboard is better in the long-run, I don’t mind attacking the learning curve to switching now. But I also want to make sure I don’t buy a new keyboard and/or learn a new typing style to little return.

Sorry if this post was a long one. Looking forward to your answers and hoping this spawns some interesting discussion!

Do you mean for WK? Wk translates your input automatically, you know?
Also there is a double check script.

In general japanese typing on windows I use the microsoft IME, which allows me change my input with a few shortcuts.

But to answer your question ‘Should I use romaji or kana input?’ is basically personal preference I guess…

Apologies if I may have interpreted your question incorrectly :sweat_smile:


afaik most japanese people use romaji input when typing on pc, atleast that’s what i’ve gathered reading online.


I’m sorry if my question was unclear. I suppose I’d like to know what is best for WaniKani and what is best outside of WaniKani, if they’re not the same for some people.

I will look up that double-check script! Thank you!

Like I said, WK does it automatically.

if you type in ‘ka’ it would change into ‘か’ without any outside help

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I want to piggyback off this thread and ask, is there any other way to force ん other than nn? I find it a pain to type out things like おんな.


For anyone still confused about input in WK, check this thread:

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For WK: romaji input without IME
For mobile: kana flick keyboard
Everywhere else: romaji input with IME


What @Kumirei says. But if you want to try a Japanese keyboard layout, you should be able to switch your current one to the kana layout. There’s even stickers you can buy Japanese Keyboard Stickers | Keyshorts.

I have no idea how to configure it on Windows or Mac, though.

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I was aware of this, but it’s also possible to switch to kana input on the Japanese input mode on your computer, where each key press translates to a kana character. This is there the problems with IME arise, as unless you disable suggestions, you OS IME will auto-suggest kanji for the kana you type.

So far, I have been using the WaniKani IME with the US keyboard like you. But I am wondering if using kana input and/or getting a Japanese keyboard could be faster.

Thank you for the link though! It’s a good reference.

That’s a helpful link and suggestion. I have heard of these stickers, and I may give them a try. They’re definitely cheaper than buying a brand-new keyboard.

Unless you practice a few hours a day for a year, probably not. Especially if you are currently touch typing (you should). Even Japanese people don’t really bother learning it.

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I’ll have to ask Japanese people if they know anyone who primarily uses kana input when typing in Japanese.


Just because most people don’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, though. People hate learning, even if there are long-term benefits.

Take the Dvorak layout for English. It makes typing more comfortable, but almost no one uses it. Might be the same for kana input. It’s about half the key presses I would assume.

idk about mobile but WK treats romanji input the same way a JP IME does so switching modes shouldn’t be necessary at all.

If you want to input kana directly (not through romanji) you can try to get a keyboard like this or something similar, it has a standard US layout + kana alternatives. Admittedly though I’m not sure it’s something worth an investment unless you’re really desperate or want a cool gadget.

It’s likely a bit faster if you put the time to really learn it. The fact that it’s almost 50 keys makes it just so significantly harder to learn than let’s say Dvorak. It’s probably less ergonomic as well, since you have to reach for the number keys all the time. And then you still have to learn romaji for english, so you need to do a register switch all the time.

Still, on average it’s probably not half the key presses. With words like いった、きゃ、がっこう, for example, you end up pressing the same amount of buttons.

And this is coming from someone who has learned and is using Colemak instead of QWERTY nowadays :smile:.


I don’t know which IME you’re using specifically, but I don’t think this is universally true. The IME I’m using (fcitx + SKK) behaves very similarly to a mobile keypad - you type in romaji, get hiragana output and you can cycle through a number of possible kanji suggestions, but you can either not trigger these suggestions or cancel the ones the IME showed and go back to the “raw” hiragana output.

On the phone the flick keypad isn’t that bad once you get used to it. I’m using it quite extensively lately.

On a PC I don’t feel a proper kana keyboard would be more convenient than a QWERTY keyboard + IME. You would still need an IME to fight your way through kanji suggestions and typos.

You’re right, it’s more than half the presses, but still less. At the expense of having to move your fingers more.

It looks like the deciding factors so far are: 1) How easily/quickly you learn 2) How much you type in Japanese 3) How easy is it for you to reach the number row.

Personally, I’m sticking with my US/DE/QWERTY/Z keyboard for now since I don’t type much Japanese outside of WK.

Same except I’ve been trying to get used to the flick on my phone and, just like real life, my brain mixes up right and left. :joy: I’m constantly getting them wrong.


Yep, n’ (i.e. n-apostrophe).