Japanese Input Support on Pandora. The Easy way.


I realize this post is aimed at a super-niche market. First, the market of active Pandora users, and as far as we know there may just be a couple thousand only. Then, among them, the ones who use their Pandora not only for gaming. Hum, make that another half of the previous segment. Then, the English speaking crowd, who have an interest in Japanese, and enough knowledge of it to want to read and write in Japanese on Pandora. Let’s face it, there are probably only a handful of people who need this. But even if this is useful for only ONE person, I will not destroy this cit… oh, sorry, wrong line.

So you want Japanese input on your Pandora ?

I have two pieces of news for you. A good one and a bad one. Since this is not a dialog and you are forced to follow my flow, I will feed you with the good one first and the bad one second.

The good news is that the Pandora can easily support Japanese input, and it’s relatively straightforward to install. Yipee!

The bad news is that, while you can use Japanese input in a lot of software, there are a number which plainly do not support it. Your solution: get over it, or bitch about it. And rejoice that you can still use the keyboard in new, awesome ways.

Anyway, let’s go to the install part, and we will talk a bit more about the software support. First, before we start, please know that by default, the Pandora seems to be able to display Japanese text when you go on Japanese websites. However this is only partially true. Somehow the default fonts rely on a Chinese font (as far as I understand) and there are a number of Japanese characters which cannot be displayed. Even If you just need to READ Japanese and not type it, you’ll have to follow the steps below to get everything sorted out. Or be content with missing 漢字 (kanji, i.e. Japanese characters borrowed from Chinese) throughout the pages you browse, like holes in Swiss cheese.

This being said, let’s move on to the install.

Go to this page : http://sano-ya.org/pandora/mje/ where a Japanese Pandora user, Sano-san, made a ready-to-install package for Japanese support. Many thanks to him, since it made this operation much easier than before.

Download the latest version of the mje file (currently mje-0.8.tar.gz), then copy it on one of your SD Cards, and navigate to your card in the terminal. Execute the following commands. Note that you NEED to be online before executing this script, since it will fetch packages from different repositories.

$ tar xf mje-0.8.tar.gz # will extract the archive
$ cd mje-0.8 # go in the folder...
$ sudo ./install.sh # and executes the install script with Super User rights

After a while, the first part of the install should be done, and you should now install the setup.sh script:

./setup.sh # this will enable the toolbar at start to switch input methods.

From there on you should reboot and then you should see:

  • A small language switching interface at the right bottom hand corner of your screen
I hope you like the seasonal wallpaper. Cherry Blossoms right now in Japan!
  • Some of the xfce menus in Japanese instead of English in your menu bar.
If you can’t read Japanese… rely on the icons!

To switch to Japanese you should select the Anthy input method on the left icon of the switching interface, and then select the type of characters to use with the icon in the middle (you can choose to write in ひらがな, カタカナ and so on). From there on you are on your own. I give you the tools but  using Japanese is more than just knowing how to type characters.

Software support

Now about the software support. I already mentioned in my article about the browsers that Firefox is, currently, the only browser to support Japanese input (well actually add Qupzilla on top of that, the latest version works fine too), and while I prefer Arora for speed, I revert to Firefox anytime I need to do any search in Japanese. I am still complaining about this to PtitSeb but the guy is far too busy at the moment. Not sure it that can be fixed, it may be linked to the Qt interface used. 


For email clients, the best client available, Claws Mail, supports Japanese just fine, but you need to be careful to edit your Message encoding to Unicode (UTF8) when you compose your email. If not it will be a garbled mess – don’t hold me responsible for it.

Editing documents in Japanese works fine with LibreOffice. For editing simple documents or code, gedit supports Japanese just fine as well. While now a little outdated in the repo, Abiword can also support Japanese input just fine.

Gedit works very well. Even its menus are localized.

One of the reasons I wanted Japanese support is also to read e-books, and thanks to the maintainer of FBreader this is now possible. The only extra step one needs to take is to select a Japanese font in the FBreader preferences in order to have them displayed properly.

For RSS feeds of Japanese sites, Liferea works perfectly as well. Very useful to follow popular blogs like hachimaki (even though you should know that while it passes for a personal blog, it is secretly paid for by Sony).

You may be glad to know that Gwaei, the Japanese-English dictionary program based on the JDIC files, works very well with Japanese input and therefore enables two ways search.

Gwaei can be used to expand your vocabulary. What was the word you said to me, girl?

Overall, being able to write and read Japanese on the Pandora is great, and it pretty much works just like on any Linux desktop. It goes without saying that the Pandora replaced my 携帯 (keitai, i.e. cellphone) for almost any email I have to type in Japanese.

Alright I’m going to drink some tea now.


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10 Comments on "Japanese Input Support on Pandora. The Easy way."

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Thanks a lot for the instructions. I see that this setup uses uim instead of ibus… hope that it also works OK with ratpoison (my “desktop environment” of choice).

Will try it next week and post the results :-).

P.S.: Hope that I can revert back the menus to English setting the LANG env variable… I’m not that proficient with Japanese!

Your article inspired me to look into Russian transliteration support for Angstrom, and oh, God, what a mess all of these input systems for linux are! There is no ibus support (or any other input system I’ve heard of), and gtk input methods are something I can’t figure out (and it looks like there won’t be a way to switch methods even if I’ll manage to get it to work) I’ve figured out now that it’s possible to use uim for Russian too, I just need to find a way to feed it a translit-cyrillic file through m17nlib… and there… Read more »

Any idea how easy would it be to have Arabic typing support on the Pandora?

Hi there ekianjo. Thank you a lot for your post. I was looking for something to get Japanese input on my Pandora. Have tried this solution and it worked really well. By the way, to all the people who want to revert their menus back to English can do the following: after successfully running the ./install.sh and ./setup.sh edit the following file: /home/username/.profile Just start a terminal and type: mousepad .profile At the end of the file you should find some lines looking like that: export LANG=ja_JP.UTF-8 export LC_ALL=ja_JP.UTF-8 export XMODIFIERS=@im=uim export GTK_IM_MODULE=uim and edit the first two lines like… Read more »
Hi ekiango! I’ve finally followed the tutorial (after reflashing the pandora, as I also wanted to upgrade from super zaxxon 1.51 to current 1.54). The installation finished successfully, and also did the changes mentioned by Alex to maintain the menus in english… (I also changed a little the install.sh script, but it seems that it wasn’t necessary). BUT I can’t enable japanese input when using ratpoison window manager instead of xfce. I think that I might get it working setting a couple of environment variables ans starting “by hand” uim-xim (the problem should be the same for openbox, and I’ve… Read more »
Sebastián Castro

どもありがとう、エキアンジョさま. gWaei 「g和英」でも。おかげさまで僕の夢本日になっていまた。

(If it doesn’t make much sense: Thank you Ekianjo-sama. Also for gWaei. You have made my dream come true.)

Ps: The city is safe 😉

Sebastián Castro

*lol* 本日でわ無くて、現実と言うのです。
(*lol* it wasn’t “today”, I wanted to say “reality”)
I was learning Japanese a long time ago, I couldn’t continue, though. I might now that I can take it with me.

Mr Japan

Communication is KEY. We use our phones throughout the day to communicate with our contacts. I’m so glad we have apps like these available.