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Japanese Environment

I hereby describe methods to set up a Japanese environment under Debian etch for your reference. (This should give good reference to other non-European languages.)

Each command is not explained here in detail. Please refer to the manpages.

<!> In order to set up and use not only Japanese environment but also multilingual environment smoothly, please select the locale with UTF-8 encoding.

Required packages for Japanese environment

Following lists required packages for Japanese environment. (For other languages, refer to the language task contents.)

What is locale

The locale is used for LANG environment variable to define language environment. It has a structure of xx_YY.ZZZZ and has following meanings:


language codes


country codes 



The language region of Japan is ja_JP but if it is used alone it is treated as tradional ja_JP.eucJP . The language region of US (the best supported) is en_US but if it is used alone it is treated as tradional en_US.ISO8859-1.

For example, the encoding system often used for Japanese are:


recent standard, multilingual compatibility


old UNIX standard, only for Japanese


old Microsoft standard, only for Japanese


standard for Japanese e-mail, use only 7 bit code, only for Japanese


old standard for western European languages, ASCII+accented characters, 8 bit code


US standard, 7 bit code Simply set LANG=C

These encodings are well thought out to keep them compatible within ASCII code ranges.

If you accidentally haven't created the ja_JP.UTF-8 locale, please execute the following to enable Japanese UTF-8 environment.

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure locales

Each program behaves differently depending on the set up of language related environment variables.

Here, you have to pay attention to the fact that some program uses PAM (pluggable Authentification Module) and the environment variable set by PAM has priority.

Both /etc/environment and /etc/defaults/locale files define


when Japanese is selected during the etch installation process under etch (as of December 2006).

Under normal X environment, this is OK with me. But I do not like to use Japanese for console session after system crash or for su session. For such session, I like most robust environment for console thus I set LANG definition for them as:


There may be a way to work around this problem using kon2 or frame buffer console. This is purely my taste issue.

But this will make gdm to be in English. (X session itself can be set to Japanese from gdm menu.)

I use PAM to start gdm with Japanese menu as follows. First let's change the following line defining language environment variable in /etc/pam.d/gdm or /etc/pam.d/gdm-autologin (the actual file depends on display manager and its setup):

auth    required        pam_env.so read_env=1 envfile=/etc/default/locale


auth    required        pam_env.so read_env=1 envfile=/etc/default/locale-gdm

.Then create a file /etc/defaults/locale-gdm containing:


.Then GDM becomes Japanese. Actual language (value for LANG) can be set through GDM menu. So you can still use English environment in X.

Setup of Japanese input in Debian

Setup of Japanese input in Debian is simplified by using im-switch.

For complicated setups specific to each Japanese input method is best handled by the accompanying GUI configuration tool for each input method. These configuration tools can be activated by clicking the icon for setup in the toolbar of Japanese input methods or clicking configuration tool icon on Gnome toolbar as [Desktop] -> [Configuration].

First you install im-switch and one of the Japanese input tool chain packages, uim or scim.

For the detail of setup, see /usr/share/doc/im-switch/README.Debian.gz, /usr/share/doc/scim/README.Debian.gz or /usr/share/doc/uim/README.Debian.gz. Here, key points are described.

<!> im-switch command behaves differently depending on whether it is executed by root or a normal user.

$ cd ~/.xinput.d
$ ls -l
lrwxrwxrwx 1 osamu osamu 28 2006-11-25 00:50 ja_JP -> /etc/X11/xinit/xinput.d/scim
$ cat ja_JP | sed 's/XIM_PROGRAM=.*/XIM_PROGRAM=/;s/XIM_ARGS=.*/XIM_ARGS=/'>ja.JP.file
$ mv ja.JP.file ja.JP

The variation of above UIM configuration to register start of UIM to the session manager is to start UIM as toolbar from shell as "uim-toolbar-gtk >/dev/null 2>dev/null &" and let it get auto registered to start upon restart. (I did not test if the delayed start of it after stabilizing uim-xim.)

In above, toolbar is started without relying on session manager. In order to prevent duplicate toolbars to be started upon relogin, you may register s * Relogin to user's account and refresh X session. ession manager not to (re)start "uim-toolbar-gtk".

Japanese input in console can be enabled by uim-fep package. (I am not familiar with jfbterm which enables Japanese display in console.) UIM has a merit in this functionality.

<!> Input method started by im-switch depends on the value of locale.

<!> Japanese input method may be started under English environment using im-switch. It is quite useful to have Japanese input method under en_US.UTF-8 environment.

<!> In order to start SCIM under non-CJK locale, you need to add list of those locales to ~/.scim/global or /etc/scim/global :

/SupportedUnicodeLocales = en_US.UTF-8,en_GB.UTF_8,fr_FR.UTF-8

<!>  Some people may consider setting a different immodule mechanism to the GTK_IM_MODULE variable, but currently setting it to xim seems to give the most stable environment by experience. It is discussed under /usr/share/doc/scim/README.Debian.gz in detail.

Working with key programs

emacs situation

$ XMODIFIERS=none emacs

In order to adjust Debian menu, place customized configuration in /etc/menu following the method described in /usr/share/doc/menu/html.

vim situation


Recently IBus has become the most widely used input framework - it's probably the best choice for Japanese input in Debian

There are two Japanese IBus engines: ibus-anthy and ibus-mozc. ibus-mozc is a client of another input project, sponsored by Google? ibus-anthy is more mature? The Ubuntu language-support-input-ja package depends on ibus-anthy - ibus-anthy is probably what you want,

$ sudo aptitude -DR install ibus-anthy

The Ubuntu language-support-fonts-ja package depends on ttf-takao-gothic and ttf-takao-mincho,

$ sudo aptitude -DR install ttf-takao