For people learning Japanese, there’s nothing more annoying than trying to read a website and getting stuck on some unknown kanji or complex word that takes ages to look up. If you’re a student of Japanese and surfing the “J-web”, you’re definitely going to want to equip yourself with some Japanese browser extensions to make your life easier.
Most of the Japanese browser extensions I’m going to talk about all do a similar thing, but are available for different browsers. After you activate the extension, you can hover your mouse over any Japanese text on a page. If all goes well, you’ll see a tiny popup showing you the reading of the word in hiragana, the English definition, and other useful information.
Just imagine going to a Japanese registration page or checking out some Japanese news articles. It might take you a significant amount of time doing things the old fashioned way by looking up words one at a time. Using a Japanese browser extension will make time fly by much faster.
Some people oppose using these tools because they feel people won’t remember the words by looking up words quickly. I can understand their concern, but I say it’s totally worth it. Painstakingly copying and pasting words into a dictionary or manually looking up stuff in a paper dictionary is very time consuming in today’s world.
All right, onto the list:
If you’re a Mac user, you may be interested to know that there is an extension for Safari. It’s not as powerful as its cousins on Chrome and Firefox, but it will certainly come in handy when there is some unknown kanji or word you’re just not sure of in a Japanese article. This Japanese browser extension is honestly the weakest of the bunch, but I was super excited when I discovered this tool existed for Safari.
Safarikai will add a button to your toolbar in Safari.
To install Safarikai, you’ll need to head to the website, download the file and then drag it to your extension list. Once you’ve done this and cleared any warning prompts, you’ll see the icon in Safari’s main toolbar.
I have a feeling that there are many users familiar with this Japanese browser extension due to it being available for the very popular Google Chrome.
Rikaikun’s icon will appear in Chrome and look like the kanji for “理”
Click it once and wait a moment. When the icon turns to “on”, you should be able to hover your cursor over words.
Installation is probably the easiest out of the other options in this list. Just find Rikaikun in the Chrome store (it’s free) and click install. It’ll be ready to use immediately after installation is complete. You’ll see an icon with the “理” kanji. Click that and hover over any Japanese text on a page and voila!
This is the oldest and most famous tool for Japanese learners. It was developed for Firefox and has since spawned many alternative versions. Make no mistake, this is the mother of all extensions to help you with your Japanese. If you plan on getting far into your studies, you’ll most likely want this installed on your system.
Some of you may be thinking, “Why choose Rikaichan over some of the other choices on this list?” Well, let me tell you why: Rikaichan in Firefox is the most thorough when it comes to picking up Japanese text, whether it be on a page or within buttons on a site. Trying to use a similar extension in another browser will leave you with less accuracy in terms of the extension being able to read and interpret items on a page.
Rikaichan uses a happy face for its toolbar icon.
Activate it by clicking and it will turn into a happy face with a star at the bottom.
Rikaichan is loaded with advanced features not found in the other options for other browsers. You can use hot keys to quickly save words into a text file for future reference. Highly effective for someone wanting to stockpile new vocabulary!
Installing Rikaichan takes slightly longer than other extensions due to how open it is. First, you’ll need to download the base extension from the website. Next, you can choose from the ever growing list of dictionary files. This can be anything from Japanese to English, Japanese to German, etc. There is even a dictionary file of Japanese names which is extremely helpful. Trying to figure out the correct reading for some Japanese names is the bane of my existence.
Any other Japanese browser extensions?
Do you use any other helpful tools in your browser to help you with Japanese? I’m interested in learning what other people use and trying them out. Leave a comment and tell me what you use and why! I plan to keep this page updated with all known extensions that help people with Japanese.