Making Japanese Websites more Readable

Note: You can also increase text size in your browser without enlarging everything else on the page.

Comes a time when you will want to be perusing Japanese websites. It is excellent practice, of course. And you may well prefer the atmosphere of Japanese sites to the tone of the Western “internet” where even the most kawaii-oriented often seem to feel obliged to drop in some coarseness and cynicism just to show they are still part of the culture that brought us – whatever it did bring us (I am afraid my knowledge of Western pop-culture could be written on the back of a postage stamp with a stick of chalk. And I aim to keep it that way).

Well as you probably know, Japanese sites seem to have a liking for small pictures and small print. You can blow up the whole page with by using cmd-+ (ctrl-+ on Windows) several times, but that gives you a very clunky-looking page.

The trouble with not doing that is that you may well not be able to recognize the kanji at microscopic size – especially the more complex ones. When we are super-familiar with a language it is amazing how little information we need to interpret it. I can read English at much smaller sizes and with far less light than I can read French. That is because we recognize the general shapes of the words. We very rarely read all the letters of a word (even if we think we do). In a foreign language we need to see the whole word clearly. With a language like Japanese, with a different “alphabet” and those kanji, we need even more visual information. Japanese people can recognize kanji when they are blurred, when the individual strokes are scarcely distinguishable, when they are in poor handwriting or weird fonts. Or when they are tiny. We may need a little more help.

The best answer to this is a digital magnifier. I use one for the Mac called Zoom It ($2.99 on the App Store). There will be similar ones for Windows.

magnify-Japanese-text

You can change the size of the loupe to anything you want and also change the shape from round to a horizontal rectangle (good for reading a lot of text). You can also adjust the zoom from just a little to huge and anything in between.

It is a simple device, but when it comes to reading that tiny print the Japanese are so fond of, it is the best 300 yen I ever spent!

Note: You can also increase text size in your browser without enlarging everything else on the page.

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