How to Type Japanese Emoticons

If you’re looking for fun and weird look no further than Japan. Ever. They have both markets covered.  So it makes sense that their emoticons are even more fun and weird than ours. Get ready for Japanese emoticon fun.



\ (^_^) /


For those of you unfamiliar with what an emoticon is, it’s this  :)  or this  :(   If you don’t recognize these I’m sorry to inform you it’s possible you might be dead. Or a cat, or a jar of mayonnaise. Whatever you are, you’re not a living, walking, talking human.

Just to make things clear an emoticon uses keyboard characters to represent faces and things.  Emojis on the other hand are the more lifelike evolution of emoticons.  



:)  VS  🙂



So how did all of this start anyway? 

History of the Emoticon

Date first used: September 19th, 1982 at 11:44 a.m.

Inventor: Dr. Scott Fahlman

Dr. Scott Fahlman a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, first proposed his new invention – the smiley face emoticon – in an email to colleagues after some computer messages joking about elevators crashing were interpreted as truth. 

He decided that if this was how people were going to communicate online then they’d better come up with some way to identify certain sentences as jokes.  They needed what he called a “joke marker”.  He and his colleagues toyed with various keyboard characters to represent a joke. 

For days they looked down at their keyboards trying to determine WHICH keyboard character was the funniest.  Was it the “%,”  the “*,” or the  “#” ? They also considered the ampersand, (&) since someone decided it looked like a “jolly fat man in convulsions of laughter.”  I’m not sure about you, but I do not see a jolly laughing man.






If anything I see a baby that just fell on its bum.

The debate was ended when Fahlman, computer nerd extraordinaire, sent this message: 


19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman  :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use:


message quote from Narratively

You can see that over the past 30 years we’ve shortened :-) to :).  Because who has the time for a nose.

If you look at these things, :) :(  from a sideways perspective as he points out, you can see that they represent a smiling face or a frowning face.  Someone at some point became especially brilliant and invented the winking face  ;) That’s about as advanced as we’ve become in North America when it comes to emoticons. 



:)   :(   ;)



You’ve got your happy, your sad and your i’m telling you the truth, but don’t want you to be offended so I’ll put this ambiguous wink here to soften the blow.


The sideways emoticon is NOT the way it’s done in Japan.  Japanese text emoticons are ready to read straight on.  

No need to turn your phone, your head or your eyeballs sideways, which is especially important in Japan. In North America if you tip your head, become dizzy and stumble a bit, the scariest thing you’ll fall into is the Grand Canyon.  Do the same thing in Japan and you could fall  into a Japanese hipster dressed up as a Hello Kitty Storm Trooper. Eek.

A lot of their emoticons are based on the Japanese keyboard, but there are a few that work with a regular North American keyboard.  

Please enjoy the Japanese emoticon versions of angry,  happy, surprised, tired, excited, dead and …  John Lennon.  I know!  What???    _(*o*)_/

How to Type Japanese Emoticons





Angry/frustrated – left bracket, underscore, less than, right bracket 




Happy – left bracket, caret, underscore, caret, right bracket 



( -_-)

Mellow – left bracket, space, hyphen, underscore, hyphen, right bracket




John Lennon – left bracket, degree sign, capital J, degree sign, right bracket




Surprised – left bracket, capital O, underscore, capital O, right bracket




Tired – left bracket, equal, capital J, equal, right bracket




(^_^) /

Yay! – backslash, space, left bracket, caret, underscore, caret, right bracket, space, forward slash




Oh no/What? – backslash, underscore, left bracket, asterisk, small O, asterisk, right bracket, underscore, forward slash




Dead – left bracket, capital X, underscore, capital X, right bracket




Cat – left bracket, caret, period, underscore, period, caret, right bracket, squiggly



I know. I thought it was bizarre they had a John Lennon emoticon too. When exactly would you need to use that?

Wife:  Hey honey. Could you pick up some of those things (°J°) sang about?

Husband: Huh??

Wife: Strawberries. Could you pick up strawberries?


So as you’re texting, emailing, Instagramming, Facebooking or Tweeting at someone whip some of these out. 

It’s nice to use these more elaborate emoticons. It shows the recipient you think they’re important enough to use more than a generic emoticon, just not important enough to use actual words.  

Have a good weekend!

Karen's handwritten signature.

How to Type Japanese Emoticons


  1. sera says:

    I love that you may be the only person who can write an entire post on emoticons and not only do I feel happily entertained, but educated.
    Although it would have been awesome if you had “hand written” the emoticons on your meals chalkboard. \_(*o*)_/

  2. Natika33 says:

    In Japanese, emoticon is emoji. Almost the same!

    • Karen says:

      Natika – Actually … emoticons are :) and emojis are the actual happy faces. Although it may be different in Japan. ~ karen!

      • Natika33 says:

        Are English people saying “emoji” now?!? I had no idea. They most definitely don’t use “emoticon” in Japan. Both the actual cartoon character or a face typed out using regular characters is called an emoji in Japan.

  3. Natika33 says:

    They were just talking about the John Lennon one on a drama I was watching the other day! What a coincidence!

    It actually means surprised in the Tohoko region of Japan (yes, THAT area). Most Japanese say “Eh!” when surprised (Yes, the same as Canadians), but they add a “j” to it in the Tohoku region, so it sounds just like the letter “j”, but more staccato. Said once, it means “a bit surprised”, twice means, “rather surprised” and thrice means “Holy Purple Chickens Batman!”

    Also, don’t forget the most important one in Japan, the bowing person – m(_ _)m or m(._.)m

    There’s also the kiss (^3^)

    The super excited with pompoms *\(^-^)/*

    The sad (;_;) and the other sad (T_T)

    The angry #( `0′) and the WTF \( `0′)/

    The sheepish (‘~’)

    The worried `(‘_’)`

    A bear (‘(I)’)

    The pleased (^-^)

    And many many more… (^-^)

  4. Jeanne says:

    OIC!! (^._.^)~

    Got it! Thx.

  5. Jeanne says:

    These are so cute!!!

    How do you do the little dots (eyes) that’s in the cat?

  6. Too funny! These are great. I’ll be using these to weird out my friends with.

  7. Kristin says:

    Chicken emoticon:

    ( :>

    Or, if you must have it untilted:
    . .

    But misses the top of the head.

  8. AnnW says:

    PS Because of you, I am putting in a garden and starting plants from seeds.!! See what kind of power you have? Ann

  9. AnnW says:

    You are So Much Fun! Getting unto it now!

  10. Shauna says:

    I just all the many things I learn on your blog. This is definitely a Happy Friday post;) :) \(^_^)/

  11. Barbie says:

    The John Lennon one just inspires me to write an e-mail to my hubs and use it like 14 times in my sentence! Just to get a laugh outa him! LOL

  12. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Very cute! I am scared about next week though!!

  13. Selva Iris says:

    JA! The REAL cat emoticon is this: =^.^=

    Thank you for the fun (✿◠‿◠)♥

  14. Feral Turtle says:

    Haha! Had to text some of these to hubby this morning!

  15. Mary Werner says:

    How would you do a Fats Domino? Maybe color it blue? It is sort of like playing sharades with your fingers.

  16. Jayne says:

    I love the John Lennon ^..^ ~

  17. Reg says:

    \ (^_^) / fun.

  18. qtpuh2tme says:

    I’m kinda partial to the sideways ones, myself. ~y< My cat, Tylli.

  19. Nancy says:

    We have some Japanese dollar and a half stores around here. Most of the stuff makes me giddy with joy! i love it all and most of it is useless, for me anyway. I don’t think this has anything to do with emoticons.

  20. Chris says:

    Next week?! _(*o*)_/
    Chris ‘_’

  21. Auntiepatch says:

    I just sign mine =^..^=

  22. Toronto Boy says:

    ≤( (•v•) )≥ <—- Mother Hen …

    ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ <—- And her baby chicks …
    ((((()))))) <—- Sitting in the nest!

  23. Centi says:

    You can also type a cat with whiskers:

    (which is nearly as useful as John Lennon)

  24. gloria says:

    Haha, love the pun, “…you could become disoriented.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *