Kaomoji — Into the World of Japanese Emoticons (2024)

Today, we will learn when and how to use Kaomoji emoticons like native Japanese speakers.

Kaomoji — Into the World of Japanese Emoticons (1)

Knowing Japanese emoticons is an essential knowledge not only for manga and anime fans but also for Japanese language learners. You will shortly be able to chat with your Japanese friends using cute emoticons.

Let’s get started!

Contents

  • 1 What is Kaomoji?
  • 2 Popular Japanese Kaomoji
  • 3 Japanese Kaomoji vs. Western Emoticons
    • 3.1 Examples of Japanese Kaomoji
    • 3.2 Examples of Western emoticons
  • 4 Digital Communication in Japanese
    • 4.1 Japanese emoji and their meanings
    • 4.2 Typical Japanese ASCII Art
  • 5 Writing Japanese Kaomoji Emoticons
  • 6 Frequently Used Letters and Symbols
  • 7 How to Type Japanese Kaomoji and Japanese Emoji
    • 7.1 Grammatical Marks and Punctuation
    • 7.2 Typing Kaomoji on Your PC Keyboard
    • 7.3 Typing Kaomoji on Your Smartphone
  • 8 Letters and Symbols in Japanese Emoticons
  • 9 List of Popular Emoticons
  • 10 Decoding Japanese Emoticons/Emoji/ASCII arts
  • 11 Gender and Age Behind Japanese Kaomoji and Emoji
  • 12 Challenges with Kaomoji and Emoji
  • 13 Wrap Up

What is Kaomoji?

Japanese emotion icons, a.k.a “emoticons,” are called かおもじ (Kao Moji | 顔文字), and it literally means “face letter” or “face character” in the Japanese language.

  • かおもじ (Kaomoji | 顔文字 | Japanese emoticon)
  • かお (Kao | 顔 | face, feature)
  • もじ (Moji | 文字 | letter, character)

Just like Western emoticons, Japanese emoticons express words and emotions.

Besides, it can also express and describe things, facial expressions, complex actions, and even whole stories and situations.

Japanese Kaomoji is full of playful creations, and people prefer to use catchy variations or cute designs.

Popular Japanese Kaomoji

Here are some well-known kaomojis in Japan. Notice how they like to use emoticons that look cute.

  • (泣)→ Brackets, なく (naku | 泣く | Kanji for “cry”)
  • (笑)→ Brackets, わらう (warau | 笑う | Kanji for “smile”)
  • ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ → bear
  • (^ω^) → happy, excited, smile
  • (♥д♥) → like, love, cute
  • (^-^*)/ →hello, hey
  • Σ(°Д°;) → surprised

Japanese Kaomoji vs. Western Emoticons

Did you know there is a big difference between Japanese kaomoji and Western emoticons?

Well, you may have already noticed the Japanese kaomoji examples we showed you above. Japanese people write most emoticons horizontally using upright letters, while Westerners originally write vertically with sideways letters.

Consequently, people can create Kaomoji more freely using sufficient space and complex letter combinations.

Let’s check the typical emoticons for smiley, laughing, and happy faces in each culture.

Examples of Japanese Kaomoji

Here are some Japanese emoticons that show different types of emotions.

  • (*^-^)
  • ٩(ˊᗜˋ*)و
  • (◍•ᴗ•◍)
  • (´。✪ω✪。`)
  • (〃艸〃)

Examples of Western emoticons

We listed the common ones below. Do you also use these often? Let us know in the comments below.

  • 🙂
  • 😉
  • :-))
  • 😀
  • :p
  • XD or xD

Digital Communication in Japanese

Emoticons came to light as a new digital communication in the 1980s in Japan. Since then, many people have been using them in e-mails, instant messaging apps, and even sometimes in handwritten letters.

Together with Japanese kaomoji, people use Japanese emojis, ASCII art, and messaging app stickers on the internet. Here’s what they mean:

  • かおもじ (Kaomoji | 顔文字 | Emoticon)
  • えもじ (Emoji | 絵文字 | Pictogram)
  • アスキーアート (Asukiiaato | ASCII art, Shift JIS art)
  • ねたがぞう or おもしろがぞう (Netagazou or Omoshirogazou | ネタ画像 or 面白画像 | Image for collages, parodies, and humorous jokes)

Japanese emoji and their meanings

You might wonder what these marks mean if you’re from a different culture. Though, there is no Japanese who can’t understand these emojis. They often appear on web pages, maps, and manga.

  • 💧 → Symbol for あせ (ase | 汗 | sweat) or なみだ (namida | 涙 | tear)
  • 💢 → Symbol for いかり (ikari | 怒り | anger)
  • ⛩️ → Symbol for とりい (torii | 鳥居 | Shintou shrine’s entrance gate)
  • ♨️ → Symbol for おんせん (onsen | 温泉 | hot springs)
  • 〒 → Symbol for ゆうびんばんごう (yuubin bangou | 郵便番号 | postal mark)

Typical Japanese ASCII Art

The drawing of ASCII art is unique and always fun to look at. Some famous Japanese ASCII art is often represented using anime and manga characters and cute animals.

┳┻|_∧     ∧_|┻┳

┻┳|・ω・)   (•ω•|┳┻

┳┻|⊂ノ     \つ|┻┳

┻┳|∪      し|┳┻

Writing Japanese Kaomoji Emoticons

Japanese language has three writing systems, ひらがな (hiragana | 平仮名), カタカナ (katakana | かたかな、片仮名), and かんじ (Kanji | 漢字 | Chinese Characters).

Yet, Japanese emoticons don’t always use many of these Japanese characters and symbols. It consists of letters from around the world and grammar punctuations from diverse languages.

Frequently Used Letters and Symbols

You’ll be surprised how these symbols can be found on your normal keyboard with some tweaking on your language keyboard). But nowadays, there are apps for this- like a Japanese keyboard with built-in kaomoji. You can also search them on websites with an easy copy-paste feature.

Smile Expression Example

  • (・∀・) → brackets, Japanese punctuation marks, and a Mathematical notation
  • ฅ^•ω•^ฅ → Thai characters, Mathematical mark, typographical symbol, and Greek alphabet

Surprised Expression Example

  • (°Д°) → brackets, typographical symbol, and Cyrillic script
  • ( ゚皿゚) → brackets, はんだくてん (Handakuten | 半濁点 | Japanese diacritic symbol, ゜), and さら (Sara | 皿 | Japanese Kanji means “dish”)

How to Type Japanese Kaomoji and Japanese Emoji

To type Japanese Kaomoji emoticons, let’s check the basics of Japanese language typing.

Japanese use the system called にほんごにゅうりょく (Nihongo Nyuuryoku | 日本語入力 | Japanese Input) and QWERTY-based keyboard by spelling words out phonetically.

ひらがな (hiragana) and かんじ (kanji) have only full-width characters, while カタカナ (katakana) has both half-width and full-width characters in Japanese typing. They are called:

  • はんかく (Hankaku | 半角 | half-width characters or single-byte characters) → アイウエオ
  • ぜんかく (Zenkaku | 全角 | full-width characters or double-byte characters) → アイウエオ

Grammatical Marks and Punctuation

These are usually used to make the character/emoji’s “face.”

  • はんだくてん (Handakuten | 半濁点 | Semi-voiced consonant mark) → ゜
  • だくてん (Dakuten | 濁点 | Voiced consonant mark) → ゛
  • とうてん (Touten | 読点 | Comma) → 、
  • くてん (Kuten | 句点 | Full stop) → 。
  • かっこ (kakko | Brackets) → (), (), 「」

Typing Kaomoji on Your PC Keyboard

For instance, if you are using Microsoft IME on Windows 10, type a word in かな (Kana | 仮名) mode and press the space bar before pressing the enter key.

Immediately, a list pops up with the following options.

Typing Kaomoji on Your Smartphone

By enabling the かな (Kana | 仮名) keyboard, you can start using Kaomoji on your smartphone. The basic instructions are the same with the PC keyboard, but you have more options to install Kaomoji keyboards and apps.

Input with the Keyword “わーい” (Waai | yeah, hurray in English)

  • 😃
  • (*^▽^*)
  • (/・ω・)/
  • (^O^)
  • °˖☆◝(⁰▿⁰)◜☆˖°

Input with the Keyword “ほし” (Hoshi | star, stars in English)

  • 🌟
  • ☆彡
  • •*¨*•.¸¸☆

Letters and Symbols in Japanese Emoticons

Japanese emoticons emphasize depicting the eyes, mouth, cheeks, and arms to express facial expressions and emotions.

Facial Contour

  • ()
  • ()

Eye

  • @@
  • > <
  • ・・
  • ••
  • ∩∩
  • ಠಠ
  • ◕◕
  • ◔◔

Mouth

  • ω
  • д
  • Д
  • x

Nose and Mouth

  • x
  • (ェ)
  • θ

Cheek

  • *

Hand or Arm

  • v
  • *

Anger

  • ٩
  • ۶
  • #

List of Popular Emoticons

Here, we introduce you to some well-known Japanese Kaomoji to express your feelings or situations. Emoticons change with the trend, but let’s check it out in different categories below.

You will certainly find ones to match your mood to message your friends.

Happy and Excited

  • (◍′◡‵◍)
  • (˶ᐢωᐢ˶)
  • ( ˶’ᵕ’˶)੭”‬
  • (♡´꒳`♡)
  • ・:*:・(●´Д`●)・:*:・
  • ((ヾ(๑ゝω・ิ)ノ☆゚
  • (❀◕ω◕)ノ゙
  • (ヽ ω ・)

Cute and Kawaii

  • ˙˚ʚ₍ ᐢ. ̫ .ᐢ ₎ɞ˚˙
  • (((*♥д♥*)))
  • .:*(。+♡^ω^♡+。)*:.
  • Σ(○´д`○)
  • (๑•ᴗ•๑)
  • カワ(・∀・)イイ!!

Like and Love

  • (,,>ω<,,)
  • ( ¯ 0¯) ( ¯ 罒¯)
  • ٩(*´˘`*)۶♡
  • L(*OεV*)E
  • ᯒᯎ″❤︎ˊᵕˋ )( ˊᵕˋᯒᯎ″❤︎

Kiss

  • (。•з•)♡(•ε•。)
  • (๑˙❥˙๑)
  • (๑ˇ3ˇ๑)
  • (♡ơ ₃ơ)
  • ♡⌒ヽ(・ε<〃)

Hug

  • ♡(๑´>᎑<)>᎑<`๑)
  • (*>(•ω•。`)ぎゅぅ~ッ♥.。º*
  • (っ´×`(´ω`*)♡
  • (*ˊᵕˋ)ˊᵕˋ*)♡
  • (´,,•ᆺ(•ᆺ•,,`)

Dancing and Singing

  • ♬~٩( ˊoˋ* )و
  • ₍₍ ᕕ( •̀ㅂ•́)ᕗ⁾⁾
  • (┓^ω^)┛))
  • (ง ื▿ ื)ว
  • ≡ʅ( ՞ਊ՞)ʃ

Sad and Crying

  • (´;Д;`)
  • ( ᵒ̴̶̷᷄꒳ᵒ̴̶̷᷅ )
  • (´·ω·`)
  • ʕ;ᴥ;ʔ
  • ๐·°(৹˃ᗝ˂৹)°·๐

Surprised and Moved

  • ( °꒫° )
  • ( ゚д゚ )
  • Σ(๑ °꒳° ๑)
  • (❤︎Ꙭ)
  • ٩(°̀ᗝ°́)و!

Blushed and Embarrassed

  • ⁄(⁄ ⁄•⁄ω⁄•⁄ ⁄)⁄
  • (,,´•ᴥ•`,,)
  • (ฅωฅ`)
  • (〃ノдノ)
  • ( ⸝⸝•ᴗ•⸝⸝ )

Angry and Irritated

  • (ꐦ°᷄д°᷅)
  • ╰(◣﹏◢)╯
  • ( º言º)
  • \\٩(๑`^´๑)۶////
  • ꒰ ◍•̀ω•́◍꒱

Sleepy

  • ( ¯꒳¯ )ᐝ
  • ꒰ঌ(っ˘꒳˘c)໒꒱
  • (๑- -๑)…zZZ
  • ꒰ღ˘◡˘ற꒱✯*・
  • Zz◟(๑ᵕ⌓ᵕ̤)◞。o○

Thank You

  • •͙‧⁺o(⁎˃ᴗ˂⁎)o⁺‧•͙‧⁺
  • (❁´ω`❁)
  • ヽ(`・ω・´)ノ
  • (,,>᎑<,,)
  • (人•ᴗ•♡)

Good Morning and Hello

  • ٩(*ˊ︶`*)۶
  • (◍˃ᗜ˂◍)
  • (๑ơ ₃ ơ)ﻌﻌﻌ
  • ฅ۶•ﻌ•♡
  • (๑•ㅁ•๑)

Good Night

  • (*,,ᵕᆺᵕ,,)
  • ( ᵕᴗᵕ )*・☪︎
  • (*˘ ˘*)
  • (¦3[▓▓]
  • ʕ´-ᴥก̀ʔ

Good Bye

  • ( ゚д゚)ノシ
  • ヾ(‘ω’⊂ )))Σ≡
  • ・△・)ノ
  • ( 。。•ᴗ• )੭⁾⁾
  • =͟͟͞͞ ( ꒪౪꒪)ฅ✧

OK

  • (๑•̀o•́๑)۶
  • (ง ˙᷅ᵌ˙)ง
  • (⊃°̀ω°́)╭☞
  • d꒰•◡•〟꒱‪ィィネ
  • (๑•ㅂ•) ok❢

Phrases

  • (•̀ㅁ•́ฅ)ハイ!! → わかりました (Wakarimash*ta | I understood)
  • (⁎•ᴗ•⁎)و → がんばれ (Ganbare | 頑張れ | You can do it)
  • ʕ๑•﹃•๑ʔ → おなかすいた (Onaka suita | お腹空いた | I’m hungry)
  • (๑╹ڡ╹๑) → おいしい (Oishii | 美味しい | It’s tasty)
  • φ_(*゚▽゚*)_ψ → いただきます (Itadakimasu | Let’s eat)
  • ( ̄3 ̄)=3 → ごちそうさま (Gochisousama | Thank you for the meal)
  • (δ-δ*) → ひさしぶり (Hisashiburi | 久しぶり | Long time no see)
  • _(  ´⚰︎` ) → つかれた (Tsukareta | 疲れた | I’m tired)
  • (ฅ ˘ω˘ ฅ)Zzz → ねる (Neru | 寝る | I’m going to bed)

Japanese Onomatopoeia and Sound Effects

  • ( ◍′༥‵*◍) → もぐもぐ (mogu mogu | munch munch)
  • (゚ロ゚;))((;゚ロ゚) → オロオロ (oro oro | frazzled, nervous)
  • (○’Д’○) → あわわ (awawa | nervous)
  • (•́⍛•̀; ≡ •́⍛•̀;) → オドオド (odo odo | timid, nervous)
  • · (`-д-;)ゞ → アセアセ (ase ase | sweating)
  • ((( ;゚Д゚))) → ガクブル (gaku buru | trembling in shock)
  • ( ´•ᴗ•ก) → ポリポリ (pori pori | scratching)
  • ʕ ㅎ_ㅎʔ → オイオイ (oi oi | come on)
  • (๑´ω`ノノ゙→ パチパチ (pachi pachi | clap-clap)
  • (♡°ω°♡) →ドキドキ (doki doki | pounding, throbbing)
  • (。-ω-。) →しーん (shiin | silence)
  • (|||O⌓O;) →ガーン (gaan | bummer)
  • “(● ˃̶͈̀ロ˂̶͈́)੭ु⁾⁾ →ヒューヒュー (hyuu hyuu | hurray, whoo, woo hoo)
  • (´ฅ•∀•)σ→ツンツン (tsun tsun | to poke)
  • (ノω≤。) → ぴえん (pien | crying)

Animals

  • ₍ᐢ.ˬ.ᐢ₎ → うさぎ (usagi | 兎 | rabbit)
  • (U・ᴥ・U) → いぬ (inu | 犬 | dog )
  • (=ච ﻌ ච=) → ねこ (neko | 猫 | cat)
  • ˙Ꙫ˙ → ぶた (buta | 豚 | pig)
  • ꒰⌯͒•ɷ•⌯͒꒱ → ライオン (raion | lion)
  • ( •㉦• ) → くま (kuma | 熊 | )
  • ʕ⓿ᴥ⓿ʔ → パンダ (panda | panda)
  • ε( ε•o•)э。゜→ さかな (sakana | 魚 | fish)

Decoding Japanese Emoticons/Emoji/ASCII arts

Some Japanese Kaomoji and Emoij are difficult to understand for foreigners. Native speakers familiar with internet slang won’t have a problem getting the meaning though.

Here are some of them below.

  • w or www → わらい (Warai | 笑い | laugh, funny)
  • 草 or 草生える → くさ or くさはえる (Kusa or Kusahaeru | funny, hilarious)
  • m(_ _)m → ごめん (Gomen | I’m sorry)
  • _| ̄|○ or orz→ an ASCII art for discouragement to express the posture of どげざ (Dogeza | 土下座 | Japanese traditional kneeling bow)
  • DQN → ドキュン (Dokyun | a person with the bad manner or who lacks intelligence)
  • wktk → ワクワクテカテカ (Wakuwaku tekateka | a feeling of excitement when expecting something)
  • kwsk → クワシク (Kuwashiku | 詳しく | please tell me more about it)
  • ktkr → キタコレ (Kitakore | be in a state of excitement)
  • gkbr → ガクブル (Gakuburu | trembling with fear)

Gender and Age Behind Japanese Kaomoji and Emoji

The actual uses and preferences of Japanese Kaomoji, Emoji, and ASCII arts vary by gender and age in Japan as well.

One research found that about 55% of Japanese women prefer emojis and stickers over Kaomoji, while 25% still prefer Kaomoji. The lowest 20% of women use neither of them. Among men, 39% said they don’t use either, followed by 35% preferring Emoji and 26% liking Kaomoji.

Young generations consider the simple Kaomoji below a little old-fashioned, but people in their 30s or older still use them regularly.

  • (^_^)
  • (>_<)
  • (´・ω・`)

Challenges with Kaomoji and Emoji

Many Japanese people may not be able to recognize Western emoticons written sideways, even if their English is at a conversational level.

On top of that, some emoticon-related phrases and Western emoticons aren’t widely recognized. So, please be aware of it when you use them to talk to a Japanese person in a messaging app or internet forum.

You can translate these English phrases into Katakana form, but Japanese people probably won’t be able to understand.

  • レニーフェイス (Lenni feisu | lenny face)
  • シュラッギー (Shuraggii | shruggie)
  • エモーティコン (Emootikon | emoticon)

On the other hand, there was a bit of a time lag with Western countries. The following two words became famous in Japan as a symbol of anti-war and peace in the 1970s.

  • スマイリー (Sumairii | Smiley)
  • スマイリー (Sumairii feisu | Smiley face)
  • ピースマーク (Piisu maaku | Peace symbol)

Examples of English Emoticons

  • lol
  • xoxo
  • 🙂
  • 😉
  • 😛
  • 😀
  • <3
  • </3
  • uWu or UwU
  • OwO or owo
  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Wrap Up

In conclusion, incorporating Japanese Kaomojis into your conversations can bring a new level of liveliness and expressiveness and avoid awkward writing situations. These emoticons are widely used in day-to-day interactions, adding a touch of playfulness and emotion to your messages.

And the best part? With websites offering a vast collection of these emoticons ready to be copied and pasted, it has never been easier to enhance your communication. So, why not give it a try?

How will you use kaomojis to add a spark to your next conversation? Let us know in the comments!

がんばってください (ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

Kaomoji — Into the World of Japanese Emoticons (2024)
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