I have a PDF book to be translated in Japanese, and what wondering which fonts to use. My main languages are French and English and I have no experience with asian fonts. I would not be able to say if a font is OK for reading a Japanese book or not.

For example, in English or French books (Latin-alphabet typography), the font types normally used are serif font (Times Roman, Caslon, Bodoni and Garamond). Other font types would not be appropriate.

Is there such thing as Serif font or Roman fonts in Japanese?

Do you have any suggestions for a common Japanese Roman font?

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    I'd re-elaborate this question, because it's a bit vague at the moment, and you are not saying if you've tried anything. I would be interested in reading something like: "neutral japanese fonts", fonts that are safe to use if you are designing something for that language and you have no idea about what it should look like.
    – Yisela
    Dec 20, 2011 at 10:27
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    I won't answer it, because yes, there is probably a times or garamond of japanese etc., but the real question ought to be: do you, without any experience in that language have any business setting type in a language and alphabet you do not know? The results will be hilarious at best, offensive at worst. There is no "win."
    – horatio
    Dec 20, 2011 at 15:19
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    so how do you suggest I find which font to use? I just need someone who will share his expertise in the domain. Dec 20, 2011 at 18:29
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    You need to have a Japanese designer do this for you. There are three Japanese "alphabets," they run left to right, right to left and up to down. Here is a shot of the 2300 most commonly used Kanji characters, which is not exhaustive ( upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d9/… ), and ask yourself: is this graphic Japanese Jensen or Japanese Comic Sans?
    – horatio
    Dec 20, 2011 at 19:02
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    P.s. I don't mean to be harsh, but you probably don't want to look foolish. I have basically told you ALL I KNOW about the subject. There is a Japanese language Stackexchange and you probably already have access to Japanese translators. They are probably your best resources, provided you trust their aesthetic judgement (I trust my father implicitly in a lot of things, but not about aesthetics!)
    – horatio
    Dec 20, 2011 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


Wow...it looks like you're not getting a whole lot of help here.

I'm a graphic designer operating a design company here in Japan.

To get you to where you're trying to be, I recommend using any "Mincho" typeface. That's the serifed variant in Japanese typography. If you have some Japanese fonts installed on your computer, they should have the name "Mincho" in the title of the font. If the font name is Japanese, look for these characters: 明朝 or みんちょう (hopefully those characters render correctly on this forum).

If you need help choosing a font and don't know what all the weird names mean, I wrote a blog specifically to enable people like you to get where you need. Here's the blog: http://www.humblebunny.com/understanding-japanese-typography/

Hopefully this'll help you do what you need to do. I do recommend you have a native speaker or experienced designer help you with this if possible. If your eye is good enough, you could always try out a few different typefaces in paragraph form and print them out. You'll never get that gray tone that you're looking for because of the nature of the characters but it'll help you with line-spacing and choosing a font with decent kerning. Factory-installed typefaces should be ok. Another bonus having an experienced designer is they can tell you how to separate, punctuate and format the font in the correct style. With no Japanese experience, that would be nearly impossible, unfortunately.

P.S. If the book you're translating is a novel, that's generally written vertically from right to left. Best of luck!

  • thank you, Hiragino Mincho and Hiragino Kaku are the one I finally used, following the recommendations of my translator. May 17, 2012 at 17:28

Seems like we don't have any Japanese users active here, which is a shame because that's a great question any typographer might need to answer. I've had Chinese to typeset (only a character or two at a time, in an English translation of "The Art of War"), not yet any substantial quantity of text. I would assume you'll receive the text from the translator in some form of word processing file, for placing into a layout.

You will be able to get an answer here, as there are Asian users and plenty of type-savvy folks who do work in Chinese and Japanese from time to time (quite common in design work in Australia and New Zealand).

If you're working with InDesign, you will probably need the World Tools plug-in from InTools.

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