Kaomoji (顔文字): Japanese Emoticons

Many people like Japanese anime, and probably everybody has heard about it. But what about kaomoji? For an average person, who is not well versed in  Oriental culture, this term means nothing. So, what is kaomoji? This word means a special pictorial representation of a person’s feelings, mood, or reaction using characters similarly to an emoticon. The difference lies in the fact that everybody can create a Japanese emoticon using kanji characters, punctuation marks, and other symbols.

Kaomoji are used for expressing emotion when communicating online. As you can see, kaomoji are basically simplified emoticons which can be created even using a keypad cell phone. The term kaomoji is derived from the combination of two words: “kao” meaning “face” (顔), and “moji” meaning “character” (文字).

If you have ever been interested in the Japanese way of life or culture of this country, then it’s no news to you that the Japanese are very emotional and creative people. They like to use various emoticons during online communication like nobody else. The residents of the Land of the Rising Sun pay particular attention to the eyes. They believe that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. This fact explains why the eyes are the main focus when creating Oriental emoticons. While western emoticons mostly focus on the mouth. Another key difference is the orientation of emoticons. Unlike American emoticons, kaomoji are right away horizontal and you don’t need to flip them by 90° in your head.

Japanese is the language that uses characters, and therefore every resident of this Eastern country is good at drawing. Let’s remember anime again. Its authors manage to convey the emotional state of a particular character very accurately and subtly. For this, all an artist has to do is out a couple of strokes.

And what do we have today? Technology is developing by leaps and bounds, but modern people have less and less time for face-to-face communication. People find ways to escape in all kinds of messengers and social networks. In many cities, mobile broadband can be quicker than fixed-line broadband. Mobile network operators offer unlimited messaging and data plans, which encourages the subscribers to switch to digital communication. Communication without emotional connotations usually leads to all sorts of misunderstanding. The solution is quite obvious – the use of emoticons, in this case, kaomoji.

In contrast to the traditional emoticons, kaomoji offer a great variety. According to some online sources, there are just 10,000 varieties of Japanese kaomoji. However, in reality there are many more of them! Believe it or not, there are only two things that explain the diversity of these emotional symbols:

  1. Kaomoji can express not only a certain emotion but also more complex situations by combining several simple symbols. Sometimes, an entire story can be created using kaomoji.
  2. Latin and Cyrillic script use a single-byte character set, whereas the Japanese characters require a double-byte character set at best which has a wider coverage of symbols.

Kaomoji have several categories. The determining factor as to which category a given set of characters belongs to is the emotional direction conveyed by the combination of symbols. In Japanese emoticons, you can often see the use of whole characters intended to make a subtle point.

On our site, you can explore these categories, as well as find an interesting selection of Japanese emoticons. All our kaomoji have been collected from various Japanese resources. Keep in mind that it is impossible to collect all existing kaomoji,  that is why we have gathered only the most interesting and vivid variants for you. You can use these combinations of symbols to demonstrate your mood and emotions not only when texting but also as social network statuses. Also, the users can independently combine their favorite variations, thereby creating custom kaomoji. Remember that you should have Japanese fonts installed on your device in order for Japanese emoticons to display correctly. If the Japanese emoticons are displayed incorrectly, you should install East Asian fonts.

The main kaomoji categories include: