GameBoy Book Reader -
Japanese Support

[Last Modified: 21 June 2002]


This is the start of the Japanese classic 'I am a cat'. Here is the text. On the left in 12 pixel high characters, and on the right in 16. My feeling is that it looks a bit rough. Any comments from a Japanese?

Version V3.5 (not yet released) now incorporates a line filling logic which prevents certain characters (e.g. opening brackets) from ending lines, and certain other characters (eg question marks) from beginning lines.

(By the way you can get an English Translation here.)


Adding Japanese Support

This page is intended to provide information on the status of adding Japanese support to GameBoy Book Reader.

I've made a start on this. The tasks I have to perform are:

As you can see from the picture above I have made some progress. But there is still some way to go.

Bear in mind the following. I am constrained by the terms of the project to find the text file format in use with Windows in Japan and provide support for this. This approach has worked well in most other languages, but there seem to be quite a number of different text file formats. There seems no doubt that text formatted according to Codepage 932 should work with Windows and I am supporting this.

But if other text file formats are more common I will need to provide import functions for them. I have been told, for example, that unicode is almost universally used for text files. Please help if you are Japanese and can tell me more about this.


Character Sets and Encoding Methods

The elements of the Japanese language which need representing in a character set are:

  • Hiragana (83 characters used to write the grammatical parts of words and sentences, and to write Japanese words which don't have a Kanji)
  • Katakana (86 characters used for writing non-Japanese words, and for advertising)
  • Kanji (Thousands of chinese ideographs; each character conveys a meaning, rather than a sound)

In addition CJK character sets tend to include other potentially useful things like:

  • Latin alphabet
  • Greek alphabet
  • Cyrillic alphabet
  • Special symbols
  • Line drawing elements

You will have to pardon me if I appear to mix up character sets and encoding here. It is hard to get clear information of this subject without spending money.

In the following JIS means Japanese industrial standard, which are standards published by the Japanese Standards Association (JSA)

I have found references to the following character set standards:

JIS X 201 - 1976
This is more or less ASCII (128 chars) plus 63 half-width katakana characters (a minimum set a characters for expressing Japanese). Clearly intended as a single 8-bit byte encoded set.

JIS X 208 - 1990
Basic Japanese set of 6,879 characters including 6,355 kanji, plus various other useful elements.

JIS X 212 - 1990
Supplemental Japanese set of 6,067 characters including 5,801 kanji, plus various other useful elements. Most or all are additional to JIS X 208 - 1990. May not be in very common use?

JIS X 213 - ????
Extension to JIS X 208 - 1990. Don't know if it ever emerged. If anyone can tell me, I'd be grateful.

JIS X 221 - 1995
Japanese version of Unicode

EUC Encoding
This is used on Unix systems. Briefly...

21 - 7E ASCII
A1A1 - FEFE JIS X 208
8EA1 - 8EDF Half-width Katakana
8FA1 - 8FFE JIS X 212-1990

Codepage 932
This is how I believe Windows expects to see a text file encoded. This is also called Shift-JIS. A brief summary follows:

Single Byte Characters 00 - 7F As ASCII but with Yen symbol at 5C,
Single Byte Characters A1 - DF Halfwidth Katakana
Double Byte Characters 8140 - 9FFC Loads of other stuff
Double Byte Characters

E040 - FBFC,

FC40 - FC4B

Loads of other stuff

Notice how single byte and double byte characters are still distinguishable by the first byte.

Adding Characters To Font

I have found something, which appears to be Freeware, containing a set of suitable Japanese glyphs at 12 pixel high. I have added these to the Gameboy Reader font file font_12.gbf and you can see the result in the screenshot above. Before I finalise on this set of glyphs I would like some feedback from a Japanese as to whether It looks OK or whether I have made a gross error.

Scroll Bar Text

Luc has provided a scroll bar text translation - thanks Luc!

Classic Text

I have found a suitable text which is shown above displayed on the Gameboy. It is called something like 'I am a Cat'.

Other Topics

What's all this 'Half-width / Full-width' stuff?
As I started with a variable width font it wasn't quite as obvious to me. But I suppose the point is that in the days when computer screens were 80 characters across, and they had to generate chinese ideographs, they needed to take up two normal character positions (to get the detail needed). This must be a full-width character and there must have been 40 positions for them. So if some of the characters used are an eightieth of a screen wide, because you can fit more Katakana in that way, you probably would call them half-width characters. Looking at Japanese texts it would seem that Japanese still expect all characters to be the same width, so that the text appears in columns as well as rows.


Book Recommendations and Links

Address for comments, etc: