We have in Japan a specific expression of digits, characters and symbols.

For two lines in the above screenshot, the upper line shows ordinary digits from 1 to 9. In the lower line, though, each digit looks bigger(fatter), isn’t it?

It is the expression called “two-byte character.” It is provided in order to fit digits to japanese kana and kanji, all of which use two bytes, namely, two spaces when printed.

This is how to input two-byte digits.
Each OS localized for Japan has an application to switch the input between ASCII/Japanese mode. The switching is done by a specific keyboard shortcut, in the case of Mac for example, command + ctrl.

There is an indicator of input state at the left-upper corner of the desktop.

For ASCII mode:

When the mode is switched by pressing the shortcut:

When you press a digit key in Japanese mode, you can input it in two-byte form.

There are also two-byte alphabets:

It is yet somewhat complicated to input them.
Let’s write in the two-byte A. Press the A key in Japanese mode. Then a hiragana あ appears. The underline means you can convert this character by pressing the space key.

Then it will be convert to, usually, some Kanji, with sound of あ, still to convert:

Press space once again, so you will get a list.

You might scroll the list up/down, so you can find both ASCII A and two-byte A. It might be difficult to distinguish them. For me, too.

One thing to take care of. When you want an upper-case A, you must press shift+A even in Japanese mode, or you only find lower-case a’s in the list:

Let’s see how we use these two-bytes characters in Japanese sentences.
The below is a Japanese expression of “More than 60…”, no, sorry, “50%! Really?”
If you write 50%, !, ?, in ASCII mode, these chars might seem too thin compared to hiragana’s and kanji’s.

So they say you should use two-byte chars for a good balance between the words.

Yet nowadays we feel digits and mathematical symbols better in ASCII size, so many of us use such mixture, 50% in ASCII and !, ? in two-bytes:

The problem rises when you are to fill a submitting form in a website.
I don’t know why but many offices require to write your posting addresses all in 2-bytes including block/room numbers, but zip-code and phone number in ASCII.
The apartment now I lives has the name of alphabet-kanji mixture, like “藤沢ABC”, which confuses me every time I send the new address to a website for which I have my account.


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