My eyes! They burn!
You click on a picture or go to a website with gorgeous goodies only to be met with a confusing mass of meaningless squiggles. If you have tried shopping or navigating Japanese websites, you’ve probably felt this pain!
The whole point of online shopping is to be quick, easy and convenient, but shopping in a second language (especially one as confusing as Japanese) can be a big hassle. On top of that, despite being advanced in various technological areas, Japanese websites are often behind the times. They tend not to have intuitive or user-friendly interfaces. Check out your average website and it’s like a traumatic flashback to the ’90s with a barrage of flashing ads, waaay too much information at once, and an avalanche of confusing links. Although often more organized, even larger companies like Rakuten are guilty of this sin.
And this is one of the better, cleaner websites – thank goodness for their global version.
So, where does that leave a user who can barely get by in Japanese, or not at all?
As someone who’s been there, done that, allow me to introduce you to the study and shopping tool that is my lifeboat in a sea of mystifying Japanese kanji.
So, what exactly is Rikaichan, and how does it work?
Rikai literally means “to understand” or “to comprehend”. To put it simply, it’s a free plugin for your browser that helps you read Japanese kanji. It works like an online electronic dictionary. Just hover your mouse over any Japanese word, and it will show you the possible meanings of that word in English as well as the hiragana spelling (highlighted in a blue box).
Now, of course, it’s not perfect in that it’s not going to translate the entire page for you. It’s only a dictionary, albeit a very handy one. For a very basic translation, you should use Google Translate. Still, while useful, Google Translate is well-known for its sometimes hilarious and confusing translations.
Rikaichan/Rikaikun can help you understand those particulars or smaller sections a bit more accurately, the parts that have you really scratching your head.
I highly recommend it to give you that extra help when shopping, or if you are generally studying Japanese.
To download it simply click here for Mozilla Firefox’s add-on, and here for Google Chrome’s add-on. Follow the instructions to install the add-on, and it will come up as a happy little face on your topbar.
You can toggle the dictionary on and off depending on when you need it. It can get in the way a bit otherwise.