How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

Japanese locale

July 13, 2022 — Tatsumoto

A Locale is a set of information that most programs use for determining country and language specific settings. Since you're learning Japanese, generate and enable the Japanese locale on your system.


Setting up locale is a prerequisite to:

Thus, this article comes first.

The instructions are intended for systemd. If you happen to have a different init system, you may have to perform different commands or edit different files. Consult Gentoo Wiki or a similar resource.


Uncomment the languages you use in /etc/locale.gen by removing the #s from their corresponding lines. If the file is empty, you have to add the languages yourself. At least English and Japanese should be enabled. See the example below.

en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8
ja_JP.UTF-8 UTF-8

Don't forget to enable other languages you want to use.

Then save the file and regenerate the locale.

$ sudo locale-gen

Finally, edit /etc/locale.conf and set the system locale. It doesn't have to be set to Japanese.


If you set your system locale to Japanese, the system logs will also be in Japanese. This is not convenient because sometimes we need to search the web for a system error, for example. For such searches, English works best. If you want to set your computer to Japanese, do it for a local user instead of the whole system.

Change local language

Note: This step is for people who know at least some Japanese and can read it.

Create or edit ~/.config/locale.conf.


Set LANG for your shell as well, by editing startup files.

  • Bash: ~/.profile or ~/.bash_profile
  • Zsh: ~/.zprofile

Add the following line.

export LANG=ja_JP.UTF-8

If you are using a desktop environment, such as GNOME or KDE, its language settings may be overriding the settings in locale.conf. You have to change language via the GUI menus.

See also

Since this is a very low-level topic, the steps for your system may differ. On this page I mentioned what I did for my system running vanilla Arch Linux. Read Arch Wiki and Gentoo Wiki for further explanations.

Tags: guide