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Japanese Fonts

Gothic (top) and Mincho (bottom) typefaces in various weights (fonts: Kozuka Gothic Pro and Kozuka Mincho Pro).

Some other font styles (from left to right: Kyokasho, Kaisho, Gyosho, Reisho, Kanteiryu, Manga).

Basic fonts

As you probably already know, Western fonts (which are based on the Roman alphabet) mostly fall into two categories: serif fonts like Times New Roman, and sans-serif fonts like Arial. The corresponding categories of Japanese fonts are called Mincho and Gothic.


Other font styles include the following:

Kyokasho (textbook)

This typeface is similar to the Mincho style, but has a slightly more handwritten style.

Kaisho (block script)

This is a brushed calligraphy style consisting of discrete strokes drawn with various hooks and flourishes.

Gyosho (semi-cursive script)

A flowing calligraphy style where strokes are often joined together.

Reisho (clerical script)

An archaic Chinese calligraphy style which remains popular to this day due to its highly legible character forms.


This style originated from the Japanese kabuki tradition over two centuries ago. It consists of broad, curving, closely-packed strokes, and is typically used in connection with traditional Japanese arts and crafts.


Various styles have been developed for Japanese comic books (manga). These typically resemble the broad strokes produced by a felt-tip pen.

Mixing Japanese and Western fonts

Examples of Japanese and Roman fonts in combination. From top to bottom: Kozuka Mincho M + Times New Roman, Kozuka Mincho R + Garamond, Kozuka Gothic B + Helvetica Neue Bold, Kozuka Gothic L + Gill Sans Light

Japanese documents often contain characters from the Roman alphabet. Although virtually all Japanese fonts include a basic set of Roman characters, they often lack things like ’em’ and ‘en’ dashes (–, —), accented characters (é, ç, etc.) and ligatures (Æ, œ, etc.). For this reason, Japanese typesetting systems allow Japanese fonts to be combined with Western fonts in order to support a wider range of characters. Although the Kozuka Pro fonts include an extensive set of Western glyphs, they also mix well with Western fonts as shown here. This technique makes it possible to achieve a uniform look and feel between your English and Japanese documents.


Header image: The three wise monkeys (三匹の猿) at Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō (日光東照宮), said to be the origin of the saying “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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