Japan’s thirty hardest emoticons


If you don’t have a Japanese font installed this survey will be impossible to understand; I do, yet I can barely work out some of these difficult to picture emoji.


Over the 19th and 20th of April 2012 1,092 members of the goo Research monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 60.5% of the sample were female, 11.3% in their teens, 17.0% in their twenties, 28.4% in their thirties, 25.5% in their forties, 10.2% in their fifties, and 7.7% aged sixty or older. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

I can picture just a few of them, but I’ll have to add them all to another site of mine, Evoticon.net.
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As I’m on holiday this week, and as most of the survey companies are too, rather than doing some translation I thought instead I’d introduce a few other web sites in the What Japan Thinks empire. I welcome all comments from my readers about these other sites!

ミ★(=^・・^)v Thanks!!★彡

First up is Evoticon.net, probably the world’s largest collection of Japanese text emoticons, currently with 13,547 entries and will reach around 25,000 by the time I finish. It also features the ability to rate all emoticons, but despite that, in the 20 months the site has been running it’s attracted just 640 ratings!


I think the evoticon name is quite clever; I could have been boring and gone for japaneseemoticondictionary.com or the like, but I think evoticon succinctly describes that I offer voting on emoticons. I also went for the .net extension as a .com would have meant …con.com, which just looks messy to me.

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Top thirty laughing Japanese emoticons

I wonder if this new goo Ranking survey will challenge my ever-popular top thirty Japanese emoticons, with this look at the top thirty laughing Japanese emoticons.


Between the 18th and 2nd of February 2009 1,076 members of the goo Research monitor group completed a private online questionnaire. 51.1% of the sample were male, 7.2% in their teens, 15.8% in their twenties, 29.4% in their thirties, 25.2% in their forties, 11.1% in their fifties, and 11.3% aged sixty or older. Note that the score in the results refers to the relative number of votes for each option, not a percentage of the total sample.

To find even more laughing emoticons (and many others too), be sure to check out another of my sites, evoticon.net!
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Mobile email and emoticons, emoji and friends

Which do you use the most: emoji, kaomoji or deco mail? graph of japanese statisticsHonestly, it’s not just because I’ve recently launched a Japanese emoticon and smiley dictionary that I’m picking up a number of surveys like this one from Point On Research and reported on by japan.internet.com into mobile phone email use, with the focus for this report on textual and graphical emoticons.


On the 15th of February 2009 exactly 1,000 mobile phone users from the Point On Research monitor pool completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 50.0% of the sample were female, 20.0% in their teens, 20.0% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, and 20.0% in their fifties.

Even though I have produced the above-mentioned emoticon dictionary, I don’t actually use text emoticons in my mobile email! Most of the time it is the built-in emoji graphical icons. I’d use more decomail (larger-sized, on the whole, animated gifs) but my phone is one of the first models to support them, so the user interface is pretty awkward to say the least.

I don’t get enough mobile emails to use any other pattern than immediate reply, but my blog email is another matter altogether…
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Why use Japanese emoticons?

Do you use emoji, decomail, etc in mobile phone email? graph of japanese statisticsHere’s an interesting survey from iShare that answers the questions that many westerners ask when they see the average Japanese mobile phone email littered with kaomoji smilies and decomail animations, simply “Why?”


Over the 28th and 29th of January 2009 668 users of the CLUB BBQ free email forwarding service completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 55.1% of the sample were male, 12.6% in their twenties, 46.1% in their thirties, 33.4% in their forties, 6.7% in their fifties, and 1.2% in their teens or sixty or older.

Just in case you missed last night’s post, you can find about 8,000 (and growing) kaomoji facemarks at evoticon. Other technical terms included in this post are emoji, simple icons, and decomail, HTML templated mail, including DIY text animation.
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Evoticon.net – kaomoji, emoticons and smilies with a Web 2.0 twist

I get a lot of people searching for Japanese emoticons on this blog (well, I used to until my previous hosting blew up and I got relegated to page two), and although there are a few collections of Japanese smilies out there, they are very poorly presented, just a number of pages with tens or hundreds of lines to wade though.

So, I got thinking and got working and produced evoticon.net. If you like it, please submit it to any social media sites you may use.

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Emoji versus Kaomoji – graphical icons versus text emoticons

Which do you use more on mobile phone email, emoji or kaomoji? graph of japanese statisticsI’ve previously translated surveys looking at Japanese text emoticons (kaomoji) and at graphical icons (emoji) but now let’s look at a recent survey from BlogCh on emoji and kaomoji.


Between the 11th and 13th of June 2008 433 members of the BlogCh monitor panel who owned mobile phones. 53.1% of the sample were male, 15.5% in their twenties, 49.9% in their thirties, 27.0% in their forties, and 7.6% of other ages.

I use emoji almost exclusively, with one of the main reasons being that I cannot remember the meaning of most of the kaomoji! I also occasionally download, or more often save icons from other people’s mobile phone email.
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:-) turns 25, but how old are Japanese emoticons (?_?)

You may have heard the news that 25 years ago on the 19th of September 1982, there was the first recorded use of western smileys on usenet. However, that got me wondering as to how old horizontal Japanese emoticons were. With a little investigation, I came across this Japanese page on the evolution of smiley marks in Japan. I’ll now present a summary translation of this history of the Japanese emoticon.

First up is a nuclear scientist claiming to have invented (~_~) and others round about the same time as ASCII Net (a Japanese online service) started in May 1985, although he says he wasn’t the first, he was just following the patterns of others.

Next up was someone claiming that when he attended Hokkaido University the first Japanese emoticon he saw was from Master Koala with (^O^) in fj.jokes, inspiring him to invent the following:

(^.^) – laughing
(;.;) – crying
(-.-) – sleeping, shocked
(_ _) – apologising, lowering one’s head
; – sweat mark, eg (^.^;)
* – red-faced, eg *^.^*

These were coined between May and July of 1988 and used on JUNET, the Japanese University Network.

Now, we get to a usenet post from January 13 1998, indirectly archived by Google Groups (but with broken encoding). In the message we can see the following marks:

(^O^) – Master Koala smiling
(-O-) – Master Koala sleeping
(*O*) – Master Koala shocked
(@O@) – Master Koala looking sideways
(=O=) – Master Koala squinting through narrowed eyes
(>O<) - Master Koala surprised (dOb) - Master Koala neutral Now we get a very interesting post, suggesting that the classic (^_^) was invented in Japan, but perhaps not by a Japanese. A Kim Tong Ho claims that in the first half of 1986 he signed posts to ASCII Net with the above-mentioned emoticon, with one example from 20th of June 1986. However, he doesn’t have confidence to claim to be the very first person to come up with a Japanese emoticon that doesn’t require head-tilting to read. Around the same time a person with the handle “binbou” (the nuclear scientist mentioned above) used (~_~), but as to who was first, it is rather difficult to say.

So, there we have it; the Japanese emoticon is at least 21 years and a few months old, perhaps even 22 and a bit years old.

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Top thirty Japanese emoticons (^o^)

In the middle of June, goo Ranking surveyed its readers by means of a public internet questionnaire on what emoticons, or smilies, they often used in mail from their personal computers. The following table presents the top thirty emoticons list. As usual for goo Ranking, number one slot gets ranked with 100 points, and all the rest with the proportion of votes relative to the top vote. More detailed demographics, etc, are not available.

Back in April, I translated another survey on the use of smilies, or emoticons, on Japanese mobile phones, that you may want to reference. Even though the people responding to this survey are (supposed to be!) adult, emoticons reveal a cute childish playfulness, I feel.

Please feel free to use these in your email or messenger applications to add some Japanese emotions to your chat!
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