Introduction: US to Japanese Keyboard Conversion - Missing "RO" / "ろ" Key

About: Hi there! After living in Japan for 25 years, I've picked up a few useful PC survival tricks. Given the time it took me to learn, I thought I'd post some of them so that they may help others avoid similar prob…

My first instructable...

US to Japanese Keyboard Conversion
& the Mystery of the Missing "RO" / "ろ" Key!!

There seems to be a strange problem in Japan... You just can't buy a mini Japanese (Hiragana) keyboard!... Or at least one that doesn't need multiple & confusing keystrokes, or cost a fortune.

My wife (Japanese) has a new tablet but wanted to use a standard separate keyboard.

So my idea was to use a mini folding US keyboard and cover the keys with Hiragana keyboard stickers, from eBay. Great idea but it seems to be impossible! Why? Because Japanese keyboards have an extra key for the "RO" Hiragana character. I've checked several US keyboards and all seem to lack the equivalent "backslash key" needed for "RO"...

So... my relatively simple workaround! I've not found this idea on the Internet so thought it would be good to share.

I used the free software "KeyTweak" to remap the keyboard strokes. That means the software creates a keyboard rule (in Windows registry) that intercepts a keystroke and replaces it with an alternative function. In my case I changed the "Windows Menu" key, which I never use, to the "RO" key.

I've created two keyboards... one using a completely US tablet case keyboard and one using a US folding keyboard that has a couple of special Japanese keys but NOT the "RO" key!!?

So far, so good. Both it seem to work!

Step 1: ​What You Will Need:

  • Windows 7 or 8(.1) with Japanese language & Keyboard option installed (Windows 7 & 8 tested OK)
    Go to...
    "Control Panel">"Region & Language">"Keyboards & Languages">"Change Keyboards">"Add">Japanese IME.
  • 1x Japanese Keyboard with the "RO" key.
  • 1x US Keyboard (your target)
  • Japanese Keyboard stickers:
    Search eBay for "Japanese keyboard stickers" there are various designs. Choose what you like.
  • A pair of scissors... depending on the keyboard, you'll probably have to cut the stickers to fit.
  • KeyTweak free software:

Thank you KeyTweak!
A great piece of software. Much appreciated!

Step 2: Initial Keyboard Sticker Conversion

  1. Connect both keyboards to your computer.
  2. Run "Notepad" or similar program.
  3. Click on Windows "Language bar" and select "Japanese Keyboard" & "Hiragana" input.
  4. Click & compare the keys on the Japanese keyboard to the US keyboard to find the equivalent keys.
    Once you find them, put the appropriate sticker on the US keyboard.
  5. Continue 1-4
  6. Finally, you will be left with only the "RO" sticker and no key to put it on...!

Step 3: What You Have to Do

  1. Download KeyTweak.
  2. Install KeyTweak as Administrator.
  3. Connect both keyboards to your computer.
  4. Run KeyTweak.
  5. Click on the "Full Teach Mode" button.
  6. Click "Begin Teach Mode" button.
  7. On the Japanese keyboard, press the "RO" / "ろ" key.
    The first box should come up as 115 (on four keyboards, it always came up as 115).
  8. On the US keyboard, press the key you want to use as "RO". For me that was "Windows Menu" key.
  9. Click the "Remap key#1 to key#2" button.
  10. In the bottom-right corner, you can see "Pending Changes:" window.
    Your remapping rule should be there.
    Click the "Apply" button.
  11. KeyTweak will then ask to Restart Windows... Do it...
  12. You should now be able to use the US keyboard with the new alternative "RO" key.
  13. Put the last "RO" sticker on your newly assigned key!!
    You should be good to go...

Step 4: Remove the "RO" Key Rule

If you want to, you can easily remove the "RO" rule from Windows by simply running KeyTweak again, clicking the "Restore All Defaults" button and Restarting Windows.

Thank you KeyTweak! A great piece of software. Much appreciated!