The ultimate guide to Japanese typography


“Typography expresses hierarchy and brand presence.”

Japanese type properties


Japanese type properties


Elements of Typefaces: ascender, baseline, cap height, descender, serif, stem, stroke, x-height, Width

Association of elements of Latin and Japanese font

  • Elements of Latin font
  • Cap height/x-height
  • Width
  • Stroke
  • Contrast of weight
  • Counter
  • Serif
  • Elements of Japanese font
  • Jiko
  • Jihaba
  • Gasen
  • Senhaba no haibun
  • Futokoro
  • Uroko

Japanese fonts are bigger than the Latin alphabet

Latin fonts have different uppercase and lowercase letters, but Japanese fonts have only UPPERCASE characters, Therefore, all Japanese characters are almost the same size as English capital letters. Even though the font size is the same, Japanese fonts look bigger than the alphanumeric characters. We recommend reducing Japanese fonts size by 10-20% to balance them with Latin. It happens a lot especially when you choose thick Japanese fonts for writing kanji.




Japanese font baseline


The Baseline is where all the letters sit. The most stable axis along a line of text. Crucial edge for alignment of text and elements. In the case of the Japanese typeface, the baseline, called ideographic baseline, is slightly lower than this.


Cap height (Jiko)


Japanese font cap height


Cap height is the distance from the baseline to the top of the capital letter (such as C) that determines the letter’s point size. Cap height is called Jiko(字高) in Japanese fonts.




Japanese font x-heihgt


X-height is the height of the main body to the lowercase letter -(lowercase x), excluding as- and descenders. Descenders are the downward vertical stroke in these letters.


Increase line height by around 20%

e.g. Font size 150px, Line height: 190px


Japanese font line height


Line height (leading) controls the amount of space between baselines in a block of text. Even if the font size is the same for the Latin and Japanese typefaces, the margins of each character will differ greatly because of the usage of lower case characters in Latin typefaces Kanji basically has a small vertical space and a uniform height, So, Japanese text needs more space between lines, so use 150% line-height or even more.


e.g. Font size 100px, Line height: 120px


Japanese font line height2

*Even though the font size is the same, Line -height needs to be adjusted to balance between the Latin and Japanese fonts.


Japanese line-height

Why do Japanese characters lack ascenders or descenders?, Because Kanji, hiragana, and katakana characters are the same size, and have square character frames of equal dimensions. In regards to line-height, the appearance of Japanese characters is not unlike all caps Latin alphabet characters. That’s why you’ll have to increase the line height by around 20% compared to Latin characters.


How is font size measured?


Japanese font frame


Japanese font size is measured by the size of the character frame. “Character advance” is a term used to describe the advanced width of the character frame of a character. By definition, it is equal to the “width” of a character in horizontal writing mode, whereas it is the height of a character in vertical writing mode.

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