HOWTO Install Japanese Input on Debian Sarge (using SCIM)

This article was first written in December 2005 for the BeezNest technical
website (


This article explains how to install the SCIM (Simplified Chinese Input Method) together with enough Japanese resources to enable Japanese input on your desktop (GNOME 2 in this case).

SCIM is a software that can run as a daemon in order to enable special, on the fly, character substitution while you type something on a normal keyboard. Initially planned for Simplified Chinese, it can be used for Japanese if installed with the correct tables.

To activate SCIM, you can configure a set of enabling

Everything here is free and open-source, so you can try it and remove it if not happy.

Installing SCIM basic + Japanese tables and fonts

Use the following command to install mandatory packages:

sudo apt-get install uim anthy scim-gtk2-immodule scim-uim scim-tables-ja

In the Anthy config screen, select any of the dictionaries you want (I generally pick the three).

Now comes the tricky bit, but this is only mandatory if you want SCIM to be started automatically with your session. If I got it correctly, SCIM acts on the X system, not on the desktop system. This means that you have to start it at the X level, so just before GNOME. To do this, edit a .xsession file in your home directory and fill it with the following lines:

export XMODIFIERS="@im=SCIM"
export GTK_IM_MODULE="scim"
export XIM_PROGRAM="scim -d"
export QT_IM_MODULE="scim"

Change that file to be executable

chmod +x .xsession

Then restart your X session (logout from your GNOME session by asking to close session).

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