Living in Japanese and using a mobile phone or email, you will always come across emoticons (kaomoji in Japanese) which is a textual expression representing the face of a writer’s mood or facial expression. In Japan almost all emails or IM messages contain some form of emoticons. The biggest difference from Western emoticons is probably that they are read horizontally and you don’t need to turn your head to understand them, for example the Western emoticon for “Happy” looks like this while the Japanese version looks like this (^_^). Since hiragana, katakana and kanji can be used to create faces, the variations of kaomoji are numberless.
Here is a visual guide to Japanese kaomoji.
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