Using a Japanese Layout Keyboard on a Panasonic Let’s Note that Came With a US Layout Keyboard

23 Dec 2021

Panasonic Let's Note CF-SV7 Laptop

Over summer 2021 I purchased a Panasonic Let’s Note CF-SV7. It’s a fantastic laptop. It’s light, has a quality keyboard and screen, is relatively easy to repair, and is attractive. Unforunately the Panasonic Let’s Note series is only able to be purchased in Japan, so they have to be imported to other countries using sites like Buyee or DeJapan. These are proxy sites that allow you to purchase products from Japanese sites such as Yahoo! Japan auctions, even if you don’t live in Japan.

I ran into an issue where Google translate was unclear when translating the Japanese product listing. When I received the item it turned out some of the keyboard keys didn’t work. This specific machine I ordered came from the factory with a USA layout keyboard, not a JIS keyboard like would typically be used in Japan. I was unable to find a replacement USA ANSI layout keyboard for this laptop anywhere on the internet including Japanese auctions. I did however find a JIS keyboard, so I went ahead and ordered the JIS keyboard so I’d at least have a working keyboard with this machine.

When I put it in the machine it worked but some of the keys didn’t match up. Multiple keys that are on the Japanese keyboard did not exist on an American keyboard at all and wound up being mapped to the =/+ key by the BIOS. A few other keys were strange as well. The backslash/pipe character key was mapped to print screen. The menu key was mapped to insert. The hiragana/katakana/romaji key was mapped to menu.

This was an issue because I had no working pipe/backslash key. Being a Unix user I don’t use the backslash key that much, but I use the pipe key constantly throughout the day so this had to be fixed.

I added the following three lines to my ~/.xsession to use xmodmap to remap these keys so OpenBSD would pick them up properly. The first line maps the backslash key to the pipe character. This specific key cannot be used in conjunction with holding shift so we had to map backslash and pipe on separate keys. The second line remaps the menu button to actually be the menu key so the legend on the key matches up properly. The third line maps the hiragana/katakana/romaji key to the backslash key so we can still use backslash if needed. I’ve been getting by with this setup for over 6 months now and have had no issues.

xmodmap -e "keycode 111 = bar" &

xmodmap -e "keycode 106 = Menu" &

xmodmap -e "keycode 117 = backslash" &