Japanese smiley developed by Deaf man

November 26, 2014

A smiley, often used in an e-mail nowadays, has a Western-style, Japanese style, and others. How was it born?

In a New York Times interview in April 1969, a well-known writer Vladimir Nabokov said: "I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile – some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket ..."

Scott Elliott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University,  was the first documented person to use the emoticons :-) and :-(, with a specific suggestion that they be used to express emotion, in September, 1982.
Japanese users popularized a style of emoticons (顔文字, kaomoji) that can be understood without tilting one's head to the left such like (*_*), (")(-_-)("), (T_T)).

It is said that Wakabayashi Yasushi (若林泰志), a Deaf manager of disability related bulletin board of "ASCII NET", contrived kaomoji (^_^) in 1986.

At the beginning it was used at an online bulletin board system. He seemed to have been using it as a signature first, but the other users were increasing a variation gradually, and a smiley was the tool which indicates feeling.

Japanese sources:


English source:

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