Report on the Current Generation of Japanese denshi jisho 電子辞書
Based on catalogs assembled at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku,
Early November 2005
by Henry Smith, Columbia University
NOTE: This review is based on the assumption that the user is an advanced student of Japanese, specializing in the humanities. The basic preference is for Kôjien 広辞苑 as a kokugo jiten (for which reason models with Daijirin 大辞林 as the basic dictionary are disqualified), and Kanjigen 漢字源 as a kan’wa jiten (which disqualifies Kangorin 漢語林, lacking the useful “buhin-yomi 部品読み” search feature). The second-level preferences are for a good encyclopedia (for which the Heibonsha Mypedia マイペディア is currently the only candidate) and a kogo jiten (for which two different electronic versions are available, one from Ôbunsha and one from Sanseidô, both of which seem very similar). Also desirable for some will be (as they were for me, at least) 1) the Kenkyûsha New Japanese-English Dictionary, 5th ed., and 2) good English-English dictionaries, for which the best available are the Oxford Dictionary of English and the Oxford Thesaurus of English.
PRICES: I have given list prices (without tax) and the current Yodobashi Camera online prices for reference. Note that the Yodobashi prices include sales tax, whereas the list prices do not. Also, the use of a point card brings the Yodobashi prices down even lower (20% points on all these models). But searching the internet may yield lower prices still.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The best dictionary at the best price with the above features is the Sharp PW-8400, now ¥26,800 at Yodobashi ($233 @ 115). But if you want the best money can now buy, I would recommend the Casio XD-LP4700, now ¥36,800 at Yodobashi ($320 @ 115), particularly if you have a friend from whom you can then borrow the CD-ROM to add the Kenkyûsha New English-Japanese Dictionary, 5th ed., to the card slot. It is a wonderful resource, especially for translation. I could not find any Canon or SII (Seiko) model that I would recommend.
Almost all the Canon models use Sanseidô Daijirin rather than Kôjien for their basic kokugo jiten. For some this may be acceptable, but Daijirin seems more geared to contemporary use and to encyclopedic entries, hence of less use to those interested in traditional Japan. None of the Canon dictionaries offer a card slot for adding extra dictionaries. Overall, the Canon dictionaries seem more aimed at Japanese learning English than at basic Japanese reference.
In my mind, Casio is now the leader in advanced denshi jisho because of the “Triple Tsuika” トリプル追加 function, now available on most of its models, which enables the copying of multiple additional dictionaries onto a single SD card, all of which can then be accessed without changing cards (and included in multiple searches) just as though they were originally installed. It is an ingenious solution to the problem of adding extra dictionaries without having to constantly change cards. The list of supplementary dictionaries is long, far more diverse than that of the two other companies (Sharp and SII) that offer card slots. The only dictionaries that cannot be purchased as card add-ons are those published by Oxford University Press. Among those you can add are the 5th edition of the Kenkyûsha New English-Japanese Dictionary (expensive at ¥12,800, but the real thing), Mypedia [¥3000 list], all three current-word yearbooks (Gendai yôgo no kiso chishiki, Imidas, and Chiezô, each ¥2980 list), a Chinese-Japanese / Japanese-Chinese dictionary [¥4980 list], the Ôbunsha Zen’yaku kogo jiten [¥3000 list], the Ôbunsha Nihonshi/sekaishi jiten [¥4500 list], the Japanese version of the Encyclopedia Britannica [¥9800 list]―and many others. You have to upload the dictionaries to the denshi-jiten into which you have inserted an SD card (which you must buy separately, but these are cheap now, about $20 for a 128M card that will hold more dictionaries than you will probably ever want). The extra dictionaries must be uploaded with a PC, which means that Mac users will have to borrow a PC to accomplish this task, but since it is a once-only transfer, this should not be a great hassle. The CD’s with the extra dictionaries can also be shared with others, but note that they cannot be copied to a PC and used directly from the PC, only to a CASIO denshi jisho with the “Triple Tsuika” function (which is now the majority of Casio models).
The only question, then, is which model to get, given the flexibility of adding other dictionaries. The best basic choice would be the XD-LP4700 (¥48,000 list w/out tax, ¥36,800 Yodobashi), which comes with Kôjien, Kanjigen, Mypedia, and the Ôbunsha Nihonshi/sekaishi jiten. All you would need separately then might be the Ôbunsha Zen’yaku kogo jiten. If you are studying Chinese or Korean, you might want to get a model geared to one of those languages (XD-LP7300 for Chinese and XD-LP7600 for Korean, each ¥52,000 list w/out tax, ¥39,800 Yodobashi), all of which have Kôjien and Kanjigen, and then add on Mypedia and the Ôbunsha Zen’yaku kogo jiten. I myself got the XD-LP9300 (list ¥58,000 w/out tax, ¥44,800 Yodobashi), which is dedicated to English-language use, simply because this was the only way to get the excellent Oxford English-English dictionaries (the Oxford Dictionary of English and the Oxford Thesaurus of English).
I have been using my Casio for about a month now, and the only disadvantage I have experienced (in comparison with the earlier Sharp and SII models I had) is that the super-jump function does not automatically jump to all other dictionaries; rather, one must first choose the dictionary to which you wish to jump. This is a disadvantage, but a minor one.
Best is the PW-8400 (list ¥45,000 w/out tax, ¥26,800 Yodobashi), which includes Kôjien, Kanjigen, Mypedia, and Ôbunsha Zen’yaku kogo jiten―an excellent combination. (If you can find the PW-8300 cheaper, it has all the same dictionaries.) One small disadvantage of the Sharp is size: they are larger than most others in depth (okuyuki), which is 107 mm [4.2”] for the better models (versus 99 mm [3.9”] for the Casio models recommended above, a difference of 8 mm, which is definitely noticeable).
Various Sharp models (including both models mentioned in the previous paragraph) do have a slot for a card with an extra dictionary, but the only card of use would be one with Mypedia and Kanjigen on a single card (¥4200), which is unnecessary on the recommended models; they offer no Chinese-Japanese / Japanese-Chinese dictionary, no kogo jiten, and no Kenkyûsha New Japanese-English Dictionary.
SII / SEIKO
All the models seem to involve undesirable compromises. The T2030 and T7010 have Kôjien, Kanjigen, and Mypedia, but no kogo jiten. Many models have Kangorin instead of Kanjigen, which puts them out of the running for me. I also found that the older model I have is slow to warm up, about 2-3 seconds, which is annoying. Also some models have a second kokugo jiten, Taishûkan’s Meikyô kokugo jiten, on the same key as Kôjien, toggling between the two, and it is easy to end up in Meikyô when you want Kôjien. I can see no redeeming value to Meikyô, and recommend avoiding dictionaries with this arrangement. Some of the SII models have a card slot of the sort that requires the insertion of a different card for each extra dictionary. But few of the cards offered are of use to people like us: they are chiefly for foreign travel guides and for European languages; the only one of possible use is for Chinese-Japanese / Japanese-Chinese dictionaries. For all these reasons, I can no longer find an SII model that I can recommend, which is too bad, since the computer-like keyboard of this brand is wonderful.