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I have recently purchased an external Japanese keyboard from FILCO. In addition to the regular keys, it also has 3 keys specifically designated to switch between Western and Japanese character input.

Apple provides the same keys on its Japanese keyboards and they function as expected.

With a 3rd party keyboard however, these keys don't fire at all. Even when viewed with tools like KeyRemap4MacBook's event viewer, key-presses are not detected as events.

Is this a common issue? My written Japanese is weak, so my searches in Japanese didn't turn up any results. Any direct advice or even links to articles in Japanese (or English ones I might have missed) would be greatly appreciated.

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Maybe it's not recognized as a JIS keyboard. See http://m10lmac.blogspot.com/2009/12/fixing-keyboard-type-problems.html:

Sometimes a machine will forget which type keyboard is attached, with the result that certain keys get transposed from what the user expects. The fix for this is run the Keyboard Setup Assistant again. Sometimes there is a button for "Change Keyboard Type" visible in System Preferences/Keyboard. If not, you can try trashing the file

/Library/Preferences/com.apple.keyboardtype.plist

Another possibility may be to open Terminal and type:

sudo open /System/Library/CoreServices/KeyboardSetupAssistant.app/Contents/MacOS/KeyboardSetupAssistant

Sometimes, when JIS is involved on a laptop, one may have to follow the procedures in the PMU Resetting instructions.

If nothing else works, you can use KeyRemap4MacBook to map other keys to かな and 英数 keys:

<autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F1, KeyCode::JIS_KANA</autogen>
<autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F2, KeyCode::JIS_EISUU</autogen>
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A Japanese friend just helped me solve it.

This page contains detailed instructions: http://atsuo60.blog24.fc2.com/blog-entry-285.html

This is the tools used to enable all keys: http://chulip.org/entry/20100206/1265461109

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