You're a foreigner living in Japan, and you're in the market for a computer with an English keyboard. To your chagrin perhaps finding that laptop with an English keyboard proves rather taxing. Or maybe you're forever stalking the elusive desktop English keyboard. Some find luck wandering the snaking streets of Akihabara, seeking that rare shop selling overseas laptop models. Japan is mostly Japanese people, so I guess it makes sense that most computers come with Japanese keyboards. Fair enough. Here are my suggestions for relieving the arduousness of this task. When it comes to this hunt, I personally don't bother with brick-and-mortar shops, so you'll notice that most all my solutions below involve online shopping.
Some brands are better than others when it comes to offering English keyboards in Japan.
The following makers both satisfy IT-guy me with their general build quality, and make obtaining non-Japanese keyboards a relatively smooth process.
Love them or hate them, Apple handles multilingual computing quite proficiently. Both MacOS and iOS are language-neutral, meaning there aren't any concerns regarding what language of OS you're purchasing. You can order a laptop or desktop with English keyboard direct from Apple Japan's online store at no additional cost. In fact, they offer several keyboard options, including US English, UK English, Arabic, French, Spanish, and more.
Lenovo offers English keyboard options through their online Japan store. Last I checked, it was at no additional cost.
Sony's online store also offers English keyboard options, but only on some models and at additional cost. I find this a bit unfair. Also worth noting is that Sony sold off their Vaio laptop business. Perhaps it's because of business missteps, such as charging us foreigners extra for English keyboards! Stay tuned on what the future holds for this brand.
It is also possible to get English keyboards direct from Dell and HP and some others. However, I don't find it as convenient because last I checked these manufacturers make you go through their corporate purchasing process, not consumer purchasing. IMHO, their computers aren't that much to write home about anyways. Maybe someday these global brands will learn how to be truly global.
A Note About Windows and OS Language
Traditionally Microsoft Windows is not as language-neural an OS as MacOS is; however, it seems Microsoft is finally learning some lessons from Apple's successes.
Here's a quick summary:
- Windows 7: Enterprise and Ultimate editions support language packs.
- Windows 8: All editions support language packs.
This means that even if you get the Japanese version of Windows 8, you could install the English language pack on it to switch the whole OS to English. I'm not a huge fan of Windows 8, but this is finally a step in the right direction for Microsoft--a step they should've taken many years ago. Nevertheless, a distinct advantage of Apple's OS offerings is that you don't have to deal with this OS language crap.
When it comes to finding non-Japanese keyboards in Japan, I've also met success with these alternative approaches.
Search online vendors for what you're looking for, plus words like 英語 or 英語版 or USキー
I usually query Amazon Japan, Rakuten, and maybe Yahoo Auctions (especially if searching for used equipment). This approach often proves useful when I'm searching for desktop US English keyboards--like a USB or wireless one. I'm a fan of Logitech (called Logicool in Japan) and Microsoft when it comes to external keyboards, and I can sometimes find their US English models online. I've also found used laptops with English keyboards, English versions of Windows, and even replacement laptop keyboards / parts with this approach.
Order it from overseas.
This is a "no duh" solution that I've utilized when I'm feeling neurotic and must have a particular desktop keyboard model. In my case, I really wanted Microsoft's US English ergonomic keyboard. It actually was available in Japan, but at nearly twice the price. Ordering it from a vendor offering international shipping through Amazon USA saved me some yen. I advise caution if considering ordering really expensive equipment (e.g. new laptop) from overseas because there could be warranty repercussions. Depending on the maker / vendor, the warranty may not be honored if the equipment has been shipped out of the country of sale.