Is there a name to describe the situation where a particular character is shown on a computer screen in a particular font, but this font does not have a glyph for this particular character?

Usually, the result looks like this: □
A kind of empty rectangle. Sometimes it shows the code for that character within the rectangle.


How do yo call this phenomenon in Japanese?
If there is no name, is there a common term referring to this "missing glyph square" in Japanese?

(It is not 文字化け. 文字化け happens when character encoding meta-information is lost. It is not the problem here. Using a better font solves this phenomenon, but does not solve 文字化け. Selecting a character encoding solves 文字化け, but does not solve this phenomenon.)


3 Answers 3


As far as Internet slang goes, the word 豆腐{とうふ} is often used as a term for replacement glyphs because of their rectangular shapes, and 豆腐[化]{ば}け or 豆腐[化]{か} describe the phenomenon in one word.

  • 画面上の日本語がすべて豆腐になってしまっていて読めない
  • フォント設定を変更しても豆腐化けが直らない
  • 1
    I just asked a colleague, he did not know the term but he said it is somehow understandable. I personally prefer this term to 文字化け because it is more precise. And that's a funny word ;-) Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 12:50
  • 5
    I had forgotten that this term existed. 豆腐 in this meaning (a slang for replacement glyphs) is often written as トーフ. I did not know that the phenomenon itself is called 豆腐化け. Commented Mar 29, 2012 at 17:18

It is still a case of 文字化け. 文字化け means the phenomenon where characters are shown incorrectly on computers, and its cause is not necessarily a mismatch of character encodings.

I do not know a specific term for the kind of 文字化け which you are talking about. I would say something along フォントが足りないことによって起きる文字化け.

By the way, the glyphs used in this situation are technically called replacement glyphs in English. I do not know how they are called in Japanese, but I guess that there is some technical term for them in Japanese.

Update: As Dono pointed out, some people use the word 文字化け in the narrower sense which you explained in the question. (See the note page of the article in Japanese Wikipedia to see an example.) I do not know if there is a better term which everyone agrees on.

  • 1
    Sorry, it is not mojibake. There is no "bake" going on. It is simply a matter of the font not containing a "glyph" for a specific character. Notice that "character" and "glyph" are two different things. Characters can mojibake; glyphs cannot. This is an area that I work in and am quite familiar with.
    – Dono
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 12:24
  • 7
    @Dono: Your interpretation of the word does not change the fact that it is called 文字化け. Also check the Wikipedia article I linked to. I do not know if it is called mojibake in English or not. If not, then 文字化け and mojibake have a little different meanings. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 12:25
  • 1
    Fine, do not believe me. But since you are asserting a fact, then you should prove it. To the average computer user who knows nothing about encoding or fonts, they may call it mojibake out of ignorance, but that still does not make it mojibake. I have more than a decade of professional experience in this field (in Japan and in Japanese). And I am telling you that you as politely as I can: you are mistaken. My comment is in regards to mojibake and 文字化け.
    – Dono
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 12:30
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    @Dono: I cannot prove it, but I had linked to evidence. If you ignore it, it is your problem. Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 12:31
  • 6
    It is mojibake to the average user, who has no idea what Unicode characters mean. If you want a Japanese nickname for this to be used by techies, coin one. Maybe it will catch on.
    – Kaz
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 23:46

I propose: suujibake (数字ばけ). Cheers!

  • 1
    It's an interesting idea, but it seems too specific to only the ones with numbers within the rectangle. The empty rectangles are quite common, even more than the number ones for me. (I just realized that I don't even know what to call this in English...)
    – atlantiza
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 1:08
  • 2
    Evidently, the appropriate English for the empty blocks is "tofu".
    – Kaz
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 0:41

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