What is Kaomoji?

Kaomoji is a Japanese style of emoticon, where text characters are used to create faces and other forms of expression.

From Wikipedia:

Users from Japan popularized a style of emoticons (顔文字, kaomoji, lit. “face characters”) that can be understood without tilting one’s head to the left. This style arose on ASCII NET, an early Japanese online service, in 1986. Similar-looking emoticons were used on the Byte Information Exchange (BIX) around the same time.

These emoticons are usually found in a format similar to (_). The asterisks indicate the eyes; the central character, commonly an underscore, the mouth; and the parentheses, the outline of the face.

Different emotions can be expressed by changing the character representing the eyes: for example, “T” can be used to express crying or sadness: (T_T). T_T may also be used to mean “unimpressed”. The emphasis on the eyes in this style is reflected in the common usage of emoticons that use only the eyes, e.g. ^^. Looks of stress are represented by the likes of (x_x), while (-_-;) is a generic emoticon for nervousness, the semicolon representing an anxiety-induced sweat drop (discussed further below). /// can indicate embarrassment by symbolizing blushing. Characters like hyphens or periods can replace the underscore; the period is often used for a smaller, “cuter” mouth, or to represent a nose, e.g. (^.^). Alternatively, the mouth/nose can be left out entirely, e.g. (^^).

Parentheses are sometimes replaced with braces or square brackets, e.g. {^_^} or [o_0]. Many times, the parentheses are left out completely, e.g. ^^, >.< , o_O, O.O, e_e, or e.e. A quotation mark “, apostrophe ‘, or semicolon ; can be added to the emoticon to imply apprehension or embarrassment, in the same way that a sweat drop is used in manga and anime.

Microsoft IME 2000 (Japanese) or later supports the input of emoticons like the above by enabling the Microsoft IME Spoken Language/Emotion Dictionary. In IME 2007, this support was moved to the Emoticons dictionary. Such dictionaries allow users to call up emoticons by typing words that represent them.

Communication software allowing the use of Shift JIS encoded Japanese characters rather than just ASCII allowed for the development of new kaomoji using the extended character set, such as (^ム^) or (益).

Modern communication software generally utilizes Unicode, which allows for the incorporation of characters from other languages (e.g. from the Cyrillic alphabet), and a variety of symbols into the kaomoji, as in (`Д´) or (◕‿◕✿).

Further variations can be produced using Unicode combining characters, as in ٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶ or ᶘᵒᴥᵒᶅ.