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I am using Google Japanese Input keyboard, and I often want to post a rare emoji such as 🐧 or 🗼.

The search bar looks like the perfect place to search for an emoji, but unfortunately it fails every time: enter image description here

It fails even on the simplest requests, such as "smile" or "sad".
It does not work in Japanese either:

enter image description here

I have changed phones, and changed OS (Nexus default, CyanogenMod, LineageOS, Samsung default) many times: The problem has always been present. So I guess it is not a bug, but rather a problem of me not using it correctly.

How to use that feature correctly?

  • Note that Gboard with Japanese keyboard can search emoticon with katakana and kanji, but still not with English (it only interprets emoticon in current keyboard language) – Andrew T. Aug 29 at 10:09
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I found the answer 10 minutes after posting the question, that's silly.

The trick is, you must search in hiragana. Even if your locale is English (like in my case).

For instance, search for ねこ instead of cat or :

Google Japanese Input - emoji search

Most users type the hiragana before getting the kanji anyway, so it kind of makes sense if you think about it afterwards.

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