Inserting Japanese/Chinese characters into MySQL database

Hi, I have a PHP file that takes form input (first and last name) and inserts them into a MySQL database (running MySQL 4.1.12-log). The MySQL default character set for the database is UTF-8 Unicode (utf8) and the collation is utf8_general_ci. The table I am inserting the data into is MyISAM and has a collation of latin1_swedish_ci. The table already has a bunch of records in it. I just got a request to allow for Japanese and Chinese characters to be collected in the database (in the first and last name fields).

I ran the query “SHOW CHARACTER SET;” from phpMyAdmin and none of the character sets appear to support Japanese or Chinese characters. I did some research on my own and I found out that there are some Japanese and Chinese character sets out there. Mainly, it looks like big5, gb2312, gbk for Chinese and ujis and sjis for Japanese. Would I need to have these character sets added to my MySQL installation (in the config file)?

Is it possible to keep the same table and allow for users to enter either English, Japanese, or Chinese characters and have them all captured properly into my database table? If so, how? I found a Convert() and Cast() function in MySQL. Would I have to use these? Please help. Anyone have experience with this? I would rather not have to create a new table just for Japanese/Chinese characters. I would love to be able to collect English, Japanese, and Chinese characters all in the same table. Is this possible? Thanks in advance.

Is there any PHP function that might help with this and do I need to add a meta charset tag within the HEAD tag of my PHP page?

There is a nice guide located here with some more information, but if you want to store multiple languages in the DB, you should use UTF-8. And no, you dont need the Chinese and Japanese character sets as UTF-8 supports those languages.