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internationalization with utf-8

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I am trying to build a website that will support multiple languages (mainly english and Japanese)

Can someone explain what I need to be able to put all my strings into utf-8 ?
Here is what I would like to do.
Use UTF-8 for all strings.
It is my understanding that utf-8 can encode every possible language. (please correct me if I am wrong)

and here are the questions.
how do you do this exactly ?

I think I have to set the charset in the website to utf-8
( <META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" CONTENT="text/html; CHARSET="utf-8"> )

the database has to have utf-8 as default charset I guess ?
I guess that means I have to put all the text and varchar fields to utf-8.
Does anyone know if you can do that without losing data ?

Do I need to do something else ?
is there some php option I have to change ?
or something on the webserver ? (apache)

thank you

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