Counting in Japanese 日本語で数えよう！
Learn Japanese Numbers and How to Count in Japan
To know how to count in Japanese, it is not enough to learn Japanese numbers. In reality, it all depends on what you are counting!
Since the Meiji period and the Western influence in Japan, the Japanese have used Arabic and Japanese numbers. It is very important to memorize and know how to read these; in particular to avoid any unpleasant surprises when paying the bill in an izakaya.
Numbers from 0-10
- 零 (rei) = 0
- 一 (ichi) = 1
- 二 (ni) = 2
- 三 (san) = 3
- 四 (yon / shi) 4
- 五 (go) 5
- 六 (roku) 6
- 七 (shichi ou nana) 7
- 八 (hachi) 8
- 九 (kyū / ku) 9
- 十 (jū) 10
Numbers from 11-99
To make up the numbers from 11 to 100, you just need to combine the numbers from 1 to 10. For example, the number 11 is the combination of 10 and 1, so 十一 (jū ichi) = 11.
- 十二 (jū ni) = 12
- 二十 (ni jū) = 20
- 三十 (san jū) = 30
- 五十九 (go jū kyū) = 59
In the construction of large Japanese numbers, the numbers are grouped by four and not by three as in French. For example, 100,000 is divided into 10,000 and 10,000,000 into 1,000,000.
- 百 (hyaku) = 100
- 千 (sen) = 1000
- 万 (man) = 10 000
- 十万 (jū man) = 100 000
- 百万 (hyaku man) = 1 million
- 千万 (sen man) = 10 million
Some kanji are easily modifiable (一 easily transforms into 十) and in order to avoid criminal acts, official, legal and financial documents carry in addition formal characters called daiji "large characters".
The daiji characters are also found on banknotes. It is written 壱 万 円 on the 10,000 yen bill.
What are you going to count?
Do you think you now master Japanese numeration? The answer is, unfortunately, "not yet"! Japanese has originality; that of specific ways to count depending on what it is.
The Japanese use a particular suffix placed after the number to count people, animals, objects or to express a duration, an age, a frequency. This same system is also used in China and Korea, which can seem confusing for the beginner. Learning is the golden rule.
- 人 (jin / nin) = People
- 頭 (tō) = Large animals
- 羽 (wa) = Birds and rabbits
- 匹 (hiki) = Small animals (cats, dogs, fish, insects…)
- 枚 (May) = Fine and flat objects (stamps, sheets ...)
- 台 (dai) = Technological objects (cars, television ...)
- 本 (hon) = Long and cylindrical objects (pencils, fingers, trees, umbrella ...)
- 個 (ko) = Very small objects
- 着 (chaku) = Clothes
- 冊 (satsu) = Related objects (books, dictionaries, magazines)
- 足 (soku) = Objects worn on the feet (socks, shoes ...)
- 切 れ (kire) = Slices (of cake, bread, ham ...)
- 杯 (hai) = Liquids contained in containers
- 錠 (jō) = Pills, capsules, round drugs
- 軒 (ken) = Buildings
- 階 (kai) = Floors
- 番 (ban) = Numbered objects (station platforms, buses)
- 番 (ban) + 目 (me) = Ranking (1st, 2nd…)
- 回 (kai) = Frequency (once, twice…)
- 年 (nen) = Years
- か 月 (kagetsu) = Month
- 週 間 (shūkan) = Weeks
- 日 (ka / nichi) = Days
- 時間 (jikan) = Hours
- 分 (fun / pun) = Minutes
- 秒 (byō) = Seconds
- 歳 (sai) = Age
In case of misunderstanding or forgetting, you can use the suffix つ (tsu) which acts as a counter by default.