A Useful Guide to Japanese Numbers for the Beginners

Learning Japanese online is fun. The Japanese numbers are very easy to learn and master. Here we are providing you with a useful Guide to Japanese Numbers. Let’s explore how you find the Japanese numbers system.

There is no doubt that Japanese numbers are a bit confusing. No matter how much confusing you may find Japanese counting, it is still considered one of the most beautiful languages around the world.

Learning Japanese can be the biggest achievement of your life because a native English speaker will require around 2200 hours of study and training to gain fluency in Japanese. So start learning Japanese online today and let the fun begin!

You may be thinking it is impossible to become fluent in Japanese but that is truly not the case. Learning the Japanese number system requires a systematic approach that we are going to share with you in this article. So let’s get started!

Japanese numbers may seem difficult until you know the logic behind their structure. Once you learn the basics of these numbers you will find it way easier to master them.

An overview of Japanese counting

Before starting with the Japanese counting it is important for you to know that people in Japan do not use the Japanese number system all the time rather they use Arab numerals for writing.

But that doesn’t mean that you do not require to learn counting in Japanese. There are several situations such as traditional ceremonies of Japanese where the Japanese number systems are still used.

One important fact regarding the Japanese number system is that it is based on two sets of pronunciations: the Sino-Japanese readings (on’yomi or “On reading”) that are based on the Chinese numerals and the Native Japanese readings (kun’yomi or “Kun reading”) that are based on the Japanese yamato kotoba (native words).

The Sino-Japanese reading is the one that you are going to use more often. The Sino-Japanese use the counters. Counters specify the kind of objects that you are counting in Japanese. These objects can be anything such as animals, machinery, and other long and small objects.

The Native Japanese readings, on the other hand, do not require counters at all. This reading is considered a general counter you can use to count everything in Japanese excluding people, money, and time.

Japanese Numbers 1 to 10

Nr. Sino-Japanese reading Kanji Native Japanese reading Kanji
1 いち (ichi) ひとつ (hitotsu) 一つ
2 に (ni) ふたつ (futatsu) 二つ
3 さん (san) みっつ (mittsu) 三つ
4 し、よん (shi, yon) よっつ (yottsu) 四つ
5 ご (go) いつつ (itsutsu) 五つ
6 ろく (roku) むっつ (muttsu) 六つ
7 しち、なな (shichi, nana) ななつ (nanatsu) 七つ
8 はち (hachi) やっつ (yattsu) 八つ
9 く、きゅう (ku, kyuu) ここのつ (kokonotsu) 九つ
10 じゅう (juu) とう (tou)
0 れい、ゼロ、マル (rei, zero, maru)

This is how you count to 10 in Japanese using both Sino-Japanese and Native Japanese readings. This was the easy part. Isn’t it? Let’s move forward to explore more regarding Japanese counting.

Zero in Japanese numbers

For zero in Japanese, the kanji is 零 (rei). But, it is more common to use zero same as we use in English language: ゼロ (zero). Or マル (maru) is also used which means ‘circle’ and is used exactly the same way we say “oh” instead of “zero” in English when reading individual digits of a number.

Japanese Numbers 1 to 100

Once you learn the first 10 numbers in Japanese, learning Japanese counting up to 100 becomes super easy and fun.

  • 11 is 十一 (juuichi): 10 + 1 12 is 十二 (juuni): 10 + 2 and so on up to 19.

Once you get to twenty, it’s the same concept, but you start by counting the 10s:

  • 20 is 二十 (nijuu): 2 10’s 21 is 二十一 (nijuuichi): 2 10’s + 1 and so on, up to 99.
  • For 100 there is a new word: 百 (hyaku).

Kanji Numbers in Japanese: 1 – 1 Trillion

Kanji Kana + Romaji
1 いち (ichi)
2 に (ni)
3 さん (san)
4 よん (yon)
5 ご (go)
6 ろく (roku)
7 なな (nana)
8 はち (hachi)
9 きゅう (kyuu)
10 じゅう (juu)
100 ひゃく (hyaku)
1,000 せん (sen)
10,000 まん (man)
100,000 十万 じゅうまん (juuman)
1,000,000 百万 ひゃくまん (hyakuman)
10,000,000 千万 せんまん (senman)
100,000,000 一億 いちおく (ichioku)
1,000,000,000 十億 じゅうおく (juuoku)
1,000,000,000,000 一兆 いっちょう (icchou)

The major difference is that the big numbers are divided by units of 4 (or 10,000) rather than 3 (1,000). So once you get past 10,000, it can be a bit confusing to think of one million as “one hundred ten-thousands” at first.

The Most Common Japanese Counters

Counter specify different objects ranging from long objects to machinery. It is considered to be the most confusing part of learning Japanese but here are some of the beneficial tips to learn Japanese forms of counters.

If you don’t know the counter for an item, you can use the 一つ、二つ (hitotsu, futatsu) system to count your objects up to ten. This will save you a lot of worry if you memorize the Native Japanese numbers.

Some numbers conjugate dissimilarly with certain counters. The ones to look out for are 1, 3, 6, and 8. Number 1 changes about half the time, while 3, 6, and 8 change most of the time.

三 (3) changes the first letter of any counter from the “h” column of the kana chart to “b” or “p,” like in 三分 (sanpun, “three minutes”).

六 (6) changes the “h” kana to “pp,” like 六匹 (roppiki, “six animals”).

八 (8) changes “h” counters the same as 6, usually. This is not quite a rule, but common enough to help you when you’re getting started.

Sometimes, the less common readings of 4, 7, and 9 are used with certain counters, like 七時 (shichiji, “7 o’clock”).

Japanese Counters for People

In order to count people in Japanese, you use the counter ~人 (nin) for 3 or more people.

  • For one person, you say ひとり (hitori)
  • For two people you say ふたり (futari).

Japanese Counters for Long Objects

For long and thin objects, the counter is ~本 (hon). Although 本 means “book” in Japanese, it isn’t the counter for books.  ~本 is the counter for things like roads, rivers, and train tracks. It is used for anything that travels that is very long and thin.

Japanese Counters for Small Objects

~個 (ko) is used for small objects. It it’s also used for round shaped objects like apples: リンゴ二個 (ringo niko, ‘two apples”).

Japanese Counters for Animals

You use the counter ~匹 (hiki) for animals like dogs and cats. For larger animals like elephants, you use ~頭 (tou).

Japanese Counters for Mechanical Objects

For objects like cars, you use the counter ~台 (dai) and for two cars you use the counter 二台の車 (nidai no kuruma, “two cars”).

Other Common Japanese Counters

Other commonly used Japanese counters are ~枚 (mai), ~回 (kai), and ~階 (kai or gai).

  • ~枚 is used to count flat objects, like paper.
  •   ~回 is used to express the number of times, like the number of times in a week you go to work.
  •  ~階 is used to count the number of floors in a building.

Conclusion

Do not feel discouraged while knowing about the Japanese counters. You will definitely be considering them one of the hardest things to learn in life. But that is not the case. They may seem strange and difficult, but we use them all the time in English as well.

All you are required to do is to book your lessons with an online Japanese tutor to learn Japanese counters in bits and pieces. All these lesson plans are designed by keeping in mind your capacity to absorb Japanese numbers and the logical sequence behind them. So grab the opportunity now to learn one of the best languages in the world.