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Japanese Numbers and Counting


Basic Numbers

The simple, standard numbers from one to ten in Japanese are:

1 ichi
2 ni
3 san
4 shi
5 go
6 roku
7 shichi
8 hachi
9 kyuu
10 juu

Above these, yon is preferred for "four" and nana for "seven." (There are a few exceptions, but shi is avoided because it is also the word for "death." Due to relevant superstitions, buildings can be found without a fourth floor, room numbers with no fours, etc.)

11 juu ichi (This is literally "ten, one.")
12 juu ni
13 juu san
14 juu yon
15 juu go
16 juu roku
17 juu nana
18 juu hachi
19 juu kyuu
20 ni juu (This is literally "two, ten." Think of it as "two tens.")
21 ni juu ichi
22 ni juu ni
23 ni juu san

The pattern should now be easy to see. Accordingly:

27 ni juu nana
35 san juu go
48 yon juu hachi
56 go juu roku
63 roku juu san
72 nana juu ni
89 hachi juu kyuu
94 kyuu juu yon
100 hyaku

111 hyaku juu ichi
135 hyaku san juu go
167 hyaku roku juu nana
198 hyaku kyuu juu hachi

200 ni hyaku

208 ni hyaku hachi
242 ni hyaku yon juu ni
273 ni hyaku nana juu san
290 ni hyaku kyuu juu

300 san byaku

350 san byaku go juu
385 san byaku hachi juu go

400 yon hyaku

423 yon hyaku ni juu san

500 go hyaku
600 roppyaku
700 nana hyaku
800 happyaku
900 kyuu hyaku
1,000 sen (or issen)

1,200 sen ni hyaku
1,632 sen roppyaku san juu ni

2,000 ni sen

2,800 ni sen happyaku

3,000 san zen
4,000 yon sen
5,000 go sen
6,000 roku sen
7,000 nana sen
8,000 hassen
9,000 kyuu sen
10,000 ichi man (Never juu sen. Man is the Japanese for units of 10,000. Unlike hyaku and sen, ichi always precedes man for numbers 10,000 to 19,999.)

17,000 ichi man nana sen
18,570 ichi man hassen go hyaku nana juu

20,000 ni man

25,000 ni man go sen

30,000 san man
50,000 go man
100,000 juu man
200,000 ni juu man
250,000 ni juu go man
1,000,000 hyaku man
2,000,000 ni hyaku man
5,000,000 go hyaku man
10,000,000 issen man
100,000,000 ichi oku (Oku is the next major unit jump when reaching ichi man man, or "ten thousand ten thousands.")

0 zero or rei


Special Numbers

Fractions & Decimals

A half is hanbun.
A quarter (1/4) is yon bun no ichi, literally "one of four parts."
Three-fourths (3/4) is yon bun no san, or "three of four parts."
Two-thirds (2/3) is san bun no ni, and so on.

A decimal point is called ten, so:

1.5 itten go (ichi and ten are contracted)
2.5 ni ten go
4.78 yon ten nana hachi
11.36 juu ichi ten san roku

Days of the Month

The days of the month are in a group all their own. Some are similar to other numbers or counters, while some are completely unique. The final ka or nichi means "day." Please keep in mind that these are not ordinal numbers in the English sense, and cannot be used to express the order of other things in a series. Take note of each one; there are some surprises.

The first day of the month: tsuitachi (some people use ippi)
The second: futsuka
The third: mikka
4th yokka
5th itsuka
6th muika (some people use miuka)
7th nanoka
8th youka
9th kokonoka
10th touka
11th juu ichi nichi
12th juu ni nichi
13th juu san nichi
14th juu yokka
15th juu go nichi
16th juu roku nichi
17th juu nana nichi (some people use juu shichi nichi)
18th juu hachi nichi
19th juu ku nichi
20th hatsuka
21st ni juu ichi nichi
22nd ni juu ni nichi
23rd ni juu san nichi
24th ni juu yokka
25th ni juu go nichi
26th ni juu roku nichi
27th ni juu nana nichi (or ni juu shichi nichi)
28th ni juu hachi nichi
29th ni juu ku nichi
30th san juu nichi
31st san juu ichi nichi

Months of the Year

Sadly, the ancient Japanese names for the months are no longer used except in poems and other special literature. In daily writing and conversation the number of the month with the Japanese for month (gatsu) is used instead:

January ichi gatsu
February ni gatsu
March san gatsu
April shi gatsu (never yon gatsu)
May go gatsu
June roku gatsu
July shichi gatsu
August hachi gatsu
September ku gatsu
October juu gatsu
November juu ichi gatsu
December juu ni gatsu

Years

Years are expressed in either seireki, the western reckoning, or wareki, which follows the Japanese eras of the reign of the emperors. In either reckoning, the word for "year" (nen) follows the year number. Years in seireki are expressed the same as any other number; there are no special abbreviations. The year 2015 is ni sen juu go nen; 1996 would be sen kyuu hyaku kyuu juu roku nen; 1872 is sen happyaku nana juu ni nen, and so on.

In the wareki reckoning, 2015 was the 27th year of the present emperor, and his era has been named Heisei. In Japanese that year is called heisei ni juu nana nen. If you were born in 1975, you were born in the 50th year of the Showa Era, or, in Japanese, shouwa go juu nen. For year conversions see my Handy Tables of Japanese Years.

If you need to express B.C., use kigen zen before the number: 723 B.C. is kigen zen nana hyaku ni juu san nen.

Room Numbers & Floor Numbers

Room numbers are usually read one number at a time. Interestingly, zeroes are usually read maru, which means "circle":

310 san ichi maru
407 yon maru nana
1227 ichi ni ni nana
1502 ichi go maru ni

The floors of a building use kai:

first floor: ikkai
second floor: ni kai
third floor: san gai
fourth floor: yon kai
fifth floor: go kai

Telephone Numbers

Telephone numbers are also often read one number at a time. A very clever invention the Japanese have, however, is saying no where hyphens usually are. This makes listening to a long number easier. For example, 067-892-7813 would be read: zero roku nana no hachi kyuu ni no nana hachi ichi san.

Flight Numbers

Flight numbers use bin:

Flight 26: ni juu roku bin
Flight 183: hyaku hachi juu san bin

Trains and buses use gou after their numbers, not bin.


Counting

There is a set of what could be loosely called "ordinal numbers" which are sometimes used for counting up to ten items. Similarities will be found between these and the days of the months introduced above:

1 hitotsu
2 futatsu
3 mittsu
4 yottsu
5 itsutsu
6 muttsu
7 nanatsu
8 yattsu
9 kokonotsu
10 tou

These are used mainly by small children to count things or say how old they are. Adults will sometimes use these in short requests or replies:

A: Yobi no denchi aru? (Are there any spare batteries?)
B: Hai. Mittsu aru yo. (Yes. There are three.)

However, it will sometimes be preferable to use the correct counter when counting things, especially in formal settings. The counter for batteries and similar irregularly-shaped, relatively small objects is ko. Counters are used with the basic numbers which were introduced at the top of this page. Here is the previous conversation made a bit more formal:

A: Yobi no denchi arimasu ka? (Are there any spare batteries?)
B: Hai. San ko arimasu. (Yes. There are three.)

There are many of these counters — many more than are mentioned on this page. These listed below should be considered the absolutely essential ones that you need to learn and master first. The more counters you memorize and use correctly, the more literate and fluent you will sound.

ko

Ko was just mentioned. It is used to count things like apples, oranges, blocks, boxes, and many other things which are pretty much the same size in all dimensions. People often use ko in place of other counters. If you use ko to count bananas instead of the technically correct hon, it's no big deal, but using it to count cars or animals would really show a lack of knowledge.

hon

Use hon for relatively long and narrow things: pens, pencils, rulers, sticks, bottles, etc. Take note how the pronunciation changes according to the number:

1 ippon
2 ni hon
3 san bon
4 yon hon
5 go hon
6 roppon
7 nana hon
8 happon
9 kyuu hon
10 juppon

Boku wa enpitsu ni hon motte iru kara, ippon kashite ageru. (I have two pencils so I'll lend you one.)

Note how the number of an item retains its counter even when the name of the item is known and omitted.

Please keep in mind that this is a general guide and there will be people who use other expressions. For example, there are people who will say hachi hon instead of happon. This applies to everything on this page.

hai

Hai is for cups or glasses filled with a drink: ippai, ni hai, san bai:

O-cha ni hai kudasai. (Two cups of tea, please.)

satsu, mai, dai

For the number of books use satsu: issatsu, ni satsu, san satsu, etc.
For flat things like sheets of paper, photographs, and tiles use mai: ichi mai, ni mai, san mai, etc.
For cars, bikes, and other machines use dai: ichi dai, ni dai, san dai, etc.

Animals & People

Small animals up to dogs use hiki: ippiki, ni hiki, san biki, yon hiki, go hiki
Larger animals from sheep on up use tou: ittou, ni tou, san tou
Birds use wa: ichi wa, ni wa, san wa
Fish use bi: ichi bi, ni bi, san bi

Watashi no itoko wa inu san biki, neko happiki, niwatori go wa o katte imasu. (My cousin has three dogs, eight cats, and five chickens.)

For people use hitori for one person, futari for two people, and then the counter nin for three or more:

3 people: san nin
7 people: nana nin
12 people: juu ni nin
65 people: roku juu go nin

Futari no ane to san nin no otouto ga imasu. (I have two big sisters and three little brothers.)

Telling Time

For time, add ji after the hour and fun / pun after the minutes:

1:25 ichi ji ni juu go fun
3:51 san ji go juu ippun
11:47 juu ichi ji yon juu nana fun

Four o'clock is yoji, not yonji. Also, han (meaning "half") is often used for 30 minutes:

4:30 yoji han

Periods of Time

Although omitted in some cases, add kan to indicate a period of time:

years: ichi nen kan, ni nen kan, san nen kan, etc.
months: ikka getsu kan, ni ka getsu kan, san ka getsu kan, etc.
weeks: isshuu kan, ni shuu kan, san shuu kan, etc.
days: ichi nichi (kan is usually omitted), futsuka kan, mikka kan, etc., following their names as days of the month.
hours: ichi jikan, ni jikan, san jikan, etc.
minutes: ippun kan, ni fun kan, san pun kan, etc.
seconds: ichi byou, ni byou, san byou, etc.

Kare wa juu ni nen kan doitsu ni sunda. (He lived in Germany for 12 years.)
Chiisai koro, natsu yasumi wa san ka getsu kan datta. (When I was little our summer vacations were three months long.)
Sono shigoto wa ni jikan han kakarimashita. (That job took two and a half hours to do.)

Times & Attempts

Use kai to express the number of times something is experienced, tried, or done:

Ni kai toukyou ni ikimashita. (I've been to Tokyo twice.)
Mou ikkai kanojo ni denwa shite miru. (I'll try calling her one more time.)

Kai is also used to show frequencies:

every other day: futsuka ni ikkai
once every three days: mikka ni ikkai
twice a week: shuu ni ni kai
once every two weeks: ni shuu kan ni ikkai
once every three months: san ka getsu ni ikkai
three times a year: nen ni san kai

Bokutachi wa ni ka getsu ni ikkai bouringu o yaru. (We go bowling every two months.)
Watashi wa nen ni ni kai amerika ni iku. (I go to America twice a year.)

Rankings & Placings

Rankings within a group or placings for contest winners use i:

first place: ichi i
second place: ni i
third place: san i

Numbers in Succession

Use ban to show the number of something in a succession:

number one or "the best": ichi ban
number two: ni ban
number three: san ban

Ban is also sometimes used instead of i to show rankings.

A Specific Number in a Series

To specifically point out the number of something in a series, add me:

the second person: futari me
the third day: mikka me
the fifth machine: go dai me

Imouto wa migi kara san ban me desu. (My sister is the third one from the right.)

Vague Numbers

a few dogs: inu ni, san biki
4 or 5 students: gakusei shi, go nin or shi, go nin no gakusei (not yon, go)
around 25 people: ni juu go nin gurai
50 or more: go juu ijou
several years: suu nen kan
hundreds of birds: suu hyaku wa no tori or nan byaku wa no tori
thousands of liters: suu sen litoru or nan zen litoru


© Tim R. Matheson

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