Japanese Numbers Figures

How to count in Japanese

The use of Arabic numerals to write numbers has become quite common in Japanese language, but sino-japanese characters kanji are still widely used as well. So, it can help to have a practical knowledge of them.

Japanese language uses some specific ways of counting that we will explain, with tips to easily count and have the good pronunciation.

Digits and Numbers

The basics

In the table below, you will find the basic digits and numbers, written in kanji, with their corresponding transcription for pronunciation:

In Japanese Transcription Translation
rei / zero 0
itchi 1
ni 2
san 3
yon
shi (in a list)
4
go 5
roku 6
shitchi / nana 7
hatchi 8
kyuu / ku 9
juu 10
hyaku 100
sen 1 000
man 10 000
oku 100 000 000

For big numbers (over 10,000), the Japanese writing system divides numbers by groups of four digits such as in oku 1,0000,0000 (ten thousand thousand), instead of 100,000,000 (one hundred million).

How to "create" any number

It is quite easy and somewhat logical to write Japanese numbers. Let’s have a look at a couple of examples:

  • 34 reads 三十四 san'juuyon (3-10-4);
  • 1,546 reads 千五百四十六 sen'gohyaku yon'juuroku (1000-5-100-4-10-6);
  • 572,982 reads 五十七万二千九百八十二 gojuunanaman' nisen' kyuuhyaku hachijuuni (5-10-7-10000-2-1000-9-100-8-10-2).

There are some little changes in pronunciation for a few of them:

  • 300 三百 san'byaku (and not san’hyaku);
  • 600 六百 roppyaku;
  • 800 八百 happyaku;
  • 3000 三千 san'zen;
  • 8000 八千 hassen.

How to count people

You might be asked quite frequently how many people you are when traveling in Japan, especially in restaurants. To answer, combine the adequate number and the counter for people "nin" (written with the character 人). The two first numbers are exceptions, but the rest is quite logical:

En japonais Prononciation Traduction
一人 hitori 1 person
二人 futari 2 persons
三人 san'nin 3 persons
四人 yonin 4 persons
五人 gonin 5 persons
六人 rokunin 6 persons
七人 nananin / shitchinin 7 persons
八人 hatchinin 8 persons
九人 kyuunin 9 persons
十人 juunin 10 persons
十一人 juuitchinin 11 persons
十二人 juuninin 12 persons
... ... ...

To ask "How many people?" say 何人 nan'nin or 何名様 nan'meesama in a more formal way.

How to count things

Japanese language is rich with many ways to counts objects and various other things aside people. Counters cover so many fields that one can almost say they are countless. Let’s review only the most useful and readily usable by beginners.

The basics

People new to Japanese language might find it hard to memorize all the necessary counters. Here is a helpful tip, that can solve many situations: try using the generic つ tsu suffix, as in the table below:

In japanese Transcription Translation
一つ hitotsu 1 thing
二つ futatsu 2 things
三つ mittsu 3 things
四つ yottsu 4 things
五つ itsutsu 5 things
六つ muttsu 6 things
七つ nanatsu 7 things
八つ yattsu 8 things
九つ kokonotsu 9 things
too 10 things

To ask "How many things?" say いくつ ikutsu.

The specific counters

In the table below, we selected some counters used on an everyday basis. Just add the suffix after the number, but remember that some pronunciations may vary for euphony.

In Japanese Transcription Type of object / thing
hon Long and cylindrical objects
mai Thin and flat objects
satsu Books
tchaku Clothes
hai Drinks
ko Small Objects
dai Technological Objects
切れ kire Slices
joo Pills
hiki Small animals
too Big animals
wa Birds
ken Buildings

Note that the suffix 番 ban is also used when counting in series (the first, the second, etc.)

Last Updated on October 28, 2020 Comment compter en japonais