Learning Japanese numbers doesn’t have to be complicated and overwhelming! It can be super fun and easy. Here’s a ultimate guide to learning numbers in Japanese that will break it down and make it easier for to understand and grasp numbers in Japanese.
We’re aware of how intricate the Japanese language is given that there are more than 2 writing systems in the language and also the fact that Japanese letters are ideograms which means they can have distinct meanings and pronunciations depending on the context.
However, don’t let that hinder you from learning Japanese, and counting in Japanese isn’t a huge task as it may seem. All you have to do is grasp the fundamentals of counting numbers in Japanese and eventually you’ll be able to master the entirety of it. Let’s check out how it should be done below!
Guide To Learning Japanese Numbers
Learning Numbers In Japanese: A Synopsis
When I initially started learning to count in Japanese I was uncertain how I’d be able to distinguish between each Japanese numeral and perfectly nail their pronunciations. But with time and adequate practice, I figured learning how to count in Japanese was much easier than I anticipated it to be.
Before we begin learning to count in Japanese let’s understand the significance of numerals in the Japanese language. So that way we know in which contexts they’re obligatory.
First off, in modern days most Japanese people use Arabic numerals since it’s the most widely used numeral system across the world. However, when it comes to any traditional Japanese events, the Japanese prefer using traditional kanji symbols.
In addition, numerals in Japan are pronounced in two varieties of readings such as Kun pronunciation which is native Japanese readings, and the Sino-Japanese pronunciation which is the traditional Chinese numerals.
The Sino-Japanese numeral readings are used more often than Kun readings because the Kun readings only consist of numbers from 1 – 10. Hence, we’ll be learning both the readings for numbers 1 – 10, and moving forth the numbers will only be in Sino-Japanese readings.
Learning Numbers In Japanese: 1 to 10
Now let’s learn how numbers from 1 to 10 are pronounced in both Kun and Sino-Chinese readings. Keep in mind that once you thoroughly practice counting numbers in Japanese from 1 to 10, the rest are going to be a walk in the park.
|Numbers||In Kanji Letters||Sino-Japanese Pronunciation||Kun Pronunciation (Native Japanese)|
Since we’ll only be learning the upcoming numbers in Sino-Japanese readings it’s always best to memorize numbers from 1 to 10 in Sino-Japanese formations.
Eventually, when counting numbers beyond 10 in Japanese you can effortlessly comprehend how to utilize the basic Sino-Japanese interpretations. This is because numbers beyond 10 in Japanese incorporate prefixes from the Sino-Japanese readings. You can learn more about this below.
For the record, there are certain numbers in Japan that are deemed unlucky. If you look at the table above, you’ll notice that numbers like 4,7, and 9 have alternative readings. This is because the number 4 is pronounced as ‘shi’ which means ‘death’ in Japanese and ‘ku’ (number 9) means ‘torture’.
However, 7 is a lucky number in Japan yet it has an alternative reading because it’s read as ‘shichi’. Therefore, make sure to use alternative readings for such numbers when speaking with a Japanese person.
Learning Numbers In Japanese: 11 to 90
Now let’s take note of how two-digit numbers are written and pronounced in Sino-Japanese readings. As I mentioned above, once you’ve got the hang of the basics, you need not fret anymore about counting bigger numbers in Japanese.
|Numbers||In Kanji Letters||Sino-Japanese Pronunciation|
Trivia – Numbers from 11 to 19 in Japanese are comprised with 十 as the first kanji symbol. This is the symbol for 10 in Japanese thus the numbers from 11 to 19 have ‘juu’ as the prefix and the suffix will be the literal reading of the number you’re counting.
For example, 10+5 is 15 which is written and counted as ‘juu+go’ because 10 in Japanese is ‘juu, and 5 is ‘go’.
Every number with two or more digits in Japanese is written in a specific arrangement. The arrangement for two-digit numbers is as follows → tenth + unit. For example, 25 is counted in Japanese as, ‘nijuugo’ in which the tenth digit is 2 (nijuu, referring to 20) and the unit is 5 which is counted as ‘go’ in Japanese.
Learning Numbers In Japanese 100 to 1000
Now let’s learn how big numbers from 100 to 1000 are counted. You can remember how these numbers can be counted in Japanese by remembering the kanji interpretations and pronunciations of every 100 and 1000 digits.
|Number||In Kanji Letters||Sino-Japanese Pronunciation|
|104||百四||Hyaku shi / hyaku yon|
Numbers Ending With Several Zeros In Japanese
We know zero is a number that literally has no value. However, every number that ends with several zeros depicts the value of the number which ultimately means more the zeros higher the value. The highest unit in the English numeral system is thousands. On the contrary, the highest unit in the Japanese numeral system is 10,000 (ten thousand).
Ten thousand is written in kanji characters as 万. The next unit after ten thousand in the Japanese numeral system is one hundred million which is written in kanji letters as 億,unlike in the English numeral system where after ten thousand there are higher units such as a hundred thousand, a thousand thousand, a million thousand, etc.
Since there are no units between ten thousand and one hundred million in the Japanese numeral system, people learning Japanese tend to confuse when reading digits that are higher than ten thousand. Hence such large numbers in Japanese are often written in Arabic numerals or the ten thousand kanji (万).
For example, the thousand yen note in Japan is represented with kanji letters as 千円札 which is pronounced as ‘sen ensatsu’. On the other hand, even Arabic numerals are used to represent larger numbers in Japanese. For instance, 30,500 m can be written as 3万500 where 万 means thousand.
Counter Words In Japanese For Day-to-Day Use
Counter words or counters are words that are used to measure the number of certain things or people. In the Japanese language, it’s crucial to use counterwords when you’re counting or basically discussing anything that comprises numbers. For example, some of the popular counter words are one pair of socks, two loaves of bread, and five packs of candy.
There are numerous counterwords in the Japanese language however we’ll only be learning a few of them, particularly those that are significant for day-to-day use. Similar to the English language, counterwords in Japanese come right after the specific number. Let’s learn some of the frequently used Japanese counters below.
|Japanese Counters||What They’re Used For|
|Tsu (-つ)||Can be used generally, however only for numbers from 1 to 9|
|Hitori (ひとり)||One person|
|Futari (ふたり)||Two people|
|Ko (個)||Small objects (apples, oranges, etc)|
|Tou (頭)||For large animals like elephants, giraffes, etc|
|Hiki (匹)||For small animals and insects.|
|So (台)||Large objects like cars, refrigerators, etc|
|May (枚)||Fine and thin objects like paper and clothes|
|Satsu (冊)||Printed items like newspapers, magazines, and books|
Ordinal Numbers In Japanese
Ordinal numbers or ordinals is a number that represents the position of something that is in a sequence. For example, first, second, third, and so on and so forth. Ordinals are even used in the Japanese language and they’re quite easy to learn. Let’s see how ordinals from first to tenth are written in Japanese.
|Ordinal Numbers||Japanese Pronunciations|
|1st||Dai ichi (第一)|
|2nd||Dai ni (第二)|
|3rd||Dai san (第三)|
|4th||Dai yon (第四)|
|5th||Dai go (第五)|
|6th||Dai roku (第六)|
|7th||Dai shichi (第七)|
|8th||Dai hachi (第八)|
|9th||Dai kyu (第九)|
|10th||Dai juu (第十)|
Hope you found my way of learning numbers in Japanese informational and convenient. Always keep in mind that with time and enough memorization you’ll easily pick up how to count in Japanese.
Learn Japanese Numbers: FAQs
What are the first 10 numbers in Japanese?
Numbers from 1 to 10 in Japanese consist of two different readings such as the native Japanese readings aka Kun reading and Sino-Japanese readings which are Chinese origin readings. Numbers from 1 to 10 in native Japanese readings are as follow
1 – Hitotsu
2 – Futatsu
3 – Mitsu
4 – Yotsu
5 – Itsutsu
6 – Muttsu
7 – Nanatsu
8 – Yatsu
9 – Kokonotsu
10 – Tou
How do you say the numbers 1 to 10 in Japanese?
Numbers in Japanese have two readings which are Sino-Japanese reading and Kun reading. However, Kun reading is only available for numbers from 1 to 10 in Japanese, hence let’s learn the Sino-Japanese reading from 1 to 10.
1 – Ichi
2 – Ni
3 – San
4 – Yon
5 – Go
6 – Roku
7 – Shichi
8 – Hachi
9 – Kyu
10 – Juu
How do you memorize Japanese numbers?
The easiest and fastest way to memorize numbers in Japanese is by initially memorizing the Sino-Japanese readings from numbers 1 to 10. This is because every number beyond 10 carries the suffixes of numbers from 1 to 10. However, the prefixes are bound to change after every 10 digits. When memorizing the Japanese word for every 10th digit, the rest becomes unchallenging.