Grammar detail: Japanese numbers and counting

Japanese numbers and counting
My current mastery of this grammar:
LOG IN to view grammar mastery data

One to ten

4 and 7 are slightly irregular: when used on their own, either the し or しち (which are the
み) or the よん or なな (the
み) can be used. Above 10, however, the よん and なな are much more common.

Ten to ninety-nine

Past ten, Japanese is completely regular, so counting is as simple as putting the number of tens with the number of ones. So for example:
  • 57 = 五十七 (ごじゅうなな) = five tens + seven
  • 99 = 九十九 (きゅうじゅうきゅう) = nine tens + nine
  • 44 = 四十四 (よんじゅうよん) = four tens + four

One hundred to ten thousand

From 100 to 10000, Japanese largely mirrors English: the Japanese terms for 100 and 1000 are used and combined in the same way.
100ひゃく213 ➜ 二百十三 (にひゃくじゅうさん)
1000せん3406 ➜ 三千四百六 (さんぜんよんひゃくろく)

Above ten thousand

Unlike the Western system, which counts in multiples of a thousand, Japanese counts in multiples of 10,000, so numbers larger than 10,000 take a bit of thought to 'convert' from the Western system to Japanese.
10,000 = 10^4まん12000 ➜ 10000 + 2x1000 ➜ 一万二千 (いちまんにせん)
10,000 x 10,000 = 100,000,000 = 10^8おく105 million ➜ 1 x 100 million + 500 x 10,000 ➜ 一億五百万 (いちおくごひゃくまん)
10,000 x 10,000 x 10,000 = 1000,000,000,000 = 10^12ちょう1 trillion ➜ 1 million x 1 million ➜ 一兆 (いっちょう)

Generic counting

When you don't know a counter, or a counter is not readily suitable, the standard numbers can be turned into counters by using the following

Counters for objects and other things

For counting actual objects as opposed to just expressing a number, Japanese uses a unique system of 'counters', terms which are placed after the number and which partially describe the object being counted.
For example,
is the counter for flat objects such as sheets of paper, so to say 'five sheets of paper' in Japanese, you would say
which literally means 'paper 5 flat objects'.
While this seems unusual at first, and is often touted as a difficult feature of Japanese, we are actually doing exactly the same thing in English (five *sheets* of paper), but English is much less regular than Japanese.
Dates and times use counters in the same way - see dates and time for details.
Japanese has many counters, and the most common ones are:
まい flat objects such as paper or books
ほん cylindrical or long objects such as bottles or chopsticks (note: this is a little confusing, since ほん means 'book' - it is *not* used to count books)
ひきsmall animals
かいnumber of times something happens
small round objects
さい years old / age (note that '20 years old' is irregular: 二十歳 is not read にじゅっさい as you would expect, but instead はたち)
才| さい years old (note: this is commonly used, but not technically correct: 歳 is the correct counter)
じょう tatami mats (the typical way to measure the area of a room)
だい cars and machines
めい people (polite alternative to 人, used by businesses and restaurants etc.)
カ国語 かこくご languages
か月 かげつ months
けん buildings
つう letters, telegrams etc
ぎょう rows (in a document etc)
ばん platforms (in a railway station etc)
かい floors (in a building)
便 びん (plane) flights
さつ banknotes
きゃく chairs, tables, legs (of chairs and tables etc)
こう items (in a checklist); paragraphs
はく nights (eg of a stay in a hotel)
せい generations; monarchs (Elizabeth I etc)
とう large animals, cattle
かん volumes (eg books); reels (eg film)
copies (eg of a publication)
切れ きれ pieces of sashimi (literally 'cuts') ひときれ、 ふたきれ、 みきれ、 よきれ、 ごきれ、 ろっきれ、 ななきれ、 はちきれ、 きゅうきれ、 じっきれ
ちゃく suits of clothing
そく pairs of shoes etc.
わり tenths; lots of 10%
つぶ pills, tablets etc
In Japanese, counters are known as {search


The order of objects can be expressed using the form:
number + counter + 目 (め)
For example:
  • 三つ目 (みっつめ) third (generic object)
  • 九人目 (きゅうにんめ) ninth person
  • 二回目 (にかいめ) second time
LOG IN to view flashcard data
See also:
  • 七 and 四 - how to read the kanji for seven and four
  • the character ヶ
  • Counters for objects and other things

Kanji used in this grammar

イチ   イツ   one   ひと    ひと-    
ニ   ふた    ふた two   
サン   み    みっ three   
シ   よん    よ four   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
ゴ   いつ-    いつ five   
ロク   むっ six   む    むい    む    
シチ   seven   なな    なな    なの    
ハチ   や    や    よう eight   
ク   キュウ   ここの nine   
ジュウ   ジッ   ten   と    とお    
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
オン   イン   sound   おと    ね    
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
ドク   トク   よ to read   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
クン    teaching, precept; Japanese reading of a kanji   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
ヒャク hundred; 100   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
セン   1000; thousand   ち 1000   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
マン   バン    10,000   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
オク    hundred million   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
チョウ   きざ sign, indication   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
ボク   モク   eye   ま-    め    
ジン   ニン   ひと man   
カイ   エ   まわ to revolve   まわ to make turn   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
Problem with this grammar? Question or comment? Please CONTACT US.
Change component list
By default the component builder shows the most common components (themselves joyo kanji, or used in at least 3 other joyo kanji). Select an alternative set of components below.

Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Help with the component builder
For detailed instructions, see the Component builder how to guide.
To find any kanji, first try to identify the components it is made up of.
For any components you recognize, if you know the English meaning or name, start typing it in the text area. Full details of all components and their English names can be found here.
Alternatively, count the strokes of the component, and scan the list to find it visually.
To find the kanji :
  • Notice that it is made of several components: 氵 艹 口 夫.
  • 氵 艹 口 all have three strokes, so you could look in the list in the 3 stroke section. 夫 has four strokes.
  • Alternatively, you could start typing 'water' (氵), 'grass' (艹), 'mouth' (口) or 'husband' (夫) in the search area, and the components will be highlighted in yellow.
  • Keep adding components until you can see your kanji in the list of matches that appears near the top.