Japanese Numbers 101: An Easy Introduction to the Japanese Number Systems

Not sure where to start learning Japanese numbers? This post will make it as easy as one, two, three!

In this easy beginner’s guide to Japanese numbers, we’ll delve into the fundamentals, dissecting numbers from zero to a trillion.

Learn the basics of cardinal and ordinal numbers, now to count people and things and the significance of numbers in Japanese culture.

And while you’re here, you can even master Japanese number pronunciation by clicking on any of the Japanese words to hear their audio!


Japanese Numbers 0-10

It’s always a good idea to start at the beginning. Here are the very first Japanese numbers you should learn:

0 零  / ゼロ  れい /
rei / zero
1 一  いちichi
2 二  ni
3 三  さんsan
4 / よん shi/yon
5 五  go
6 ろくroku
7 しち / なな shichi/nana
8 はちhachi
9 きゅう / kyuu/ku
10 じゅうjuu

You may notice that some of the numbers have two readings. You’ll need to know both, since they’re used in different situations. When to use which word will require some memorization but here are some notes to give you a basic understanding:

  • Zero: “Rei” is more common in certain contexts like phone numbers, prices and addresses. “Zero” is also widely used, especially in scientific or technical contexts.
  • Four: “Yon” is the more standard and commonly used term, while “shi” is often avoided in certain situations due to its similarity in pronunciation to the word for death (“shinu”). “Shi” might be used in specific contexts to avoid any potential cultural sensitivity.
  • Seven: “Nana” is more commonly used in everyday situations, while “shichi” is often used in specific contexts, such as telling time or counting.
  • Nine: “Kyuu” is more common in general usage, while “ku” might be used in specific contexts or when distinguishing numbers in certain situations, like phone numbers or addresses, to avoid confusion with other similar-sounding words.

Japanese Numbers 11-100

Got all that? Let’s move on! Beyond the number 10, the numbers follow a pretty simple pattern for counting.

11 十一  じゅういちjuuichi
12 十二  じゅうにjuuni
13 十三  じゅうさんjuusan
14十四 じゅうし  / じゅうよん  juushi/juuyon
15 十五  じゅうごjuugo
16 十六  じゅうろくjuuroku
17十七  じゅうしち  / じゅうなな  juushichi/juunana
18 十八  じゅうはちjuuhachi
19十九  じゅうきゅう  / じゅうく  juukyuu/juuku
20 二十  にじゅうnijuu
30 三十  さんじゅうsanjuu
40 四十  よんじゅうyonjuu
50 五十  ごじゅうgojuu
60 六十  ろくじゅうrokujuu
70七十  しちじゅう  / ななじゅう  shichijuu/nanajuu
80 八十  はちじゅうhachijuu
90 九十  きゅうじゅうkyuujuu
100 百  ひゃくhyaku

Japanese Numbers 101+

As we move beyond the basic numbers, the Japanese system employs a mix of native Japanese and Sino-Japanese numbers.

The latter are based on Chinese characters or kanji, and they come into play when dealing with larger numbers. For instance, the number 100 is “hyaku” in Japanese, but it becomes “ichi-hyaku” when combined with another number like one to make 101. Similarly, 1,000 is “sen” and 10,000 is “man,” forming the basis for counting in the thousands and beyond.

101 百一  ひゃくいちhyakuichi
200 二百  にひゃくnihyaku
300 三百  さんびゃくsanbyaku
400 四百  よんひゃくyonhyaku
500 五百  ごひゃくgohyaku
600 六百  ろっぴゃくroppyaku
700 七百  ななひゃくnanahyaku
800 八百  はっぴゃくhappyaku
900 九百  きゅうひゃくkyuuhyaku
1,000 千  せんsen
2,000 二千  にせんnisen
3,000 三千  さんぜんsanzen
10,000 一万  いちまんichiman
100,000 十万  じゅうまんjuuman
1 million 百万  ひゃくまんhyakuman
10 million 千万  せんまんsenman
100 million 一億  いちおくichioku
1 billion 十億  じゅうおくjuuoku
1 trillion 一兆  いっちょうitchou

How to Count in Japanese

Great, you now know the numbers in Japanese! But what if you want to count the number of dogs you have, or say what place you won in the competition? That’s a whole other story.

The sections below break down how to count in Japanese in different situations.

Cardinal Numbers in Japanese

Cardinal numbers are versatile and widely used in various contexts to convey numerical values and quantities in Japanese. They’re the ones we’ve been using throughout this post.

Ordinal Numbers in Japanese

Ordinal numbers in Japanese are used to express the order or ranking of items in a sequence. They’re different from cardinal numbers, which represent quantity.

The basic ordinal numbers from first to tenth in Japanese are:

First 一番目 いちばんめichiban-me
Second 二番目 にばんめniban-me
Third 三番目 さんばんめsanban-me
Fourth 四番目 よんばんめyonban-me
Fifth 五番目 ごばんめgoban-me
Sixth 六番目 ろくばんめrokuban-me
Seventh 七番目 ななばんめnanaban-me
Eighth 八番目 はちばんめhachiban-me
Ninth九番目 きゅうばんめ / くばんめ kyūban-me/kuban-me
Tenth 十番目 じゅうばんめjūban-me

Here are some situations where you’d use ordinal numbers in Japanese:

Counting in Sequence: To express the order of items beyond the tenth position, you can combine the respective cardinal number with the counter word 番目 (-ban-me). For example:

  • 十一番目 (じゅういちばんめ, jūichiban-me) — eleventh
  • 二十五番目 (にじゅうごばんめ, nijūgoban-me) — twenty-fifth
  • 百番目 (ひゃくばんめ, hyakuban-me) — hundredth

Days of the Month: When expressing the day of the month, the cardinal number is used with the counter word 日 (にち, nichi). For example:

  • 一日 (ついたち, tsuitachi) — first day
  • 二十五日 (にじゅうごにち, nijūgonichi) — twenty-fifth day

Position in a Race or Competition: Ordinal numbers are used to describe the placement in a race or competition. For example:

  • 一位 (いちい, ichii) — first place
  • 三位 (さんい, san’i) — third place
  • 十位 (じゅうい, jūi) — tenth place

It’s important to note that ordinal numbers in Japanese typically follow a consistent pattern with the 番目 (-ban-me) suffix, while cardinal numbers are used to represent the quantity or count.

How to Count Objects in Japanese

Counting Objects (General Counting): When counting objects, you typically use the following pattern: [Number] + [Counter]. Here are a few examples:

  • 一つ (ひとつ, hitotsu) — one
  • 二つ (ふたつ, futatsu) — two
  • 三つ (みっつ, mittsu) — three
  • 四つ (よっつ, yottsu) — four
  • 五つ (いつつ, itsutsu) — five

How to Count People in Japanese

Counting People: When counting people, the counter word 人 (にん, nin) is commonly used. Here are a few examples:

  • 一人 ( ひとり , hitori) — one person
  • 二人 (ふたり, futari) — two people
  • 三人 (さんにん, sannin) — three people
  • 四人 (よにん, yonin) — four people
  • 五人 (ごにん, gonin) — five people

Japanese Counters

When counting objects in Japanese, numerical classifiers known as counters are used. Counters specify the shape, size or type of the item being counted.

For example, to count small animals, the counter “hiki” is used, while the counter “mai” is employed for flat objects like paper or tickets. Learning the appropriate counters for different objects is a key aspect of mastering the Japanese number system.

Here are 65 of the most common counters:

JapaneseFuriganaRomajiMeaning / Usage
ばん  banturns, order, rank
番地 ばんち  banchihouse addresses
ぼん  boncylindrical objects (bottles, candles, etc.)
ぶ  bumovies, machines, vehicles, etc.
だい  daivehicles, machines, etc.
だん  dansteps, stages, levels
段階 だんかい  dankaistages, levels
段落 だんらく  danrakuparagraphs
えん  encoins, money
画面 がめん  gamenscreens, display screens
月/ヶ月 がつ  / かげつ  gatsu / kagetsumonths
ごう  gouissue numbers, dates
号車 ごうしゃ  goushatrain car numbers
グラム ぐらむ  guramugrams
グループ ぐるーぷ  guru-pugroups
はい  haicups, glasses, drinks
ひき  hikismall animals, rolls of cloth, etc.
ほ  hosteps, walks
ほん  honlong and cylindrical objects (books, pens, etc.)
い  irank, position
じ  jihours, times
ヶ月 かげつ  kagetsumonths
かい  kaifloors in a building
かい  kainumber of times, occurrences
かん  kanships, warships
カップ かっぷ  kappucups
箇所 かしょ  kashoplaces, spots
けん  kenhouses, buildings
こ  kogeneral counter for objects
項目 こうもく  koumokuitems, entries
まい  maiflat objects (paper, tickets, etc.)
め  megoals, objectives, aims
めい  meipeople, professionals
めん  menflat, solid objects (sheets of paper, mirrors, etc.)
ミリ みり  mirimillimeters
もん  monquestions
ねん  nenyears
にち  nichidays
にん  ninpeople
おん  ondrums, gunshots, musical notes, etc.
パック ぱっく  pakkupacks, packs of cigarettes, etc.
ページ ぺーじ  pe-jipages
れん  renseries, chains
りょう  ryoutrain cars, pairs
さい  saiage
さら  saraplates, dishes
さつsatsubound objects (books, notebooks, etc.)
せき  sekiships, small vehicles, etc.
世帯 せたい  setaihouseholds
せつ  setsuseasonal divisions, verses, joints
セット せっと  settosets, collections
シート しーと  shi-tosheets, seats
しゅう  shuweeks
しゅう  shulaps, circuits, rounds
週間  しゅうかん  shuukanweeks
そく  sokupairs of shoes, legs
てん  tenpoints, dots, marks
とう  toularge animals (cattle, horses, etc.)
つ  tsugeneric counter
つまみ つまみ  tsumamiknobs, buttons, switches
わ  wabirds, rabbits, etc.
わ  wawheels, rings, loops

Japanese Numbers in Culture

The Japanese numbers system extends beyond mere counting; it holds cultural and symbolic significance as well. Certain numbers are associated with superstitions or luck.

For example, the number four (shi) is considered unlucky because it sounds similar to the word for “death.” For this reason, it’s often replaced by “yon.”

On the other hand, the number nine (ku) is considered auspicious and associated with good fortune. Understanding these cultural nuances adds depth to the study of Japanese numbers and provides insights into Japanese customs and beliefs.

Also, as a note regarding number nine (ku) mentioned in the “Japanese Numbers in Culture” paragraph, it is true that nine is considered auspicious, but at the same time, some people avoid nine because nine = ku = 苦, this kanji has a meaning of “suffering.”

How to Practice Japanese Numbers

Learning a whole new counting system isn’t easy. You’ve come this far already, so give yourself a pat on the back! And if you need some more assistance learning Japanese numbers, here are some excellent resources:


You now know everything you need to know about Japanese numbers and counting in Japanese. I knew I could count on you!

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