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し /よんshi/yon
5五 go
7しち /ななshichi/nana
9きゅう /くkyuu/ku

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:

Ninth九番目きゅうばんめ /くばんめkyūban-me/kuban-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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