Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Japanese Numbers - Ichi, Ni, San

Do you know the numbers which anime characters use in anime? Numbers like ichi 一, ni 二, san 三 and so on? No? Well, here's a post about all those Japanese numbers and only about the Japanese numbers, so you can know pretty much almost everything about them.

From 1 to 10

First off, the numbers in Japanese from 1 to 10 are these:
  1. ichi
  2. ni
  3. san
  4. yon
  5. go
  6. roku
  7. nana
  8. hachi
  9. kyuu
  10. jyuu

(this article is about numbers, check out Counting in Japanese to learn how to properly count in Japanese)

The numbers in Japanese from one to ten. ichi, ni, san, yon or shi, roku, nana or shichi, hachi, kyuu and jyuu. 一二三四五六七八九十

By the way, here's a video if you need to learn the pronunciation:

Yon vs. Shi, Nana vs. Shichi

You might have noticed is that there are two words for 4 and 7, yon 四 and shi 四, nana 七 and shichi 七, and you might be asking: why are there two words for these numbers? What's their difference?

The thing is, both shi 四 and shichi 七 are on'yomi 音読み, readings of the Japanese kanji based on what they were read like in China. All the numbers above are on'yomi. However, they don't have the exact same sound as they had in Chinese, they were changed a little for Japanese.

So it turned out that it's pretty easy to mistake ichi, shi and shichi as they sound more or less the same. Thus, most of the time, when saying multiple digits or a number like "twenty four," nijuu yon 二十四, the word yon 四 is used instead of shi 四 to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Some Japanese words do use the shi 四 reading, though, like shiki 四季, for example, "the four seasons."


The word for the number zero in Japanese can either zero ゼロ or rei 零. The difference is that the word zero in Japanese has the same roots as the word zero in English, while rei comes from Chinese. Their meanings in Japanese, however, are pretty much the same.

Another thing is that the word maru 丸, which means "circle," also written as an actual circle, maru ◯, is often used for the digit "zero". That is, if you're saying the digits "two zero one six," you could say ni maru ichi roku 2, 0, 1, 6.

Over 10

When a number if over 10 in Japanese, you just say the word jyuu 十 then the word for the other number together like this:
  • jyuu ichi 十一
    Ten one. Eleven.
  • jyuu ni 十二
    Ten two. Twelve.
  • jyuu san 十三
    Ten three. Thirteen.
  • jyuu yon 十四
    Ten four. Fourteen.
  • jyuu go 十五
    Ten five. Fifteen.
  • jyuu roku 十六
    Ten six. Sixteen.
  • jyuu nana 十七
    Ten seven. Seventeen.
  • jyuu hachi 十六
    Ten right. Eighteen.
  • jyuu kyuu 十九
    Ten nine. Nineteen.

After the number 19, the number 20 and so on are said pretty much counting how many tens there is in the number. For example:
  • ni jyuu 二十
    Two tens. Twenty.
  • ni jyuu yon 二十四
    Two tens four. Twenty Four.
  • san jyuu nana 三十七
    Three tens seven. Thirty seven.
  • yon juu ni 四十二
    Four tens two. Forty two.

Over 100

After 99, the numbers in Japanese from 100 and over all work in a similar way. Basically, you just put how many of the biggest number are there, then the biggest number, then how many of the second biggest number, then the second biggest number, and so on.
  • hyaku
  • hyaku ni 百二
    Hundred two.
  • ni hyaku 二百
    Two hundred
  • ni hyaku ni 二百二
    Two hundred two.
  • ni hyaku juu 二百十
    Two hundred ten.
  • ni hyaku juu ni 二百十二
    Two hundred twelve.
  • ni hyaku ni juu 二百二十
    Two hundred twenty.
  • ni hyaku ni juu ni 二百二十二
    Two hundred twenty two.

After that there are the words sen 千 for "thousand" and man 万 for "ten thousand." Do note that to say just "one thousand" you need to say issen 一千, and for "ten thousand," ichi man 一万.
  • issen 1,000
  • ichi man 10,000
  • ni sen jyuu roku 2016
  • kyuu sen ichi 9001
  • kyuu man kyuu sen kyuu hyaku kyuu jyuu kyuu 99999

An important note is that there is no word for "one hundred thousand." Instead, you say jyuu man 十万, which would be like "ten ten thousands."
  • ni jyuu man 200,000
  • ni jyuu roku man 260,000
  • hyaku man 1.000.000
  • issen man 一千万 10.000.000

After that, instead of man man, the word oku 億 is used, meaning "one hundred million", or 10,000 × 10,000. And then, after that, icchou 一兆 is used to say "one trillion" or 10,000 × 10,000 × 10,000.

List of Magnitudes

For convenience, a list of number magnitudes in Japanese.
  1. ichi
  2. jyuu
  3. hyaku
    One hundred.
  4. issen 一千
    ni sen 二千
    One thousand.
    Two thousand.
  5. ichi man 一万
    ni man 二万
    Ten thousand.
    Twenty thousand.
  6. jyuu man 十万
    Hundred thousand.
  7. hyaku man 百万
    One million.
  8. sen man 千万
    Ten million.
  9. ichi oku 一億
    ni oku 二億
    One hundred million.
    Two hundred million.
  10. jyuu oku 十億
    One billion.
  11. hyaku oku 百億
    Ten billion.
  12. issen oku 一千億
    ni sen oku 二千億
    One hundred billion.
    Two hundred billion.
  13. icchou 一兆
    ni chou 二兆
    One trillion.
    Two trillion.

Now when you see characters in anime talking about how much debt they have or how much a reward or bounty is, you'll have some notion of what numbers they are talking about.


Lastly, one interesting thing about Japanese numbers is that there are some slangs made literally out of them. These exist by spelling out each number as a digit, forming a word which matches the sound.

For example, 4649 is the word yoroshiku よろしく. This is because yon ん, roku く, shi , ku , are readings for the number four, six, four again, and nine in Japanese.

The post Numbers Spelling Japanese Words - Pocket Bell Legacy explains how it works and has a dozen other examples.

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