learning japanese numbers

Ultimate Guide To Learning Japanese Numbers! 

05 June 2024Shopify API

Learning Japanese numbers doesn’t have to be complicated and overwhelming! It can be super fun and easy.

Here’s the 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. 

Source: Instagram

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)
1 ichi hitotsu
2 ni futatsu
3 san mitsu
4 shi/yon yotsu
5 go itsutsu
6 roku mutsu
7 shichi/nana nanatsu
8 hachi yatsu
9 kyuu/ku koonotsu
10 juu tu

Source: Instagram 

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 
11 十一 juuichi
12 十二 juuni
13 十三 juusan
14 十四 juushi/juuyon
15 十五 juugo
16 十六 juuroku
17 十七 juushichi/juunana
18 十八 juuhachi
19 十九 juukyuu/juuku
20 二十 nijuu
21 二十一 nijuuichi
22 二十二 nijuuni
23 二十三 nijuusan
24 二十四 nijuushi/nijuuyon
25 二十五 nijuugo
30 三十 sanjuu
40 四十 yonjuu
50 五十 gojuu
60 六十 rokujuu
70 七十 nanajuu
80 八十 hachijuu
90 九十 kyuujuu

Source: Instagram

Trivia - Numbers from 11 to 19 in Japanese are comprised with 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
100 Hyaku 
101 百一 Hyaku ichi
102 百二 Hyaku ni
103 百三 Hyaku san
104 百四 Hyaku shi / hyaku yon
105 百五 Hyaku go
110 百十 Hyaku juu
120 百二十 Hyaku nijuu
150 百五十 Hyaku gojuu 
200 二百 Nihyaku 
300 三百 Sanhyaku 
400 四百 Yonhyaku 
500 五百 Gohyaku 
600 六百 Roppyaku 
700 七百 Nanahyaku 
800 八百 Happyaku 
900 九百 Kyuuhyaku 
1000 Sen 


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.

Source: Instagram

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.

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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)
Byou (秒) Seconds 
Fun (分) Minutes 
Ji (時) Hours 
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.

Is 4 in Japanese Yon or Shi?

In Japanese, both "yon" (よん) and "shi" (し) can be used to refer to the number 4. However, the use of "shi" is often avoided in certain contexts because it is pronounced the same as the word for death (死) in Japanese, which can be considered unlucky.

As a result, "yon" is more commonly used in everyday language, while "shi" may be avoided in certain situations, such as in hospitals or hotels where room numbers containing the number 4 may be skipped or assigned to another floor.

Is 7 Nana or Shichi?

In Japanese, both "nana" (なな) and "shichi" (しち) can be used to refer to the number 7. "Nana" is more commonly used in everyday language, while "shichi" is often used in formal contexts such as telling time or in legal documents. However, both words are interchangeable and both are correct ways to say "7" in Japanese.

What is 21 in kanji?

In Japanese, the number 21 can be written in Kanji as "二十一".

Here are the Kanji characters and their meanings:

  • "二" (ni) means "two"
  • "十" (juu) means "ten"
  • "一" (ichi) means "one"

So "二十一" (ni juu ichi) literally translates to "two ten one" in English

How to say 200 000 in Japanese?

In Japanese, the number 200,000 can be said as "ni juu man" (二十万).

Here's the breakdown of the words:

  • "ni" (二) means "two"
  • "juu" (十) means "ten"
  • "man" (万) means "ten thousand"

So when you put them together, "ni juu man" (二十万) means "twenty ten-thousands," which is equivalent to two hundred thousand in English.

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