Japanese Counting - Indicators and Counters

Unlike us, the Japanese use an extension after the number to indicate that they are counting something. The problem is that beginners can end up getting lost, because in addition to recording the numbers, they must remember many counting indicators, and know the right moment to use them.

In this article, we are going to talk about the indicators or counters used as suffix or prefix of numbers to indicate certain item in Japanese language.

How Japanese Numerical Counting Works

This article will not teach the Japanese numbers. When we talk about counting, we are referring to counting objects that in Japanese always merge the number with a certain ideogram that represents a certain object.

For example, I want to indicate that there are 5 people. I just talk gonin [五人] which is the junction of the number 5 + the person ideogram person [人]. This does not only happen with numbers, as an example we have burajirujin [ブラジル人] which means Brazilian.

Counting in Japanese - indicators and counters

Most of the time, the ideogram or kanji that will represent the counting object will have its Chinese pronunciation ON. Apart from these details, there are 3 difficulties:

  • The pronunciation of the counter changes depending on the number. Example: [匹] can be Hiki or Biki;
  • The pronunciation of the number changes depending on the counter. Example: One and Two flips hitori and futari along with kanji [];
  • You have to analyze and remember which object or thing uses such a form or count indication;

It may seem complicated, but with time you get used to it. There are no differences between Japanese words that use ideograms and these counting forms.

To help, we will leave at the end a table explaining the euphonic changes in counts. That way you can carefully examine the counts and then know the right way to use them.

Accountants in Japanese

First we will leave a table with the top 8 counters, then another table with most of the counters. If you have doubts, know that it's simple. Just say the number and then the counter.

If you want to say: "There are 5 people", you say: Go Bod Imasu. Seeing the table below you will understand better.

Counting in Japanese - indicators and counters

If you're new to Japanese, we recommend not going past the top 8 ways to count, so you don't end up losing your mind. But you can take a look, it's just not necessary to learn all of them at this point. But see the end of the article which shows very important things.

Responsive Table: Scroll the table sideways with your finger >>
HumanNINIt serves to count people, human beings.
Cheered upHIKI; PIKI; BIKIIt is a counter related to small animals such as fish, cat, mouse and many others.
GeneralTSUWith tsu you can count most things and objects not corresponding to other categories.
InanimateKOFor small or compact, usually rounded, lifeless objects, we can count apples, oranges, lemons, rocks, croquettes, and the like.
Big, electric goalsDAIFor large objects such as cars, wardrobes, cupboards, it includes counting all types of household appliances such as refrigerators, computers and telephones, etc.
Fine ObjectsHON; PON; BONWidely used to count thin and elongated objects such as pencils, pens, trees, etc. The most curious thing about this counter was to realize that it was also used to count video tapes and telephone calls.
Printed materialSATSUIt is a counter used for practically all types of printed material such as books, magazines, pamphlets, handouts, etc.
Fine ObjectsMAYFor the Japanese, fine objects are things like shirts, sheets of paper, plates, cookies, blankets

Common people and things counters

Responsive Table: Scroll the table sideways with your finger >>
booCopies of a magazine or newspaper, or other packages of papers
hai;dad;baiDrinking cups and glasses, cuttlefish, octopus, crabs, squid and boats.
kai; gaiTo count floors and floors.
ok個箇个ヶWord for general counting, used when there is no specific counter. Implies that the item is small or round.個 is also used for military units.
meiPolite people () (名 means "name")
menMirrors, board game boards (chess, igo, shogi), computer game stages, walls of a room, tennis courts
wowStories, episodes of TV series, anime and etc.

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

Time, calendar and attendance counters

Responsive Table: Scroll the table sideways with your finger >>
divertido; trocadilhominutes
月; 月Months of the year.
haku; pakuNumber of nights.
jiTimes of Day
jikan時間Long period of hours / Time
okDay of month
kagetsuヶ月; 箇月Long period of months.
not applicableYears, years of school (degrees). Do not use for years old.
untranslatableDays of the month (There are exceptions)
leaves歳; 才 Years of age (才 is used informally as an abbreviated form)
baimultiples, sometimes, several times.
banPosition. In sports games.
do; tabi Translation: do; tabiOccurrences, number of times, degrees of temperature or angle.
jouUsed to count tatami, this kanji also means tatami.
kaiOccurrences, number of times

Other Unknown Accountants

Remembering that such terms are unknown and rarely used, and there is probably a more correct way of saying such a thing.

Responsive Table: Scroll the table sideways with your finger >>
baScene from a game
baiTo count multiple things, multiple things
bancount nights
banPosition, platform for a train line, and sports games.
biSmall fish and shrimp (used in the fish trade.)
booCopies of a magazine or newspaper, or other packages of papers.
byōshi拍子Musicals and beats
chakuClothing suits.
chooWeapons, knives, tools, instruments, violins
chooTools, scissors, saws, pants, guns, tofu buns, servings in a restaurant.
chooCity blocks/blocks
daiGenerations, historical periods, kingdoms
danlevels, degrees, steps (stairs).
fuckSequences of letters or drawings that you write or draw without removing pen from paper.
fuku; pukupowdered green tea, packets or doses of powdered medicine, puffs (eg a cigarette) the like.
fuku; pukuhanging scrolls (Kakejiku)
gakkyū学 級Classes (in pre-university education)
gon; kotoWords
guFurniture sets. Suits and some rare clothes.
gyolines of text
heyLosses (sport attacks)
hariUmbrellas, tents
hashiragods and tombstones
First; SecondShots, bullets, fireworks in the sky; orgasms, sexual acts
hin; pinParts of a meal, courses.
hitsu; pitsuPieces of land, lots and land.
ho; poNumber of steps (foot)
jiLetters, kanji, kana
jiChildren. Like: "father of two"
Pills / Capsules
Articles of law, fine objects, rays or currents of light, smoke or lightning.
kabuforest nurseries
kaiOccurrences, number of times (see also: do)
kai; gainumber of floors
kakokugoヶ国語languages (national)
kakustrokes in kanji
kanpieces of nigiri-zushi
keitou系統Bus lines
kenAbstract questions and cases
ken; gen untranslatablehousing
kiaircraft, machines
kiGraves, Wreaths, CPUs, Reactors, Elevators, Dams
kire切 れSlices (bread, cake, sashimi, etc.)
okHouses (戸 means "door")
稿Drafts of a manuscript
komaFrames, panels.
konshots (drinking)
kuSections, city districts
kuHaiku and Senryu
mouth(Bank) Bills, Donations (口 means "opening" or "input")
kumiGroups, a couple of people (twins, a husband and wife, dancers, etc.)
kurasuクラスschool classes
kyakuTables, chairs, long-stemmed cups
kyakuCup and saucer pairs
kyokumusic pieces
kyokuBoard games (chess, go, shogi, mahjong); radio stations, television channels
maki; kanScrolls, book volumes
ninmae人前food portions
oriFolded paper boxes
pejiページ; 頁Pages
kingcases, examples
kingArches in a shrine
rinwheel, flowers
ryōrail cars
saoamenities, flags
shaUsed for companies i.e. 会社
seasonsSets of things, such as documents or furniture
shōWins (In Sports)
shuTanka / Waka - Japanese Poems
shuruiou; shu種類種type, species
sokuPairs of shoes and pairs of socks
tabGroups of flowers and vegetables
taiImages, statues, remains of the person, dolls
tawararice bags
tekidrops of liquid
dezPoints, pieces of a set
I'mLarge animals, cattle, elephants, whales, dolphins, butterflies (頭 means "head")
HelloPeriods of time, or one-sixth of the day or night.
Tori通 りcombinations
tsuboCommonly used area unit. Example: 3.3 square meters.
tsubualmonds, grains
tsūwa通話The phone calls
wa; ba; paBirds, rabbits 羽 means "feather" or "wing".
wowStories, TV series episodes, etc.
zenPairs of chopsticks/rice bowls

Euphonic Changes and Exceptions

Euphonic changes occur when certain numbers end with counters that start with certain phonemes. For example:

  • One + time → One time;
  • six + animals → six animals;

Details are listed in the following table:

Responsive Table: Scroll the table sideways with your finger >>
NumeralKS / SHT / CHHFPW
1 - oneIkkiss [いっさ]itt [いった]ipp [いっぱ]Ippipp [いっぱ]
3 health

sanb [さんば]sanp [さんぷ]
sanb [さんば]
4 years old

yonh [よんは]yonf [よんふ]
yow [よわ]
4 years old

yonp [よんぱ]yonp [よんぷ]
yonw [よんわ] yonb よんば]
6 rokurokk [ろっか]

ropp [ろっぱ]roppropp [ろっぱ]These seem to be words written in Japanese script (hiragana) As they are, I cannot provide a meaningful translation since they don't correspond to any specific context If you need a translation or further assistance, please provide additional details or context for these words
8 hachihakk [はっか]hass [はっさ]hatt [はった]happ [はっぱ]happ [はっぷ]happ [はっぱ]happ [はっぱ] hachiw [はちわ]
10 juujikk [じっか]jiss [じっさ]jitt [じった]jipp [じっぱ]jipp [じっぷ]jipp [じっぱ]jipp [じっぱ]
10 amjukk [じゅっか]jussjuttjupp [じゅっぱ]jupp [じゅっぷ]jupp [じゅっぱ]
100 hyakuhyakk [ひゃっか]

hyapp [ひゃっぱ]hyapp [ひゃっぷ]hyapp [ひゃっぱ]
1000 sin

senb [せんば]senp [せんぷ]

10000 man

manb [まんば]manp [まんぷ]


nanb [なんば]nanp [なんぷ]

There are some Exceptions in the counts, see a table below, showing which numbers are different, when pronouncing in a certain counter.

Numeraluntranslatableningatsuji時間 jikankaihyakuwithoutleaves
1tsuitachihitori issen
3mikka sangaisanbyakusanzen
6muika roppyaku
8yōka happyakuhassen
9kokonoka kugatsukujikujikan
14jūyokkajūyonin jūyojikan
20hatsuka hatachi
24nijūyokka24 people 24 hours
nan ** nangai nanzen

That was just the basics, there are a lot of other details that we left out or didn't explain well. I hope you understood this article a little.

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