When it comes to the Japanese counting system, they sure don’t make it easy for us. Things are put into categories and given different counting systems. For example, the way you count the number of books on a shelf is different to how you would count the number of fish in the ocean.

The way you count bottles of beer is different to the way you would count pieces of paper. The way you count humans is different to how you count dogs and so on.

In today’s blog we are going to be looking at some of the most popular counters and learn how to count up to 10 in each category. There are countless more categories, but odds are, in daily conversation, these are the counters that are going to be coming up the most. So, ready? 3, 2, 1, GO!

The Basics

We are sure that you must have come across this so far in your Japanese studies. These are the standard numerical counters used in Japanese. You can add things like さい to indicate ageじ to indicate time and かい to indicate times in Japanese.   

1いちichi
2ni
3さんsan
4よん・しyon / shi
5go
6ろくroku
7なな・しちnana / shichi
8はちhachi
9きゅうkyuu
10じゅうjyuu

THE つ counter

The Tsu counter counts most… “things.” It’s really useful as you can count just about any object with it.

1 thingひとつhitotsu
2 thingふたつfutatsu
3 thingみっつmittsu
4 thingよっつyottsu
5 thingいつつitsutsu
6 thingむっつmuttsu
7 thingななつnanatsu
8 thingやっつyattsu
9 thingここのつkokonotsu
10 thingとおtoo

Counting the days in Japanese

The Ka counter lets you count the days in the month. Pay close attention to the first counter however as it is slightly different to the rest.

1stついたちTsuitachi
2ndふつかfutsuka
3rdみっかmikka
4thよっかyokka
5thいつかitsuka
6thむいかmuika
7thなのかnanoka
8thようかyouka
9thここのかkokonoka
10thとおかtooka

Counting People in Japanese

When it comes to counting people, we can use the 人 Nin particle. This is only for humans and not for animals.

1 personひとり hitori
2 peopleふたり futari
3 peopleさんにん sannin
4 peopleよにん yonin
5 peopleごにん gonin
6 peopleろくにん rokunin
7 peopleしちにん shichinin
8 peopleはちにん hachinin
9 peopleきゅうにんkyuunin
10 peopleじゅうにん jyuunin

THE ほん (本) COUNTER

This hon counter counts things that are long and skinny like bottles, flutes and spines.

1いっぽんippon
2にほんnihon
3さんぼんsanbon
4よんほんyonhon
5ごほんgohon
6ろっぽんroppon
7ななほんnanahon
8はちほんhachihon
9きゅうほんkyuuhon
10じゅっぽんjuppon

THE 枚 (まい) COUNTER

This counter is used to count flat things such as paper, cards and photos.

1いちまいichimai
2にまいnimai
3さんまいsanmai
4よんまいyonmai
5ごまいgomai
6ろくまいrokumai
7ななまいnanamai
8はちまいhachimai
9きゅうまいkyuumai
10じゅうまいjuumai

Counting Books in Japanese

The Satsu counter counts things such as books and magazines.

1いっさつissatsu
2にさつnisatsu
3さんさつsansatsu
4よんさつyonsatsu
5ごさつgosatsu
6ろくさつrokusatsu
7ななさつnanasatsu
8はっさつhassatsu
9きゅうさつkyuusatsu
10じゅっさつjussatsu

THE 個 (こ) COUNTER

The Ko counter is used as a general counter and a good fall back if your not sure how to count something.

1いっこikko
2にこniko
3さんこsanko
4よんこyonko
5ごこ  goko
6ろっこrokko
7ななこnanako
8はっこhakko
9きゅうこkyuuko
10じゅっこjukko

So there we have it guys, these are certainly the most common counters in Japanese but you should take the time to go and find some of the others too.

It’s always nice to fall back on the “TSU” and “KO” counters if you completely forget the specific counter.

Hope you enjoyed todays lesson on counters guys, またね.

How to count seconds(time) in Japanese

Time in Japanese is “時間(じかん)”. To count “時間” in Japanese, we use units such as “秒(びょう)”, “分(ふん)”, and “時(じ)”

First let’s start studying the counter for seconds; “秒(びょう)”. Take a look at the pronunciation chart below.

NumberJapaneseReading
1一秒いちびょう
2二秒にびょう
3三秒さんびょう
How many何秒なんびょう

There are no changes on how you read “秒” and therefore it is an easy counter for Japanese beginners to learn.

How to count minutes in Japanese

Now let’s look at the unit for minutes; “分(ふん)”. As you can see below, the unit for minutes has an irregular way of reading “分” according to the number. They can be read as ふん and ぷん. Note that there are some number of minutes that can be called in two different ways.

NumberJapaneseReading
1一分いっぷん
2二分にふん
3三分さんふん/さんぷん
4四分よんふん/よんぷん
5五分ごふん
6六分ろっぷん
7七分ななふん/しちふん
8八分はっぷん/はちふん
9九分きゅうふん
10十分じゅっぷん
11十一分じゅういっぷん
12十二分じゅうにふん
100百分ひゃっぷん
How many何分なんぷん/なんふん

How to count hours in Japanese

The unit for hours; “時(じ)” does not have an irregular way of counting same with the unit for seconds.

NumberJapaneseReading
1一時いちじ
2二時にじ
3三時さんじ
How many何時なんじ

By using these units the time can be expressed. When you are asked 今何時ですか(What time is it?)you should be able to answer the questions if you have mastered the units.

Usually kanji is not used when we write sideways in Japanese, but only for the example it is written in kanji for you to learn.

Ex)3:45 → 三時四十五分 (さんじよんじゅうごふん)

午後(ごご) means PM(ごぜん) and 午前 is AM in Japanese. In Japnanese 午前 and 午後 must be written before the numbers. The casual way to express if it is AM or PM is by saying 朝の(あさの)for AM and 夜の(よるの)for PM. 朝 means morning and 夜 means night in Japanese.

Ex)17:49:23 → 十七時四十九分二十三秒(じゅうしちじよんじゅうきゅうふんにじゅうさんびょう) OR 午後五時四十九分二十三秒 (ごぜんごじよんじゅうきゅうふんにじゅうさんびょう)

11:54 → 十一時五十四分(十一時五十四分 OR 午前十一時五十四分)

When you are talking about time and want to say “something- thirty” you can use 半(はん)instead of saying 三十分. 半 means half.

Ex)1:30 → 1時半

How to count duration in Japanese

The unit for hours is 時間(じかん). This might seem to be weird for you since 時間 means time like it says in the first sentences of this article. For 時間 there is only one way to read as well.

NumberJapaneseReading
1一時間いちじかん
2二時間にじかん
3三時間さんじかん
How many何時間なんじかん

The units for “時間(じかん)”is very important and useful so please take time when remembering.

PR

How to count & Read Japanese Numbers

Recommend

Let’s Study Japanese Antonyms (Part 2 – Hard)

Learn Japanese online with BondLingo?

PR

Study in Japan?