Numbers is one of important basic vocabularies you will be using when traveling in Japan. So let’s start counting! First we will cover ONE to TEN!
THE FIRST TEN NUMBERS
K.M: is KANJI MNEMONICS, it’s a sentence made up to make you remember the kanji shape & meaning easily
S.M: is SOUND MNEMONICS, it help you to remember the spelling easier.
ONE: 一 「いち」ICHI
K.M: ONE line… No further explanations needed 😀
S.M: Just ONE mosquito is enough to make your body ITCHY all day!
TWO: 二 「に」NI
K.M: TWO lines, it’s the same shape as NI katakana
S.M: The sound is also the same as NI katakana
THREE: 三 「さん」SAN
K.M: THREE lines
S.M: I have three SONs (the SAN is spelled like SON)
FOUR: 四 「し」SHI or「よん」YON
K.M: Its a shape of a fist, how many fingers shown in a fist? Yes, FOUR
S.M: BeYONce… She loves to pose with a clenched fist.
FIVE: 五 「ご」GO
K.M: How many lines can you see? I see FIVE
S.M: Five… Four… Three… Two… One… and GOOOO!!!
SIX: 六 「ろく」ROKU
K.M: it’s a shape of eight’s kanji, with 2 lines above it… 8 – 2 = 6 (six) …
S.M: I wake up every morning at 6 with ROCK music as my alarm clock (YEAAAHHHH!!)
SEVEN: 七 「なな」NANA or「しち」SHICHI
K.M: It’s a rotated number 7
S.M: She cheated 7 times on me… Shame on you NANA!
EIGHT: 八 「はち」HACHI
K.M: Remember the hiragana HA in katakana that resembles an old man’s big nose?
S.M: HACHI also means bee… Now, B is similar to 8 shape isn’t it?
NINE: 九 「きゅう」KYUU or「く」KU
K.M: Somehow similar to hiragana KA, but there is an end hook that facing outside
S.M: NINE contestant are standing on the stage. They are all Cute (KYUU) & cool (KU)
TEN: 十 「じゅう」 JUU
K.M: The shape is the first letter of TEN. The (t)
S.M: Think of TEN JUICES
Congratulations! You’ve mastered one to ten,now here’s one of the practical usage of what you’ve just learnt!
When you enter Japanese restaurant, they will ask you
「なんにんさまですか」NAN NIN SAMA DESUKA? (How many people?)
Or sometimes it’s 「なんめい」NAN MEI instead of「なんにん」NAN NIN, you can proudly mention the amount of people using the vocabulary above.
Here’s the formula:
[number of people] + 「にんです」NIN DESU
So if you’re 10 people, you said: 「じゅうにんです」 JUU NIN DESU.
Does your group consist of more than ten people? No worries, let’s move on to 11 – 19!
11 – 19
Formula for these numbers would be:
10 「じゅう」JUU + [number following it]
11 = 10 + 1, spelled as 「じゅういち」JUU ICHI
12 = 10 + 2, spelled as 「じゅうに」JUU NI
17 = 10 + 7, spelled as 「じゅうなな」JUU NANA / 「じゅうしち」JUU SICHI
and so on…
*Some numbers like 4 or 7 have two spelling, you can use either of both.
20, 30,…,90 (Multiply of ten to 90)
Formula for multiply of ten to 90 is the reverse of what we have learnt for 11 – 19.
So the formula would be:
[The number in front] + 10 「じゅう」JUU)
While 12 (10 + 2) = 「じゅうに」JUU NI)
20 (2 x 10) would be「にじゅう」(NI JUU)
Get the logic as to why it’s being reversed?
30 is 3 x 10, so it’s「さんじゅう」SAN JUU
60 is 6 x 10, so it’s「ろくじゅう」ROKU JUU
*IMPORTANT: 40 is「よんじゅ」YON JUU, no one use the other spelling of four. But for 7 & 9, you could use either of both spelling for this formula.
Numbers in the middle
What about numbers in the middle of 20 – 30 or 90 – 99 you ask? It’s a matter of addition.
Basically 45 = 40 + 5, so it would be 「よんじゅうご」YON JUU GO
and 89 = 80 + 9, so it would be 「はちじゅうきゅう」 HACHI JUU KYUU *you can also use other spelling of 9 here*
Until now, all is quite simple right? Once you master one to ten, spelling 1 – 99 is just a simple combination of the 10 words.
*100 – 10.000 section’s is currently on progress, stay tuned!-
WHAT’S NEXT ?
Now… while the number itself isn’t difficult, the counting system in Japanese is quite complex and thus require a separate guide. So we’re gonna end the basic number guide here…
In case that you forgot, here’s a set-phrase to ask for the price in Japanese.
「いくらですか」IKURA DESUKA? (How much is it?)
Then they will spell out the magic numbers. But if you cannot catch any of the word they say, don’t worry, just open up your phone, click on the calculator app, and show it up to the seller!
A quick note: Foreigner called Japanese currency as YEN, but within the country itself, it’s written & spelled as EN「えん」 . Since in Japanese there are no alphabet that sounds as YE.