4 Interesting Things about the Japanese Counting Systems

It is a good experience to learn different ways of counting. For the past one and a half years that I was in Japan, and I have learned some small nuances between their counting systems and ours. Here are some interesting things about the Japanese counting systems.

1. They have their own symbols for numbers.

The Japanese uses the Arabic numerals, but they also have their own way of writing numbers: Kanji. Kanji is one of the writing system used in Japan. They also use Roman letters, Hiragana, and Katakana, but these writing systems are not used for writing numbers.

Some of the Kanji characters used as numbers are the following: 

一 1
二 2
三 3
四 4
五 5
六 6
七 7
八 8
九 9
十 10
百 100
千 1000
万 10000

2. The Japanese have so many counters.

We use counters in English (e.g. sheets for paper, loaves for bread), but Japanese has counters for almost everything. For example, they use ko for round or small objects, mai for thin objects, dai for cards, satsu for books, etc. The Kanji for counters are placed after the number. The number 11個 (11 ko) means 11 pieces of something that is small or round.

3. The Japanese numbers are grouped into 10000.

We group our numbers into thousands, but Japanese group their numbers into 10000.

American

103 – thousand

106 – million

109 – billion 

Japanese

104 – man

108 – oku

1012 – chō

4. Their money doesn’t have cents.

If you can by bread for half a dollar, you cannot buy anything with half a yen because there is no such thing. The lowest amount of currency in Japan is 1 yen.

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