Language Numbers and Higher Numerals

By JREF · Jan 3, 2012 ·
  1. JREF
    This is an overview of the system of Japanese numbers and higher numerals. The number system in so-called sinospheric languages (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) is based on units of four, while the Hindu-Arab numeral system that is also used in Western cultures is based on units of three. Japanese numerals follow Chinese numerals and are traditionally grouped by 10,000, not by 1,000. Japanese numerals can either be pronounced according to the Japanese reading (訓読み kun’yomi, the native reading) or the Chinese reading (音読み on’yomi).

    Also, refer to our page on Japanese counters and classifiers.

    NumberCharacterPreferred readingOn readingKun reading
    0零 / 〇zerorei / れいzero / ぜろ - maru / まる
    1ichiichi / いちhito(tsu) / ひと・つ
    2nini, ji / に, じfuta(tsu) / ふた・つ
    3sansan / さんmi(ttsu) / み・っつ
    4yonshi / しyon, yo(ttsu) / よん、よ・っつ
    5gogo / ごitsu(tsu) / いつ・つ
    6rokuroku / ろくmu(ttsu) / む・っつ
    7nanashichi / しちnana(tsu) / なな・つ
    8hachihachi / はちya(ttsu) / や・っつ
    9kyūkyū, ku / きゅう, くkokono(tsu) / ここの・つ
    10jū / じゅうtō / とお
    20二十ni-jūni-jū / にじゅうhata(chi) / はた・ち
    30三十san-jūsan-jū / さんじゅうmiso / みそ
    100hyakuhyaku / ひゃく(momo / もも)
    1,000sensen / せん(chi / ち)
    10,000manman / まん(yorozu / よろず)
    100,000,000okuoku / おく-
    1,000,000,000,000chōchō / ちょう-
    10,000,000,000,000,000keikei / けい-
    1020gaigai / がい-
    1024 / 秭jo / shijo じょ / shi し-
    1028jojo / じょ-
    1032kō / こう-
    1036kankan / かん-
    1040seisei / せい-
    1044saisai / さい-
    1048gokugoku / ごく-
    More on Japanese numerals
    • When digits are read out individually, the numerical 0 (zero) can also be pronounced as 〇 (まる maru). The isolated number 0 is called 零 (rei).
    • Western counts sets of 1,000 (103 – groups of 3 zeros), while Japanese counts sets of 10,000 (104 – groups of 4 zeros).
    • At 10,000 (万), Japanese numbers start with 一 (ichi), if no digit would otherwise precede. Therefore, 100 is 百 (hyaku), and 1000 is just 千 (sen), but 10,000 is 一万 (ichiman), not just *man.
    • For numbers smaller than 1 点 (ten, dot, point, nought) is used. 0.025 would be read as まる、点、まる、二、五。(maru ten maru ni go).
    • “Power” is expressed in Japanese with 乗 (jou) –; following the pattern, x の x 乗 — 107 = juu no nana jou = 10の7乗 = ten to the seventh. “Squared” (the second power), is often or usually pronounced ji-jou rather than ni-jou. 22=4, ni o ji-jou suru to yon ni narimasu or ni no ji-jou wa yon desu, two squared is four, the square of two is four.
    • Just like other East-Asian countries, Japan is tetraphobe: the number 4 (四 shi) is considered unlucky, as it is a homophone of “death” (死). The number 9, sometimes pronounced ku, is a homophone of “suffering” (苦). Therefore, 49, 94, etc. are also regarded as ill-fated numbers.


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