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Basic Japanese : Numbers – General one to ten in Japanese

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/07 Others , ,

How to say one to ten in Japanese

There are (more than) two ways for general counting.
The one that is supposed to originate in China and the other is (probably) Japanese original.
Now, the Chinese one is commonly used.

The most common Japanese for one to ten

Japanese Number List 1

With Kanji characters, their sounds should have been introduced to Japan.
They had been changed since then, so now they are not the same as Chinese.



Its pronunciation is a little similar to English “itchy”, but not prolonging the sound.
It is in the name of a Japanese baseball player “Ichiro”.

With some of counter words, its pronunciation can be shortened.
ex) “Ichi” (one) and “fun” (minute) together become “ippun”.



A similar to English “knee”, again without prolonging the sound.

In the film entitled “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, there are Knights of “Ni”, who keep saying “Ni!”.
I feel that’s almost exactly the same sound as Japanese “ni”.



Similar to English “Son” or “Sun”.



“Yon” or “Shi”.
When we count like “one, two, three, four” in Japanese, I suppose that many people say “ichi, ni, san, shi” instead of “yon”.
However, as an independent number or combination with counter words, most of Japanese say “yon” (or “yo”).
For example, to read out a phone number “987-654-3210″, “4” would be pronounced as “yon”.
Also, when comes with a counter word like “four copies” or “four lumps of sugar” in English, “4” is usually pronounced as “yon” or “yo”, rarely “shi”:

  • “Yon-hon”
    When you count something long and thin like pencils or trees.
  • “Yon-mai”
    For something flat like paper or board.
  • “Yo-nin”
    Meaning “four people”.
    We never say “shi-nin”, which has the exactly same pronunciation as the word meaning “the dead”.
  • “Yokka”
    “Four days” or “the fourth day of the month”.
    The combination of “yo” (four) and “ka” (a counter word for day) becomes “yokka”.
  • “Shi-gatsu”
    This is not a combination of a number and a counter word.
    “Shi-gatsu” means “April”.



Similar to an English word “go” without prolonging the sound.
The same pronunciation as a board game “go”.



A little similar to English “lock”, but without “c”.
Like “ichi”, this is sometimes shortened.
ex) For “six minutes”, we say “roppun” (“roku” and “fun”).



“Shichi” or “Nana”.
Some say “hichi” instead of “shichi”.
Unlike “four” (“yon” or “shi”), I feel that these are interchangeable:

  • “Shichi-mai” or “Nana-mai”
    For something flat like paper or board.
    Maybe “nana-mai” is more often heard.
  • “Shichi-nin” or “Nana-nin”
    Meaning “Seven people”.
    The Japanese original title of “Seven Samurai” is “Shichi-nin no Samurai”, but this doesn’t mean “nana-nin” is wrong.
    “Shichi-nin” is perhaps a little more often used, though.
  • “Shichi-ji” or “Nana-ji”
    For “seven o’clock”.
    “Ji” in this case means “hour” or “time”.
    I guess “shichi-ji” is more commonly used.
  • “Shichi-fun” or “Nana-fun”
    “Seven minutes”.
    “Nana-fun” is much more common.
    I suppose it’s because it’s easier to say.
    For “07:07″, I would say “Shichi-ji nana-fun”.



A bit similar to English “hatch”, without “t” sound.
Like “ichi” or “roku”, this may be shortened too.
“Happun” (“hachi” and “fun”) for “eight minutes”.



“Kyuu” or “Ku”.
The pronunciation of “kyuu” is almost the same as English “cue”.
“Ku” is like “q” in “quick”.
Generally “kyuu” is used with counter words.

  • “Kyuu-mai”
    “Nine pieces of something flat like paper or board”.
  • “Kyuu-nin” or “Ku-nin”
    “Nine people”.
    In this case, both can be used.
  • “Ku-ji kyuu-fun”.
    For hour (or time), we say “ku-ji”.
    For minute, “kyuu-fun”.



Similar to English “Jew”.

With some of counter words, it’s shortened:
“Jyuppon” for “ten something long and thin like pencil”.

For minute, “jippun” (“jyuu” and “fun”).
Pronounces like “zip’n”.
Now many people (including me) say “jyuppun”, but actually it is not correct as Japanese.

[The Kanji for “ten minutes”]

This one can be read as “jyuu-bun” (pronounced as “Jew b’n”).
In that case, the word means “enough”, not “ten minutes”.


Related posts:
#Japanese Alphabet (1: “Gojyuu-on” and “iroha-uta”)
(2: Out-of-use characters)
(3: First half of “iroha-uta”)
(4: Second half of “iroha-uta”)

#“I” in Japanese (1) (2) (3)

#Japanese honorific titles (1:Formal) (2:Casual) (3:In text) (4:Business titles)

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A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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