Yup. I guess many of you realize that when you study Japanese for a few months.
Many guests also told me about that.
More than 500 different ways to count
We have so many counting systems in Japan. It’s said more than 500 kinds of it, and about 100 counting ways are often used.
For example, for people, we use “人”. And the pronunciation depends on how many they are. Like this below.
1 person = 1人：ひとり（Hito ri）// 2 people = 2人：ふたり（Futa ri）// 3 people = 3人：さんにん（San nin）
And for Cars, we use “台”. And the pronunciation is always “Dai” . So it’d be like “Ichi dai, Ni dai, San dai”.
Why is that complicated?
There’s no Kanji system in Japan. Kanji is came from China. So until then, Japanese used Hiragana and Katakana. And they counted like “Hi, Fu, Mi, Yo, Itsu, Mu, Nana, Ya, Koko, To” ( 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 ). Or “Hitotsu, Futatsu, Mittsu, Yottsu, Itsutsu, Muttsu, Nanatsu, Yattu, Kokonotsu, To”.
And after Japanese use Kanji, they read it as the Kanji shows. Then used the system “Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go, Roku, Shichi, Hachi, Kyu(Ku), Ju” ( 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 ) as well.
So, all of them are sometimes mixed in counting stuffs. That might be one of the reason you’re suffering from this.
*works cited (in Japanese/PDF)：https://ncu.repo.nii.ac.jp/?action=repository_action_common_download&item_id=1536&item_no=1&attribute_id=25&file_no=2
But. There’re many different ways in English too.
Many people mentioned about “Japanese counting system is so hard to remember” as if English is easier. Even people whose mother language is not English said that.
Hmm is it? I wonder English has also lots of ways for counting.
Like, a bunch of bananas, a slice of pizza, a piece of paper, a scoop of ice cream…
See? So I guess every languages are not easy.
But knowing the difference is always good 🙂 We can learn something new from it.
Convenient counting ways in Japanese
Even though I said like this, I don’t wanna be mean person for Japanese leaners. So, I write convenient thing for counting.
◇When you order something：You can say “Kore ○○○ kudasai”
1 : Hitotsu
2 : Futatsu
3 : Mittu
4 : Yottu
5 : Itsutsu
6 : Muttsu ( Rokko )
7 : Nanatsu ( Nanako )
8 : Yattsu ( Hachiko )
9 : Kokonotsu ( Kyu-ko )
10 : Jukko
◇When you say about people
1 : Hitori
2 : Futari
3 : San nin
4 : Yo nin
5 : Go nin
6 : Roku nin
7 : Nana nin
8 : Hachi nin
9 : Kyu-nin
10 : Ju-nin
*When you want to buy tickets, you can say “Ticket wo ( the above ) + bun, Kudasai”
◇When you wanna say about how long things take
“Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go, Roku, Shichi, Hachi, Kyu(Ku), Ju” ( 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 ) + Jikan
Ex. It takes 1 hour to get there. = そこに着くために1時間かかります。( Soko ni tsuku tameni Ichi Jikan kakarimasu)
Hope it would be help for your trip in Japan!
Thank you for reading:)
Have a wonderful day!