Study Japanese

10 Basic Japanese counters for Beginners with useful chart

Written by Kaori sensei

In Japanese, when counting things, we will add a counter to the end of a number. This is a system whereby the counter can indicate what kind of thing it is. This is a language rule that is common in East Asian countries such as Chinese and Korean as well as Japanese, but Japanese counters are one of the factors that can be a headache for English-speaking students.

Today, I will introduce 10 basic Japanese counters for beginners.You can dowlowad useful Japanese counters chart PDF too. If you want to know Japanese number first, please click here.

Japanese counters with regular number

By the way, you learned Japanese number 1 to 10, didn’t you? You can express that number by adding a counter to it.There is no sound change, so it is very simple.

Number + 枚(まい) : sheet

You can count thin or flat objects. You would use it to buy tickets when traveling.

Countts : paper,ticket,board,plates

チケット を 4枚(よんまい) ください。

Please gove me 4 tickets.

Japanese counters with special sounds

Actually, “ichi, ni, san… ” is a counting system that came from China around the 3rd century. In contrast, “hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu” is ancient Japanese counting system. This is mainly used for people, small items, and days. Let’s learn these three together.

Number + つ : small item, restaurant orders

When counting small items such as fruits and eggs, and when ordering food at a restaurant

Countts : fruit,egg,restaurant cuisine

テーブルに みかん が 3つ (みっつ) あります。

There are 3 oranges on the table.

えだまめ を 1つ (ひとつ) ください。

Please give me one edamame.

Number + 人(にん) : people

Counts : people

You can count people and to tell the number of people.

Only 1 and 2 have a special way of saying that.

妹(いもうと) が 2人 (ふたり) います。

I have 2 little sisters.

なんめいさまですか。 – 3人 (さんにん) です。

How many people? -Three people.

Number + 日(か) : days

You can count the dates and number of daysdays. 

note. 14(じゅうよっか / jūyokka), 20(はつか / hatsuka), 24(にじゅうよっか / ni jūyokka)

Counts : dates, number of days

今日(きょう) は 3月 1日(ついたち) です。

Today is March 1st.

たんじょうび まで あと2日(ふつか) です。

My birthday is in two days.

Japanese counters with “h” sounds

本(ほん / hon), 匹(ひき / hiki), 杯(はい / hai) start with “h” sound. In this case, the sound changes to p,b depending on the previous sound. Hmm? Yep, this is the same as the sound changing from Japanese number 100 to 900!

Number + 本(hon) : sticks

You can use to count stick-shaped or bottle-shaped long and thin items.

Counts : bottole of wine, pencil, cucumber, umbrella

ワイン を 1本(いっぽん) のみました。

I drank a bottle of wine.

きゅうり を 3本(さんぼん)  かいました。

I bought 3 cucmbers.

Number + 杯(hai) : cups

You can count cups and glass. We use containers for drinks.

Counts : coffe cups, glass, mug

みず を 一杯(いっぱい) ください。

Please give me a glass of water.

きのう の よる、ビールを 3杯(さんばい) のみました。

I drank three beers last night.

Number + 匹(hai) : small animals

You can count small animals such as dogs, cat.

note. Rabbits and birds use “羽(わ)” and we use ”頭(とう)” for livestock such as cow, pig, hourse.

Counts : cat,dog,mouse,….etc

わたしの いえ に ねこ が 2匹(にひき) います。

I have 2 cats at home.

いぬ が 1匹(いっぴき) ほしい です。

I want a dog.

Japanese counters with “k” sounds

階(かい / kai), 回(かい /kai) start with “k” sound. In the case of 階(かい/kai), the sound changes to “g” when it’s 3 and the question for “how many”. They also have the same sound but different meanings.

Number + 階(kai) : floor

You can count floor. You will use at hotel, school, department store.

note. In Japan, the ground floor is usually the first floor.

Counts : floor

わたしの いえは 6階(ろっかい) です。

My house is on the 6th floor.

わたしの へや は 何階(なんがい) ですか。

What floor is my room on?

Number + 回(kai) : times

You can count number of times. We will use to talk about frequency and experiences.

Counts : times

週(しゅう)に 1回、ヨガを します。

I do yoga once a week.

日本(にほん)へ 何回(なんかい) いったこと がありますか。

How many time have you been to Japan?

Useful Japanese counters chart

You can download PDF.

Japanese counters chart
Japanese counters chart
Japanese counters chart
Japanese counters chart

Tips for Japanese counters

Japanese counters may be tedious to memorize every single one, but don’t you find it interesting to look at them in various ways? Now, why don’t you find out how to count what is around you now?

In adittion, Let’s practice kanji together.

Genkouyoushi Notebook: Large Japanese Kanji Practice Notebook

Fun quiz for Japanese counters

Here ! You can try the quiz to practice Japanese counters.

Japanese Counters quiz

More about Japanese number…

About the author

Kaori sensei

Japanese online teacher, live in Kamakura, Japan. She is currently working as a language teacher and online Japanese experience host to introduce Japanese culture to the world. She originally worked as an engineer at a Japanese company, so she is familiar with Japanese business culture too.

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