Counting number in Japanese & Play on words


As for counting number in Japanese, you may know ichi, ni, san, yon/shi, ・・・ 1, 2, 3, 4,….

When counting small things, we add “-ko”:
1~10: ikko, niko, sanko, yonko, goko, rokko, nanako, hakko, kyuuko, jukko.

But Japanese has another way of counting numbers for small things, which add “-tsu”
1~10: hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, yottsu, itsutsu, muttsu, nanatsu, yattsu, kokonotsu, tō.

11 and above, just add “-ko” for the numbers.
11: juuikko, 12: juuniko, ・・・

To memorize certain number, we use “goro-awase”(語呂合わせ)-play on words.
For example, 084 is ohayō (o:0, ha:8, yō:4..sounds similar as yon:4) ->ohayō: good morning
4126 is yoifuro (yo(n):4, i(chi):1, fu(tatsu):2, ro(ku):6) -> yoi furo: Good bath.

By the way, the photo of Subway sandwich vegetable Lab, it says, 831 Lab (yasai Lab. )
Now you know why it says so.
When counting small things, 8th one is “yattsu” so 8 is “ya”
“sa” is from 3 (san). “i” is from 1 (ichi).



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Konnichiwa! My name is Kazue. Thank you for visiting my blog/learning Japanese website! I was born and grown up in Kanto (east side of Japan) till 18 and had been living and working in Kansai (west side of Japan). I have been teaching Japanese for 10 years at Universities, Language Schools, and Companies, including One-to-One and Private Sessions in the US, Australia and Singapore. I have completed my master’s degree in Japanese Applied Linguistics in Australia. My passion is teaching. I'll be happy if you enjoy browsing this site and learn Japanese :)

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