Talk:Japanese numerals

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"五分五分" (fifty-fifty) is certainly a valid example of fractional decimals, but it's confusing because literally it's "five hundredths - five hundredths"! Any better examples? - - Paul Richter 08:42, 31 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Note that 分 is "one tenth" (cf. Chinese numerals). It means "one percent" only when refering to a rate or discount. I guess it was because the base unit was 割 when computing the rate. Fukumoto 16:19, 10 Apr 2004 (UTC)
[On examples] The best example might be the hitting average for baseball players. When we say that Ichiro is hitting .335, we say 3割3分5厘 and almost never use the western style decimals when spoken. (The western-style decimals are used when written down, mainly because of the small space it requires.)
[On 分 being 1/10 or 1/100] I found more on this at the Keirinkan website (a major publisher known for their arithmetic textbook). According to the page, the term "wari" (then written 和利) was used as a unit for interest rates in the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period. As the need for calculating interest rose and calculations began to get complex, the Chinese decimal system was brought to Japan. Since 割 already existed as the unit for 1/10, 分 (1/10 in China) was adopted to mean 1/100, 厘 (1/100) as 1/1000, and so on. As for 五分五分 (fifty-fifty), it is highly possible that it originally meant 50%-50%.
With these in mind, I added the example about hitting averages. As for 1/10, maybe I should write a separate article about Japanese decimal fractions? 朝彦 (Asahiko) 10:50, Jun 19, 2004 (UTC)
Whoops, the example on batters were already there at the bottom -- I didn't see it. But it is the most common example of "buai" (歩合, meaning traditional style of fractions) used in everyday speech nevertheless, so I will leave it as it is. 朝彦 (Asahiko) 10:56, Jun 19, 2004 (UTC)

But then, there's another common use of 分: 「体温が38度9分」 Somehow I don't see it in any other temperature.Fukumoto 16:00, 25 Jun 2004 (UTC)

You're right. That's really interesting as it also acts as an evidence that 分 came in as 1/10. But except for that, I don't think there are many occasions where 分 = 1/10. A complex situation we've got here. 朝彦 (Asahiko) 11:23, Jun 28, 2004 (UTC)
分 has been used for 1/10. Another example is the idiom 九分九厘 (almost), which literally means 99%. 分, 厘, etc. followed the unit as shown below:
23.45寸 (23.45 inches) = 二尺三寸四分五厘 (lit. two shaku three inches four tenths five hundredths)
67.89勺 (67.89 ounces) = 六合七勺八分九厘 (lit. six seven ounces eight tenths nine hundredths)
Now, the unit for interest rates was 割, which means 10%.
1.23割 (1.23 per ten) = 一割二分三厘
This usage has become common, and the meaning of 分 is now confusing. - TAKASUGI Shinji 01:37, 13 April 2006 (UTC)

pain and death[edit]

What's this bit about 7 being pronounced "shi" and therefore avoided? The "superstition numbers" are 4 and 9, 9 being readable as "ku" and evoking suffering (苦). I'm curious where the "7" came from; I haven't heard that before. adamrice 15:22, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The pronounciation "shichi" is often avoided because it's hard to pronounce and can be mistaken for a "shi", 4. Students of the language might mistake this as "shichi" having a different, gloomy meaning, when they're told 4 is often read as "yon" because of 死...Mackan 16:37, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

chinese - japanese numerals[edit]

The page should mention something about how the numeral characters were imported from the Chinese.

Formal numbers deletion[edit]

Why delete the formal numbers 4-9? The argument that they aren't commonly used isn't a strong one: I do see them from time to time in documents that I translate. I don't consider the information so obscure that it does not merit inclusion. adamrice 14:11, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Because they are not used. I don't mean not commonly used, I mean not used at all in legal and financial documents. For instance, see an example of a legal form here: [1], which includes 五四八五壱壱分の八四五参 (8453/548511) and 七八・弐壱 (78.21). Many websites list what you call the formal numbers 4-9 just for your interest. Actually they are not formal anymore. You can add them, of course, if you put a note that they are obsolete. - TAKASUGI Shinji 17:49, 12 April 2006 (UTC)
That's very magnanimous of you. If I add them back (again), will you delete them (again)? adamrice 21:09, 12 April 2006 (UTC)
I dit it myself. Please check it. - TAKASUGI Shinji 01:37, 13 April 2006 (UTC)
I just added archaic versions of several numbers in the 'basic numbering' table (1, 3, 10, 10,000) -- only to find them later in a separate section on formal numbers further down. I think this section is very informative and neatly arranged (with the modern/obsolete division and all), so why not delete all formal/archaic numers from the 'basic numbering' section? Pengzell 08:26, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
I had not noticed that the formal numbers had been added to the "basic" table. I agree they don't belong there. Will edit. adamrice 13:36, 2 May 2007 (UTC)
That looks much better!Pengzell 07:55, 5 May 2007 (UTC)

Oku and chou[edit]

I put "oku" and "chou" in the list of "basic numerals" because you come across them very often in newspaper and on TV, unlike for example "kyou" and the rest. Mackan 05:28, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


I am deleting this. I've never seen the character before, and can't find it in either of two character dictionaries. So it doesn't seem to belong in a section titled "basic numbering." adamrice 14:07, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

It is in the Japanese wiki article. Besides, the note clearly says it's archaic (which is why you wouldn't have seen it, in my opinion not enough for you to decide to delete it though), so why not keep it? I wouldn't mind putting it elsewhere though, but that tidbit of information doesn't really fit in anywhere else. Rather than creating a new section for one sign, why not let it be where I put it? Mackan 15:19, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
"「四」は古くは「亖」という字が用いられていた。"Mackan 15:20, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Additionally, the kanji can also be found in WWWJDIC's "kanji lookup". I'll just put it back for now, hope you don't mind. Mackan 15:24, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

I'm confused...[edit]


  • The actual character resembles a composite of the two characters 禾予, but is not available in Unicode. The alternative character 杼 (jo) may be used in its place."

If the actual 禾予 character is not available, then why not make an SVG? This is just confusing, it says 杼 may be used as a substitute, but at the top 秭 is used, which is not the substitute given below, but in Unicode, therefore a substitute. A different substitute, apparently? It's confusing like this. Shinobu 13:03, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

I'm a bit late, but for the record, the character in question is available in Unicode, it's U+25771 (𥝱), which is admittedly not widely supported due to being in Plane 2; I've added it to the article alongside 秭. There are apparently even more obscure synonyms like 𥞑, see [2]. DopefishJustin 07:11, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
In fact, the Japanese Wikipedia has a whole article on this: ja:じょ DopefishJustin 07:24, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

0 as maru[edit]

The entry for the number 0 lists (none) for the kun'yomi. "maru" is a common reading. In a strict sense, it can be argued that it is not the kun'yomi. However, it is a common reading for 0, and it is even less an on'yomi. I hear it almost daily. It is used when reading individual digits of a number one after another, instead of as a full number. A popular example is the famous 109 store in Shibuya which is read as "ichi-maru-kyū". This usage of "maru" for numerical 0 is similar to reading 0 in English as "oh". Are there any objections to adding it? Bendono 08:55, 5 October 2006 (UTC)

If you define kun-reading as the Japanese reading of a character than it is a kun-reading. The on-readings of the two kanji for circle I could find were "gan" and "en"; "maru" is the Japanese reading. So I would put it under kun-reading, I think. Of course, I don't really know much about this. I just used a dictionary. Shinobu 08:10, 6 October 2006 (UTC)
The argument is to recognize the reading "maru" for the numeral "0". Etymologically, it derives from 丸 or 円 (both "maru"). However, as a number, it is only written as 0 or 零. 零 has an on'yomi of "rei". The kun'yomi is "shizuku" or "ochiru", but are never used to mean "zero". Again, this is essentially the same as recognizing "oh" as an English reading for numeral 0. I am hesitant to classify "maru" as the kun'yomi of 0 or 零. However, it may deserve a note with an explaination. Bendono 00:18, 8 October 2006 (UTC)
It's best then to add a specific note detailing the situation. Shinobu 01:15, 8 October 2006 (UTC)

No word for "million" in Japanese?[edit]

Why is there no word for "million" in Japanese? -- 13:48, 8 October 2006 (UTC)

Million in Japanese is 百万 (hyakuman). Hyaku means hundred and man means tenthousand. So saying "there's no word for million in Japanese" is like saying "there's no word for hundredthousand in English". The underlying reason is that the Japanese group numbers by four digits, while we group numbers by three digits.
1 ichi 1 one
10 juu 10 ten
100 hyaku 100 hundred
1000 sen 1000 thousand
10000 man 10,000 tenthousand
10,0000 十万 juuman 100,000 hundredthousand
100,0000 百万 hyakuman 1000,000 million
1000,0000 千万 senman 10,000,000 tenmillion
10000,0000 oku 100,000,000 hundredmillion
10,0000,0000 十億 juuoku 1000,000,000 milliard (Europe)
billion (US)
Note 1: for small numbers the Japanese normally use Japan-originated numbers, rather than those of Chinese origin, so 1 is usually 一[つ] (hito[tsu]) and ten is often 十 (too).
Note 2: billion means 1000,000,000,000 in Europe.
Shinobu 00:16, 9 October 2006 (UTC)


It's interesting how frequently "san-byaku ni" is "corrected" by well-meaning wikipedians to "san-hyaku ni." Perhaps we should change this to a number that doesn't have irregular pronunciation. adamrice 15:02, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

I have added a note that links to rendaku. I hope it helps understanding this irregularity. --Kusunose 15:31, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

Because this is the English portion of Wikipedia, shouldn't it lead to the English Wiktionary when you click on the kanji for the numerals, rather than the japanese page? Exactly how much good does that do? If someone's here, they're probably unable to read japanese. Shouldn't this be changed?

Shouldn't a "n" become "m" when it precedes a "b", "m" or "p" such as with "san-byaku ni"? Therefore, wouldn't it become "sam-byaku ni"? Iniayashi (talk) 01:30, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Change in Redirection Needed?[edit]

Because this is the English portion of Wikipedia, shouldn't it lead to the English Wiktionary when you click on the kanji for the numerals, rather than the japanese page? Exactly how much good does that do? If someone's here, they're probably unable to read japanese. Shouldn't this be changed? (talk) 04:54, 28 January 2008 (UTC)AS

What's With the Strange Romanization?[edit]

In the "Old Japanese" heading, I notice some strange romanizations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:25, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Look right above it where it says:
Bendono (talk) 04:30, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

I understand. It makes sense to me now, but this way of writing things (Japanese phonemes written in Roman characters) is really unhelpful, from the point of view of, most people looking at wikipedia will be lay people who do not study the structure of the sounds in languages, and who will not know the special rules surrounding this kind of transcription. Or is it a general rule that Old Japanese be written in phonemes intelligible only to specialized linguists?

It's really up to the editors of this page, but I think it would be helpful if the romanizations were transcriptions that most people could read, thank you. (talk) 05:03, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

In the same sense, anything regarding Old Japanese, including numerals, will be of little value to "lay people".
Believe it or not, Old Japanese is quite different from Modern Japanese. Ignoring thirteen centuries of phonetic changes and romanizing it as if it were modern Japanese is appropriate and often done for non-linguistic situations. However, this is a linguistic matter as we are talking about Old Japanese.
Changing from phonemic to phonetic is problematic. A few relevant here include:
  • /ti/ really was [ti], rather than [t͡ɕi] ("chi")
  • /h/ was [ɸ] ("f"), but sometime before that clearly *[p]
  • /wo/ contrasted with /o/
  • Jōdai Tokushu Kanazukai is huge. Shall we go with the old 8-vowel theory or the more modern glide theory? Each is quite POV.
Sure details are in the appropriate articles. They should not be rehashed here.
Also, consider talking about Old English numerals: an, twa, thri, feower, fif, sex, seofon, eahta, nighon, tyn... Sure, the spelling looks odd. But in the context of Old English, it seems unnecessary to make it modern. Same for Old Japanese. Bendono (talk) 05:40, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Kun Reading of Numbers[edit]

Do the same rules governing the on-reading of numbers between tens also apply to the kun-reading? For example, are the following correct? If not, how should the numbers be modified for the kun-reading and would those same rules follow through to include numbers in the hundreds, thousands and so on? What if any (practical) limit is imposed for when to stop using the kun-reading? Would it be up to 100, 1000, or higher?

11 十一 juu ichi 11 too hitotsu
12 十二 juu ni 12 too futatsu
33 三十三 san-juu san 33 miso mittsu
47 四十七 yon-juu nana 47 yoso nanatsu
88 八十八 hachi-juu hachi 88 yaso yattsu

Iniayashi (talk) 02:01, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Katsuyo Sampo pages[edit]

Katsuyo Sampo numerical tables

I recently deciphered the notation in the attached image, which is a facsimile of two pages from the work Katsuyo Sampo of the great Japanese mathematician Seki Kowa, published in 1712. The pages tabulate values of the binomial coefficients and the Bernoulli numbers.

I am posting it here because the pages contain several notations that are not discussed in this article:

  • The main table uses the so-called rod numerals. The article on rod numerals discusses Seki's use of the specifically, so there should really be some sort of crossreference from this page. —Dominus (talk) 19:42, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • The tablulation of Bernoulli numbers, in the bottom row, uses the kanji 空 to indicate the number zero, and the notation d分之n to indicate the fraction n/d. For example, the fraction 5/66 appears as 六十六分之五. Positive fractions are indicated with the notation 爲加 and negative ones with 爲減. (I have just found this explained at Chinese_numerals#Fractional_values. —Dominus (talk) 19:38, 21 August 2009 (UTC))

I hope this is somehow helpful to the editors of this article. —Dominus (talk) 19:35, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Formal numbers[edit]

A small glitch: in the table in the "Formal numbers" section, the character 拾 is contradictorily described as both "in use" and "obsolete". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:06, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Exponential Values In Nihongo?[edit]

Being technically oriented, I have been trying to figure out how numbers in exponential format are expressed in Japanese. For example, consider Avogadro's number, 6.02x10^23; in English I would say "six point zero two times ten to the twenty-third". I cannot find any discussion of Japanese numbers that mentions this issue. Anybody know for a fact how such science / engineering notation is expressed in Japanese? I know they use standard metric prefixes for engineering quantities but I am thinking of the more general case. MrG (talk) 17:56, 22 September 2011 (UTC)


When did this numeral system first appear? One of the columns on List of numeral systems contains this information. -- Beland (talk) 21:55, 6 March 2014 (UTC)

"Use of separators" section[edit]

I removed this section because: the correct parts repeat what has already been said above, while it incorrectly states that commas are used as separators every 4 digits, which the existing page already points out is not true. I wonder also why this would be described as the Japanese (or East Asian) "shisutemu"? Imaginatorium (talk) 15:42, 18 April 2015 (UTC)