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Goin’ Japanesque!

Basics of Japanese: Native Numbers

In “Lesson 6: Numbers” and “Lesson 12: Big Numbers” we learned about, well… numbers in Japanese! But did you realize there’s still even more numbers to learn? Surprise! There are! Previously we learned counting with “ichi, ni, san…”. These numbers are used a lot in everyday life, but they actually originate from China–not Japan. Long before the Japanese had any contact with China, they had their own system of counting, which is also still used today.


Native Numbers

These numbers are known as “native” or traditional numbers. They may sound a little strange since you’ve not likely heard them much before, but I promise they’re worth learning in the long run!

1. ひとつ (hitotsu)

2. ふたつ (futatsu)

3. みっつ (mittsu)

4. よっつ (yottsu)

5. いつつ (itsutsu)

6. むっつ (muttsu)

7. ななつ (nanatsu)

8. やっつ (yattsu)

9. ここのつ (kokonotsu)

10. とお (too)


Major Uses

There are two major uses for these traditional numbers in Japanese. The first is marking the first 10 days of the month (as well as the 14th, 20th and 24th). The second way is for counting general items.

Counting General Items

Using the numbers from above, you can now begin to create sentences and talk about the exact number of things. As you can probably guess, this is especially useful when ordering food! There are two basic options for structuring your sentences. To see how they differ in structure–while still meaning the same thing–let’s first create a sentence.

“I buy a (computer) mouse.”

First, I’ll write it like a normal sentence.

マウス を かいます (mausu o kaimasu).

Now, I want to say “I buy six (computer) mice.” First, I’ll pick one of the two structures to use:

A. [Regular beginning to your sentence] + particle を (or sometimes が) + [number] + [your verb].

  • マウス を むっつ かいます
  • The only difference I make to the sentence is adding my number directly between the particle and the verb.

B. [Number] + particle の + [item you’re counting] + the rest of your sentence.

  • むっつ の マウス を かいます
  • This time, I add the number to the beginning of my sentence. Because “6” is describing “mouse”, I also need to add the particle の between them.


Days of the Month

It’s almost guaranteed that you or someone you know has a birthday in the beginning of the month.  In order for you to properly answer おたんじょうびはいつですか (otanjoubi wa itsu desu ka – when’s your birthday) you’ll need to know these dates!

1st ついたち (tsuitachi)

2nd ふつか (futsuka)

3rd みっか (mikka)

4th よっか (yokka)

5th いつか (itsuka)

6th むいか (muika)

7th なのか (nanoka)

8th ようか (youka)

9th ここのか (kokonoka)

10th とおか (tooka)

14th じゅうよっか (jyuu yokka)

20th はつか (hatsuka)

24th にじゅうよっか (nijyuu yokka)



How would you translate these sentences? Write down how you think you’d say them and then check your answers below.

  1. Tomorrow (あした) is the 1st.
  2. I will eat two burgers on the 3rd.
  3. Is your birthday the 14th?
  4. I have 5 pieces of candy (おかし).
  5. My birthday is the 20th.


Check your answers

  1. あした は ついたち です 
    (Ashita wa tsuitachi desu)
  2. みっか に バーガー を ふたつ たべます
    (Mikka ni baagaa o futatsu tabemasu)
    みっか に ふたつ の バーガー を たべます
    (Mikka ni futatsu no baagaa o tabemasu)
  3. おたんじょうび は じゅうよっか です か
    (Otanjoubi wa jyuuyokka desu ka)
  4. おかし が いつつ あります
    (Okashi ga itsutsu arimasu)
    いつつ の おかし が あります
    (Itsutsu no okashi ga arimasu)
  5. わたし の たんじょうび は はつか です
    (Watashi no tanjoubi wa hatsuka desu)
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About the author

Katrina has worked as a Japanese language teacher and freelance translator for several years. She loves traveling and has been all over Japan. Click here --> Free Japanese Lessons Practical Japanese Lessons

View all articles by Katrina