The Japanese counter 冊 (さつ/satsu) is generally used to count only one thing: books. Simple, isn't it? If you look closely, you'll see the kanji 冊 itself is a pictograph of a book, bound by a string. (Back in the day, Chinese tablets were bound this way.) After reading this guide, you'll be able to count all those tsundoku books that have been piling up by your bedside!
Counting with 冊
To start, let's look at a table showing you how to count using 冊. We've included the numbers one through ten, plus a few extras. For a general rules guide on Japanese counter pronunciation, please check out our main counters guide.
When to Use the Japanese Counter 冊
The Japanese counter 冊 (さつ) is generally used to count only one thing: books.
Here's some historical context for you: many years ago, the counter for books was 本 (ほん)—the counter used to count long, cylindrical, skinny objects. This is because "books" back then were actually scrolls, which are long and skinny. When bound books became the norm, the counter-makers came up with a new counter: 冊.
Let's learn how to use it. There are only two categories, so it'll be a piece of 🍰!
You can count any kind of book with 冊. I'm not sure how I could explain this further, so let's jump straight to the example sentences:
- Koichi reads one book a day.
- There are thirty-three books and comics at the Tofugu office.
- I borrowed eight picture books from the library.
- The novel Koichi wrote sold two million copies.
There are some exceptions. If a book-like thing gets too thin, sometimes we'll use the 部 (ぶ) counter instead: pamphlets, booklets, and the like. That being said, it may depend on the speaker and on how thick the book-like thing is.
Bound Files / Papers
If you have a bunch of papers in a binder, you can count them using 冊. They're basically just homemade books, after all. Even notebooks or memo pads are counted this way!
- I bought nineteen memo pads as souvenirs.
- I left two notebooks that I'd just bought on a train.
- If you buy one hundred of these files together, it will cost ¥28.6 per file, which is a really good deal.
- Could you make twenty copies of these meeting materials?
That being said, if you are counting duplicated or copied documents (i.e., an agenda for a meeting) you would count them using 部.
Go Count Some Books
That was easy, right? I can tell you're excited. Now you can head down to your local library or bookstore and start counting… because now you know how! (Just tell them you're learning Japanese.)
Cells with multiple entries divided by a
/indicate multiple pronunciations that are equally common. Cells with entries in parentheses indicate that the parenthesized word is an uncommon or archaic pronunciation. ↩