The Japanese counter 基 (き) is generally used to count big, hard-to-move installments—anything from fireplaces and statues to industrial machinery and even tombs and pyramids.
But wait a minute. There are a TON of large objects that you can't push by hand out in the world.
And we're going to go over all of them.
First, take a look at the table below to learn how to count with this counter. (Or if this is your first time learning about counters, check out our beginner's guide.)
- Pronunciation of the Japanese Counter 基
- How to Use the Counter 基
- Remains, Relics, and Ruins
- Shinto and Buddhist Installments
- Garden and Yard Items
- Park or Public Space Installations
- Factory Machines
- Power Plant Reactors and Generators
- On-Site Transportation
- Ocean Structures
- River Structures
- Large Screens
- Large Tanks
- Fish Fins
- Flying Vehicles
- Large Indoor Installations
- Other Installations and Structures
- Installation Complete!
Pronunciation of the Japanese Counter 基
基 begins with a k- sound, so it follows the pronunciation change chart on our Japanese Counters guide.
How to Use the Counter 基
The kanji 基 by itself means "foundation," and it's used to count big, stable things that have been purposefully built or installed somewhere, and which are impossible or really tough to move by hand. I'm about to list a bunch of them.
Graves and Tombs
We count big grave markers like pyramids, ancient tombs, gravestones, cave graves (石室), Moai statues, and generic tombstones with 基. We even use it for tumuli (burial mounds that look suspiciously round).
- In Egypt, there are over a hundred pyramids.
- Koichi's grandpa excavated three ancient tombs.
- It says two tombstones for ¥990,000.
What if Koichi had miniature Moai statues on his desk? In this case, you could still count them with 基, but people usually use the general counters つ or 個 (こ) when referring to miniatures.
- There are two Moai statues on Koichi's desk.
- I won a golden gravestone from gachapon.
Coffins and caskets can occasionally be counted with either 基 or 棺 (かん).
- Why are there five caskets here?
- Count Dracula had three favorite coffins.
Remains, Relics, and Ruins
Remains, relics, and ruins of houses, residences, ancient dwellings (for example, ruins of a pit dwelling from long ago), even kilns or other large structures, are counted with 基.
- A Tofugu employee discovered the remains of two Yayoi period dwellings.
- The remains of three kilns have been excavated.
Shinto and Buddhist Installments
You can count the big installments you see at Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines with 基. These include Shinto shrine gates (鳥居), Buddhist altars (仏壇), Shinto altars (祭壇), pagodas, stupas, other buildings included within a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine, main halls of a Buddhist temple, and stone monuments.
- The Shinto shrine's torii gate was broken in the typhoon.
- We installed three new Buddhist altars.
- There are two five-story pagodas in this temple.
What about portable shrines (神輿)? They're not installations, in fact, they're meant to be carried by many people. Well, we can count those with 基 too. Technically one person can't pick one up, so they're pretty cumbersome, right?
- At this festival, ten portable shrines are paraded through the town.
While we're specifically talking about Shinto and Buddhist items, other religious objects can be counted with 基 as well. One example would be Christian altars (祭壇).
- There are three altars in the church.
Garden and Yard Items
Larger yard and garden ornaments that need to be installed can be counted with 基. This includes anything from garden lanterns and stone towers to other kinds of stone statues or carvings. (Japanese gardens include a lot of stone, can you tell?)
- I'm thinking about placing two stone lanterns here and there.
- There are seven stone dwarf statues in our yard.
- When I woke up in the morning, I found that one of the stone towers had been destroyed.
Park or Public Space Installations
Installations in parks and other public spaces, like stone monuments (sometimes bearing an inscription), statues, sculptures, benches, playground equipment (like the jungle gym, slides, or swings), and public toilets are all counted with 基.
- There are four war memorial monuments in this park.
- Ten benches were installed in the station square.
- Though it is a big park, there isn't even one slide.
- There are two public toilets at the corner over there.
Lighting equipment like street lights and traffic lights are counted with 基. Large lamps (those installed by multiple people) are also included.
- One traffic light is out of order, so the streets are jam-packed.
- Eleven street lights have been replaced.
- Three big lighting arrangements were installed beneath the cherry tree.
Large industrial machines that need to be installed in order to be used are counted with 基. I can't name specific machines, but they're the kinds you see in factory and manufacturing lines.
- In this factory there are three big machines running currently.
Big motors and engines are also counted with 基.
- Three engines are used in this machine.
- Two motors are not working properly.
Power Plant Reactors and Generators
Reactors and generators in power plants, like nuclear reactors, nuclear power generators, wind power generators (wind turbines), and water power generators (water wheels/water gates) are all counted with 基.
- There isn't a single nuclear reactor in this prefecture.
- We installed new wind turbines.
Transportation built on location, like ski lifts, gondolas, ropeways, elevators, escalators, and moving walkways are also all counted with 基. If you want to count one lift chair or one elevator box, and not the entire contraption, use the Japanese counter 台 (だい) instead.
- There is only one lift in this ski resort.
- There are three escalators in this mall.
- This elevator is full, so let's wait for the next one.
Some devices installed for sea farming, such as oxygen generators, are counted with 基. And buoys as well, for some reason.
- We ordered five additional sets of filtration equipment.
- Fifty buoys were installed offshore.
Wave-dissipating concrete blocks, tetrapods, and breakwaters are also counted with this counter.
- There's a plan to install a hundred wave-dissipating concrete blocks.
- Let's make two new breakwaters here.
As you probably guessed from the section above, river embankments are also counted with 基.
- How many embankments do you think we need for this river?
Moreover, dams and water gates are counted with this counter as well, along with much of the large equipment and the machines used for them.
- There are five dams that need to be reconstructed soon.
- There used to be a water gate over there.
Large monitors and large screens on buildings or in stadiums are counted with 基. Yes, those big TVs that hang in baseball stadiums, and on the sides of buildings at Tokyo's famous Shibuya crossing.
- There are two large monitors installed in this baseball stadium.
- I heard a new big screen will be installed on that building.
Big tanks like oil tanks, gas tanks, and water tanks are counted with 基. Ordinary fish tanks are counted with 個 (こ) or 槽 (そう), though.
- Five oil tanks exploded.
- There are three gas tanks in this facility.
- I bought two fish tanks from the pet shop.
Fish fins can be counted with 基, if you consider fish fins to be equipment installed on a fish's body. This usage isn't very common, and I've personally never heard it used before, but maybe it will be on Jeopardy some day.
- Tofugu's got a dorsal fin.
Towers such as radio towers, fire towers, pylons, turrets, or lighthouses are counted with 基. (Pagodas, stupas, and garden stone towers are towers too, but they're listed in different sections.)
- There are three radio towers near my house.
- How many lighthouses are there in Japan?
- Let's build two turrets here.
- There is one observatory on this mountain.
They aren't exactly towers, but chimneys (especially big ones like smokestacks) can be counted with 基. It's more common to count them with 本 (ほん) in daily conversations, though.
- Out of the four smokestacks in this factory, only one is actually being used.
- Please draw a chimney here.
Foundations for things like turrets, the batteries for cannons, and the launch pads for rockets are all counted with 基.
- One cannon battery has been delivered to Tofugu office.
- There are three rocket launch pads on this beach.
Bridge pillars and bridge piers are counted with 基 too, though this usage is rare. The pillars that support a bridge or pier are their own type of foundation.
- One of the bridge pillars was bombed.
Actually, bridges themselves can be counted with 基 as well, but it sounds a bit formal and is usually used by people who work in the construction industry, like engineers and architects. Normally, bridges are counted with 本 (ほん).
- I've designed two bridges thus far.
- There are three bridges on this river.
We use 台 (だい) for ground vehicles and 機 (き) for flying vehicles like airships, airplanes, blimps, hot air balloons, and jets, but 基 is often used as a substitute for 機, though 機 is much more common.
- There are two helicopters in Koichi's yard.
- I want to buy one airplane.
What about UFOs, rockets, and spacecraft? They sound like they belong in the flying vehicle category.
- The Air Force owns three UFOs.
- Four rockets provided lift for the spacecraft.
- I shot down six spaceships.
You also count satellites with 基. Although satellites aren't technically vehicles, they're in the air, which is kind of like flying, right?
- Tofugu owns two satellites.
Big radar machines and engines used for flying vehicles are also counted with 基. Speaking of engines, ground vehicles' can be counted with this counter too.
- For Pete's sake! One of the plane's engines isn't working.
- Three car engines have been stolen.
Large Indoor Installations
Large installations and machines in homes and buildings like fireplaces, furnaces, air conditioners, and sprinklers can be counted with either 台 (だい) or 基. 台 is more common of the two, though.
- Koichi's house is so big that there are three AC units.
- One of the furnaces was broken.
Although they're not objects that need to be installed, kotatsu 炬燵 (こたつ) tables can be counted with 基 if you view them as pieces of equipment. People usually count them with 台, though.
- There are sixteen kotatsu in the Tofugu office.
Other Installations and Structures
There are some other random things that you can count with 基 that don't really fit into any of the other categories. For example, a water well is long, so you usually use 本 to count it, but if you view it as something that's been installed, you could count it with 基 too.
Other examples include millstones or mortars, which are counted with 基 or 据え (すえ). Incense burners, potter's wheels, big animal cages installed in a zoo—the list goes on and on.
- There is one water well beside the factory.
- There are twenty-five cages in this zoo, but only ten of those have animals in them.
- There are three millstones and two mortars in the shed.
- Please take out seven incense burners from the closet.
- Can I borrow six potter's wheels?
So, how many more things can we count with 基? To find that out, I did some research on みんなの知識ちょっと便利帳 with 基 as a keyword, and 798 results came out! Whoa.
Luckily, this counter isn't so common, and it's likely you'll be able to use other counters like つ, 個, 本, or 台 instead.
If you are interested, you can check out the site and see what kinds of things can be counted with 基. We explain the way to use that site briefly in our Japanese counters guide, so if you are not sure, check that out too.
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. ↩