In our main Japanese counters article, you learned what counters are and how to use them. You also learned that around 500 counters exist, though not all of them are in common (or even uncommon) use. We took this list and reduced the number to 350, then categorized them by how useful they are.
Although this Japanese counters list is extremely thorough, you don't have to learn everything here. You can get away with memorizing anywhere between two, nineteen, or sixty-six counters, depending on what your goals are. Here's how we broke things down:
Absolutely Must-Know Counters: 2
Must-Know Counters: 17
Common Counters: 47
Somewhat Common Counters: 205
Rare But Interesting Counters: 22
Gairaigo Counters: 57
One more note is that some of the "counters" in here are actually "units" having to do with time, weight, speed, etc. But, since those units work grammatically the same as counters and mostly follow the same reading rules, we included them on our counters list. Plus, they're all counting something, technically, be it days, hours, minutes, etc.
Prerequisite: You'll want to make sure you know how to read hiragana. If you get to the gairaigo counters, you'll need to know how to read katakana as well. There will also be times we mention the "kango/wago/gairaigo counting method." You can learn all three Japanese numbering systems in our Counting in Japanese article. Knowing the kanji for the numbers will help too. In our example sentences and explanations, we equally use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) and Japanese kanji (一, 二, 三), since both are quite common in Japanese.
around 500 counters exist, though not all of them are in common (or even uncommon) use.
As this is a reference guide, we highly recommend you CTRL/CMD+F to find the counter you're looking for. If we have an individual (and more thorough) separate article for the counter, there will be a link to take you there. We recommend reading those individual counters articles when you can, as they go into much greater detail than we're able to here. In this article, we just give you an overview of each counter without going too deep.
To assist you in your studies more, we've also created a complimentary spreadsheet that contains all of the counters in this article plus how to count with them. To download it, just sign up for our email list. We'll use it to notify you about new Japanese language articles, Japanese resources, article giveaways (such as this one), as well as any sales and new product releases.
2 Absolutely Must-Know Japanese Counters
There are only two absolutely must-know Japanese counters. They are 〜つ and 個 (こ). Why only these two? In a way, they're magical. They can be used to count just about anything. If you are lazy, or if you don't know the correct counter for something, you can just use these and it will (probably) make sense.
The 〜つ Counter
I've listed 〜つ as a counter, but actually it's just the original wago (Japanese) form of counting. If you don't know what wago counting is (it's not ichi, ni, san), check out our How To Count In Japanese guide.
Probably thanks to the fact that this "counter" is just numbers, it can be used to count just about anything in Japanese. Things with shape, things without shape, abstract things, number order, little kids' ages, thoughts, ideas, and pretty much everything else. It's extremely versatile and helpful for when you don't know the specific counter for something.
Counts: just about everything.
- There are three oranges.
- Kō-chan is still two years old, right?
- Can we get four beers, one water, and five edamame, please.
- I only came up with six ideas.
Although the explanation "it can count anything" is pretty right on the money (and self-explanatory), you can read more about the counter 〜つ here.
The 個 (こ) Counter
It's important to compare the counter 個 with 〜つ to understand its limitations.
個 is just the kango, a.k.a. Chinese version of 〜つ. Like 〜つ, you can count almost anything with this counter, though it's slightly less versatile. Think of it this way: if the thing you're counting has a boundary to it, you can use 個. If it doesn't have a distinct boundary, or it's too abstract, it's an age, or it's related to number order, it's more common to use 〜つ.
Counts: pretty much anything with a distinct shape or boundary.
- There are seven apples.
- I got three pimples on my forehead.
It's important to compare the counter 個 with 〜つ to understand its limitations (it's only almost as flexible as 〜つ), so I'd recommend you read our article on the counter 個.
17 Must-Know Japanese Counters
Congratulations! You've walked through the "Absolutely Must-Know Counters" group only to find yourself in the very similar "Must-Know Counters" group. We'll be covering seventeen Japanese counters in this section. The first eight follow regular pronunciation rules (本, 枚, 匹, 頭, 羽, 冊, 台, 分, 年 and 回), the other seven (日, 人, 月, 時, 時間, 階, and 歳) don't. For more information on pronunciation rules when counting with counters, look for our table in the big Japanese counters guide.
Usually, the 本 counter is taught as the counter for "stick-shaped or long" things. That covers most of its use, but 本 can actually count seven different categories of things, which we broke down in great detail in our 本 counter guide.
Counts: pens, pencils, asparagus, soba, darts, firewood, trees, bamboo, cords, threads, dumplings, water wells, injections, folding fans, eels, tails, nail clippers, icicles, fishing rods, film, chimneys, tenugui, trains, sashes, telephone poles, cylindrical batteries, bottles, tires, ribbons, cacti, soda cans, and much, much more.
- Could you lend me one of your pens?
- There are six carrots in this bag.
- We'll give away three of Koichi's bamboo swords.
The main thing that 〜枚 does is count flat things. With that, you'll be fine most of the time. This counter counts a really wide variety of things. Like 本, it is quite versatile considering it's a pretty specific counter. We wrote about the four categories of the counter 枚 in our 枚 counter article.
Counts: paper, photos, rafts, bath mats, shells, playing cards, credit cards, t-shirts, pants, other clothes, dust cloths, walls, a single serving of soba, a single serving of gyoza, and much, much more.
- I need 100 pieces of origami paper.
- I bought ten Tofugu stickers.
The counter 〜匹 is used to count small or medium-sized animals. If you can pick the animal, fish, bird, or insect up, you can probably count it with 匹. For larger animals, 頭 (とう) is the more common counter, though for some reason Godzilla is still counted with 匹. Curious why? Read our article on the Japanese counter 匹 for a much more thorough explanation.
Counts: dogs, cats, monkeys, fish, prawns, shrimps, lobsters, wolves, rabbits (unless they're counted with 羽), mosquitoes, shellfish, deer, worms, caterpillars, silkworms, earthworms, frogs, snails, crabs, tortoises, turtles, octopuses, animals, insects, dragonflies, sea otters, ogres, monsters, naughty children, animal-like people, etc.
- We have one dog and two cats.
- There are three turtles in this pond.
As we mentioned in the 匹 section, 頭 is generally used for large-sized animals. If you can't pick the animal up, chances are you could count it with 頭. That being said, there are some exceptions where 頭 is used for smaller animals, and 匹 gets used for bigger ones (like Godzilla). For more details and information on exceptions, read our article on the 頭 counter.
Counts: cows, horses, livestock, elephants, gorillas, whales, camels, tigers, "professional" animals, insects on display, animals for sale, etc.
- Santa gave me eight cows on Christmas Day.
- In this zoo, there are two elephants.
The counter 羽 is used to count birds. 羽 by itself means wings, though you shouldn't use it to count insects. The only weird thing: you can count rabbits with 羽 as well! Learn all about this counter in the in-depth article we wrote about the counter 羽.
Counts: chickens, ostriches, peacocks, penguins, other birds, also rabbits, origami cranes, etc.
- In the yard, there are two chickens.
- Can you see three hawks over there?
The counter 冊 is used to count books. From the kanji, you can see it looks just like a book from the side. Don't confuse this with the counter 本 which, ironically, is not used to count books (even though the word 本 means "book"). This is a pretty straightforward counter, but you can still learn more by reading the in-depth article we wrote about it.
Counts: books, book collections, albums, notebooks, memo pads, musical scores, catalogs, magazines, dictionaries, publications, documents, booklets, etc.
- Koichi reads seven books every day.
- There are twenty-five manga books in this library.
台 is used to count a variety of fairly unrelated things, making it somewhat less straightforward than your average counter. It is used to count platforms you can stand or put things on, machines, cars, large instruments, and more. Check out our 台 counter article to learn more.
Counts: playground slides, beds, tables, couches, harps, pianos, cellos, cars, trucks, motors, washing machines, dryers, ovens, air conditioners, microwaves, cellular phones, keyboards, and more.
- Ben owns nine Mercedes Benz cars.
- There is one grand piano in the living room.
分 is technically a unit for minutes, but it looks and smells like a counter (it follows all the same grammatical and reading rules). For each 分 you count, another minute has been counted. To read more about this counter/unit, check out our in-depth article all about 分.
Counts: minutes (time/degree)
- Sorry! I'll be a minute late.
- It's just turned 4:44 right now.
This is the counter for days. There's nothing particularly complicated about it, but the readings can be tricky because they are a mixture of wago and kango. You can learn all about it in our deep-dive article about the counter 日.
Counts: days, specific days of the month
- It took me ten days to read this article.
- What are you up to on the third day of next month?
- There are 365 days in a year.
The 年 counter is used to count years (one year, two years, three years, etc.), but it can also be an ordinal number (first, second, third) for someone's grade in school. For example, １年 is grade one, ２年 is grade two, etc. That means the first year of high school/college/university would be １年, and a person who is in their first year is an 一年生 (いちねんせい), or "first-year student." Unlike some of the other time-related Japanese counters, 年 just uses kango for its counting method. We cover all this in-depth in our giant article about the Japanese counter 年.
Counts: years, grades
- There are 365 days in a year.
- I'm in the first year of university now.
回 is used to count the number of times something happens, or frequency. It's often translated to "times" because １回 is "one time," １００回 is "one hundred times." This isn't a multiplier, though. If you ate dinner ２回, you just ate dinner twice, you didn't eat twice as much dinner, necessarily. You can read much more about the Japanese counter 回 in our in-depth article.
Counts: the number of times something happens, chances, opportunities, revolutions, etc.
- How many times have you been to Japan?
- Over a hundred times, I guess.
The kanji 人 means "person." The counter 人 follows suit by counting numbers of people. Beyond people, it can also count things we treat like people, such as fairies, elves, and even your pets, if you treat them like family. It goes much deeper than that, and you can learn more in the article we wrote about the 人 counter.
It's also important to note that the first two people (一人、二人) get counted using the wago counting method. Three people and up (三人) are just counted in kango.
Counts: humans, people, angels, mermaids, Doraemon, humanoids, pets that are like family, etc.
- I don't want to be alone because I'll be scared.
- There were seven angels sitting in the classroom.
月 is a counter used to count the number of months ("10 months" is １０ヶ月) as well as identify the calendar month ("October" is １０月). Depending on what you're counting or how it's used, the way it gets read (つき vs げつ vs がつ) changes, so be aware of that. To read up on this counter, check out our full deep-dive into 月.
Counts: months, calendar months
- It will be the New Year in one month.
- My birthday is January first.
Like 分 (minutes), this is not technically a counter, but instead a unit for hours. Usually, 時 is translated to "o'clock" as in "twelve o'clock." There are some pronunciation exceptions you will need to consider too. This "counter" is extremely common and useful, so ideally you'll need to memorize the numbers 1–24 (you know, the number of hours that are in a day). Read all about the Japanese counter 時 in our deep-dive article.
- What time is it?
- It is three o'clock.
- It's 2:56 p.m.
By itself the word 時間 means "time." As a counter, 時間 will count number of hours, as in "three hours" or "twenty-four hours." You can learn way more about this counter in our in-depth 時間 article.
- Tofugu has a three-hour lunch break.
- Let's meet up in two hours.
The 階 counter counts building floors. Which floor would you like to go up to? The 100th floor (１００階) or the 3rd floor (３階)? Or why don't you just forget all that and come on up to ４２階 instead?
Take your knowledge of 階 to the next level (or floor) by reading our in-depth write-up about it.
Counts: a building's floors
- My room is on the twelfth floor.
- This is a three-story house.
The 歳 counter is used to count age. This works for people, animals, and more. Note that there is another (simpler) kanji for the same thing, which is 才. Technically they both make sense, but 歳 is more correct, if you're able to use it.
Counts: age in years
- How old is Koichi's grandma now?
- She is 369 years old.
47 Common Japanese Counters
This section covers the counters we deemed as quite "common" or "useful." Although they aren't part of the absolutely must-know list, they will enhance the quality of your day-to-day Japanese language life. They are still "common," after all. Some are going to be everyday use, while others are less common but important to know for formal or specific situations. At some point, you'll need to learn all of these if you're serious about becoming fluent in Japanese.
This is the unit for the Japanese currency, the yen. You'd use this to count an amount of yen.
- I only have ¥100.
- It says this jacket is ¥13,900.
箇月 is the counter for the number of months. As in, "for three months" or "in three months." More often, you'll see the hiragana か or a small ヵ or ヶ instead of the kanji 箇, which is actually just an archaic version of the counter 個!.
Counts: number of months
- I studied Japanese for three months.
- I'm going back to America in one month.
箇国 is used to count the number of individual countries. If you're just generally counting countries, just the counter 国 will be fine. 箇国 emphasizes that they are individual and different. The kanji 箇 is often written with the hiragana か or a small ヵ or ヶ.
Counts: individual countries
- I've been to sixteen different countries.
- The Japan-US bilateral meeting was held here last month.
This counter is used to count places, spots, points, passages, etc. Basically any kind of place. The kanji 箇 is often written with the hiragana か or a small ヵ or ヶ.
Counts: places, spots, points, passages, parts, typos, water supply points, movie theaters, shopping malls, toilets, mosquito bites, scars, broken parts of something, parts that need to be fixed, changed parts, dangerous areas, etc.
- There is a typo right here.
- I got four mosquito bites.
- There are three gas stations in this area.
This word means can (as in an aluminum can). Its reading is (coincidentally) "kan," and it can be used to count cans. The first two cans can be counted with either wago or kango numbers. "One can" is １缶, read as either いっかん or ひとかん. "Two cans" is ２缶, read as either にかん or ふたかん. From three cans and up you use the kango counting method. When a can is empty—or when it's a garbage can—you'll generally want to use the counter 個 instead of 缶.
Counts: soda cans, beer cans, tuna cans, bean cans, milk cans, spray cans, paint cans, tea leaves in tins, etc.
- I bought five cans of tuna and twelve cans of cola.
- Can I have three cans of Earl Grey tea?
- I bought thirty-two volumes of One Piece.
This is used to count volumes of a series of books, videotapes, cassette tapes, etc. It can also be used as an ordinal number suffix to show which item in a series it is. For example, ハリーポッターの１３巻目 is "the thirteenth Harry Potter book in the series."
Counts: volumes of books, cassette tapes, videotapes, DVDs, etc. that are in a series, and scrolls.
- I bought thirty-two volumes of One Piece.
- Can you lend me the thirty-third volume of One Piece?
The word 曲 just means song. When used as a counter, it can count the number of songs.
Counts: songs, music
- I only sang five songs.
- I think I really like the second song on this list.
切る means "to cut." The counter 切れ is used to count cut/sliced things (especially foods). You'll see this used to count slices of sashimi or filets of meat, for example.
Counts: sliced pieces of fish (including sashimi), slices of meat, mochi (rice cakes), slices of bread, slices of cake, slices of pizza, slices of okonomiyaki, cuts of cheese, etc.
- Are there only three pieces of sashimi left?
- One piece of bread and two pieces of cake aren't enough for me.
口 by itself means "mouth." When used as a counter, it counts "bites." This is the main use case for this counter, but there are other meanings as well. Things like a set price of a contribution, submissions to a contest, bank accounts, and a "share" of insurance.
Counts: bites (e.g., "one bite of chicken"), sips (e.g., "one sip of strawberry milk"), swords, suspended temple bells, submissions to win a prize, the set price of a contribution, a set donation amount, shares of insurance
- Let me have a sip!
- I only had three bites but it made me full.
The 組 counter is used to count a set, a group, or a pair of something. For one and two groups, use the wago reading (ひとくみ, ふたくみ). From three on up, just use kango (さんくみ, よんくみ and so on).
Counts: a couple of lovers, a couple of groups, a pair of earrings, a pair of gloves or mittens, a set of playing cards, a set of futon bedding, a set of stacked food boxes, a jacket and pants suit set, etc.
- This show created three couples.
Quite commonly, you'll see 組 used to categorize classrooms too. When it’s used this way, you just use kango. One class will be named ２組 (second class group), another ８組 (eighth class group). If you're watching Japanese TV or reading Japanese manga, and someone's going to school, this will surely show up!
Note that alphabets and words can also be paired up with 〜組 when used for a class group name. When paired with something else but numeral, the reading of 組 gets rendaku-ed, and becomes ぐみ as in A 組 (Class A) or キリン 組 (Class Giraffe).
Counts: as an ordinal number suffix for a classroom number.
- Do you know Koichi-kun from Class 2?
The word 件 means "a matter" or "a case." As a counter, it counts those "matters" and "cases." The definition is a bit vague, but that's because it covers a lot of categories. Check out the "counts" list for more details.
Counts: proposals, suggestions, legislative bills, agenda items, projects, plans, crimes, incidents, scandals, complaints, objections, contracts, agreements, emails, financing, loans, troubles, bankruptcies, page views, Internet access numbers, voice mail messages, etc.
- Apparently there were two murders in this town last week.
- This article got 100,000 views.
The kanji itself means "eaves" (i.e., "eaves of a house"). As a counter it's used to count houses, buildings, shops, restaurants, farms, factories, and so on. It can also be used to count mailing addresses. If, for example, we sent WaniKani stickers to 100 people/addresses, we would say we sent stickers to １００軒.
Counts: houses, shops, restaurants, warehouses, factories, farms, households, recipients, apartment buildings, apartments, hermitages, tenements, etc.
- There are five curry restaurants in this area.
- A UFO crashed and four houses were completely destroyed.
This counter is used to count words. For example, if this article has 30,000 words, you could say 30,000語. Alternatively, you can use the gairaigo counter ワード, though I think 語 is more common.
- Write an essay with 480 to 500 words.
- I remembered twenty new words.
校 is used to count the number of schools. It can also be used to count the number of proofreading (校正) corrections.
Counts: schools, elementary schools, pre-schools, junior high schools, secondary schools, private schools, public schools, high schools, colleges, universities, cram schools, proofreading corrections, etc.
- Three schools went on a school trip together.
- Before deciding on this one, I went to see seven other cram schools.
皿 means "dish" or "plate," referring to dishes or plates of food. For empty plates, you can still use 皿, but the counter 枚 will be more common for this. If you want to count individual pieces of food on the plate, you'll want to use 品 (しな). You can use 皿 to count laboratory dishes as well (like the ones that grow bacteria). For one and two plates, use the wago reading (ひとさら、ふたさら). Three can be either (みさら or さんさら). From four on up, just use kango.
Counts: plates, dishes, lab dishes, food on a plate/dish, one serving of soba (usually cold), etc.
- I ordered a Spaghetti Bolognese.
- Three plates of sara soba noodles is considered to be one portion.
The word 試合 means "game" (generally referring to a sports game). This counter counts these games. You'll especially see this counter used for Japanese sports—foreign sports may use the gairaigo counter ゲーム instead.
Counts: games, matches
- Michael hit home runs in four consecutive games.
- We will play against a powerful team in the second game.
品 is used to count items, products, or dishes of food. In situations where it's pronounced しな, you'll want to use the wago counting method for one (一品/ひとしな) and two (二品/ふたしな). After that it's all kango. When pronounced as ひん, this counter just uses the kango counting method right from the start.
Counts: dishes of food, a meal's course dish, items, products
- We prepared three dishes for the appetizer.
- I displayed thirty handmade brooches at the flea market.
The 社 counter is used to count companies (会社) or temples (神社).
Counts: companies, publishers, newspaper companies, shrines etc.
- I got a promise of employment from four companies.
- I called over 100 companies, but all of them said "no."
種類 means "variety," "kind," "type," etc., and the counter version is used to count those "kinds" of things.
Counts: kinds, varieties, types
- I mixed seven different kinds of spices.
- I read that a human has around ten different kinds of smells for their bad breath.
- I had a cold and was in bed all week.
週 is used to count weeks. Most of the time, you'll want to add the suffix 間 (かん) which changes "week" to "for __ weeks." For example, ２週間 would mean "for two weeks," and ５週間 would mean "for five weeks."
If you add the ordinal number suffix 目 to 週 it identifies which week you're talking about. ３週目 means "the third week," and １週目 means "the first week." Alternatively, you could add the ordinal number prefix 第 (だい). 第１週 would mean "the first week" as well.
- I had a cold and was in bed all week.
- I'm planning to go to Portland in the third week of July.
周 is used to count rounds. By that I mean circuits around a track, laps, revolutions, etc. Check out 回り/廻り/周り (all まわり) for something similar.
Counts: the number of times you go around something, circuits, rounds, laps, rounds of golf, instances of traveling around something/somewhere, courses, revolutions etc.
- Let's walk around the park and then go home.
- On the fourth lap I was stung by a bee.
The kanji/vocabulary of 色 means "color." The counter version just counts number of colors. A rainbow, for example, consists of seven colors. That would be 七色 (なないろ or ななしょく). Although the number of colors in a rainbow can be read two ways, generally when you count colors you'll just use the kango readings: いっしょく, にしょく, さんしょく, etc.
- There is a seven-colored rainbow in the sky.
- My mom bought me a set of twelve colored pencils and one four-color pen.
席 means "seat," and the counter version just counts seats. In addition to this, it can be used to count meetings or entertainment performances and rankings in a competition or contest. I've heard people pronounce the first two 席s as ひとせき and ふたせき, but it's more correct to use the kango counting method for all of them.
Counts: seats, parties, banquets, performances, Rakugo performances, drinking parties, meetings, as an ordinal number suffix for ranking in a competition/contest, etc.
- There are only eight available seats left.
- I put on a Rakugo performance for entertainment.
This kanji refers to a war, a battle, or a match. The counter version counts matches, fights, battles, or even sports game matches.
Counts: skirmishes in a war, sports fights, martial arts fights, real fights, matches, video game matches, sports games, games, board game matches, Chess matches, Shōgi matches, etc.
- The result was three wins and two losses in five games.
- I finally beat Bowser on the fourth try.
This kanji means foot/leg. As a counter it counts pairs of shoes, slippers, sandals, boots, socks, and so on. Basically things you put on your feet and legs.
Counts: shoes, socks, stockings, slippers, zōri (Japanese sandals), tabi (Japanese socks), geta (wooden Japanese shoes), clogs, roller skates, rollerblades, ice skates, flip flops, boots, rain boots, sheets of dried squid, etc.
- It says three pairs of socks for ¥500.
- I don't have even one pair of pumps.
束 means "a bunch," or "a bundle." Use wago for one and two bunches, either kango or wago for three bunches, and kango for four bunches and up. There's also another Japanese counter for bundles, 把 (わ), but that's for smaller bundles that can be held with one hand. The 把 counter is becoming uncommon and archaic, though.
Counts: bundles of asparagus, soba noodles, firewood, scallions, green onions, ropes, konbu, noodles, incense sticks, papers, bills, bouquets, sets of newspapers or origami cranes, etc.
- I bought three bundles of asparagus at the grocery store.
- There were ten bundles of today's morning paper dumped in the park.
玉 means ball, bead, and even testicles. As a counter it's used to count round things, such as tomatoes, peaches, heads of lettuce, cabbage, and of course, testicles. It can also be used to count tangled balls of string, and other "ball-shaped" things, even if they're not ball-shaped when taken apart. For example, a ball of yarn could be counted with 玉. Or even a portion of noodles. Instead of 玉, though, it's probably more common to use the general counter 個. One exception to this is pachinko balls, which are pretty much always counted with 玉, no matter what.
For one or two balls, use the wago counting method (ひとたま, ふたたま). After that, it's all kango all the way.
Counts: ball-shaped things; round fruit such as peaches, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, and persimmons; round vegetables such as onions, cabbage, lettuce, and even Chinese cabbage (despite it not being super round); balls of noodles such as yakisoba, udon, soba, ramen, and konnyaku noodles; balls of yarn, balls of wire, pachinko balls, etc.
- One tomato is ¥21 today.
- Five knitted wool balls were displayed in front of Aya's TV.
This counter can count a variety of things, including stairs, steps, shelves, the number of drawers, layers, floors of a bunk bed, stages of a rocket, ranks in martial arts, paragraphs, and even columns. What do these things have in common? Despite being totally different, they also all have pretty distinct layers/levels to them, and they're organized vertically (for the most part).
Counts: steps of stairs, shelves (when multiple shelves are installed vertically), cake tiers, bunk bed levels, drawers (when multiple drawers are installed vertically), stages such as rocket stages, martial arts ranks, Japanese calligraphy ranks, paragraphs, columns, etc.
- I ran up the stairs, two at a time.
- The boy who is sleeping in the top bunk is our son.
This counter is used to count clothes—one coat, ten skirts, etc. But, it is also the ordinal number suffix for first place, second place, etc., in a race. This is because the word 着く means "to arrive." First place is the first to arrive, right? Anyways, as a regular counter, it's just about clothes.
Counts: clothes or garments such as overcoats, coats, cloaks, kimono, yukata, suits, raincoats, dresses, skirts, jackets, swimsuits, costumes, robes, suits of armor, etc. It's also the ordinal number suffix for first, second, third, etc., place in a race.
- I have four coats.
- I got first place in the footrace.
通 can count quite a few things, but they generally fall into the categories "messages" and "official documents." Under messages, you get things like emails, letters, comments, telegrams, faxes, answering machine messages, job applications, and survey responses. Under official documents, you have things like bills, reports, licenses, passports, or bankbooks.
Counts: written postcards, greeting cards, letters, mail, memos, notes, wills, telegrams, fax messages, written contracts, emails, job applications, sealed documents, official papers, bills, witness reports, work invoices, survey answer responses, driver's licenses, passports, bankbooks, school report cards, etc.
- There are 1,000 unread emails.
- A love letter to Koichi arrived at the Tofugu office.
The 粒 counter is used to count small, round things—usually quite small. Think in terms of little things you can pile up and collect in a jar or other container.
Counts: manila clams, beans, peas, candy drops, umeboshi, teardrops, raindrops, water drops, caviar, fish roe balls, pills, tablets, grains of rice, other grains, raisins, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, grains of sand, rubies, small stones, pebbles, sea salt grains, seeds, almonds, other nuts, etc.
- There were three adzuki beans underneath Koichi's desk.
- Give me a candy drop too.
- We had 5 high-end watches stolen.
This word means "dot" or "point." As a counter it's used to count items, scores, dots, points, fulcrums, and any kind of artwork including paintings, sculptures, literature, and even films. When counting scores, 点 can be applicable to the score of a sports game as well as your score on a test.
Counts: dots, points, fulcrums; items and products such as accessories, curtains, furniture, vases, pottery, cloth, stuffed animals, and rings; artwork such as carvings, pictures, paintings, drawings, portraits, novels and other literature; test scores, sports game scores, eye drops, etc.
- We had five high-end watches stolen.
- My exam score was nintey-five.
The 度 counter has eight different use categories, but the most common one is "number of times." It can also be used to count a degree angle, as well as degrees of temperature. Depending on what you use it for, 度 can be read as either ど or たび. The numbering system can either be wago or kango, depending on the number and what you're counting: it's kango for ど and wago for たび, but たび is only used to count up to the number three in modern Japanese.
Counts: the number of times something happens, chances, opportunities, experiences, series of actions, divided actions, degrees, temperature, etc.
- Why don't we set a time for us to talk alone?
- My temperature is thirty-nine degrees.
杯 is used to count liquids in cups or bowls. That means you can count things like bowls of soup, mugs of coffee, glasses of juice, measuring spoons of vanilla, measuring cups of chicken broth, and so on. In addition, you can use 杯 to count squid, cuttlefish, crabs, and sometimes octopuses. 杯 can also count ships, battleships, racing yachts, and other boats, but this usage isn't so common.
Counts: bowls of rice, donburi, soba, ramen, udon, stew, curry, ochazuke, and so on; cups/glasses/mugs of milk, water, beer, whiskey, cocktails, juice, tea, coffee, and other drinks; octopuses, squid, crabs, various ships, etc.
- I refilled my juice nine times.
- I got full from one bowl of rice.
泊 is used to count overnight stays or rentals. If you ever stay at a hotel, this will be a useful counter for you to know!
Counts: number of overnight stays, number of overnights, number of overnight rentals
- I went on a three-night and four-day trip to Tokyo.
- This hotel costs ¥49,000 per night.
This word means "box," and the counter version is used to count boxes. Pretty much any kind is fine. Boxes of diapers, sponge cake, snacks, tea leaves, etc. The only exception to this is small disposable wooden/cardboard boxes filled with sweets, a meal, or bento. These are counted with 折 (おり). When counting with 箱, use wago or kango for one and two. Sometimes use wago for three boxes, but mostly stick with kango. From four and above, use the kango counting method.
Counts: cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, lunchboxes, boxes, boxes, boxes
- I bought three boxes of diapers at Costco.
- If you buy one box, the second box is free.
発 counts bullets, bullet marks, explosives, fireworks, shots fired (including farts), and a lot more. There are even more details to learn in our full article on this counter.
Counts: bullets, bullet marks, explosives, fireworks, shots fired, farts, punches, kicks, bombs, cannons, missiles, rockets, tennis shots, kendo attacks, baseball hits, home runs, sex, jokes, etc.
- Koichi shot nine farts at me.
- I was annoyed, so I punched the potatoes.
番 is an ordinal number suffix to show one's order, turn, or rank. If you're number one, you're 一番. It is common for 番 to be combined with another ordinal number suffix, 目 (め): 一番目, 二番目, etc. This shows the "first" and "second" (and so on) of something. The number fourteen bus, for example, would be １４番目.
Counts: turns, orders, rank, numbers, Go/Shōgi/Chess matches, sumo matches, Noh theaters, verses of a song, etc.
- Mami always get second place test results in the class.
- I can't remember how the third verse of the song goes.
秒 is a unit of time used for seconds. It also can be used for angles, latitude, and longitude. The reading is all kango.
Counts: seconds as a unit of time, angles, latitude, longitude
- Viet didn't breathe for nineteen seconds.
- I can solve this problem in one second.
便 is used to count the number of flights, boats shipping out, long-distance buses, etc. over a period of time. It can also be used as an ordinal number suffix for delivery or transportation. If you're referring to a flight number, for example, you could use this ordinal number suffix.
Counts: flights, ships shipping out, long-distance bus trips, deliveries, instances of transportation, flight numbers, bus numbers, etc.
- There is only one flight per day from here to Japan.
- The number of our flight is AC567.
- The first delivery crew left already, so it'll be delivered with the second crew.
袋 means bag, sack, or pouch. As a counter it counts those things. For one or two bags, use the wago counting scheme (ひとふくろ, ふたふくろ). After that use kango.
Counts: bags, sacks, pouches, plastic bags, paper bags, shopping bags, garbage bags, etc. These bags can be filled with anything too: candy, snacks, rice, spinach, flowers, whatever.
- I ate two bags of potato chips all by myself.
- I wonder if seven bags will be enough?
- There are three bedrooms in this house.
部屋 means "room," and as a counter it counts rooms. For example, if you wanted to count the number of bathrooms in your house, you could use this. For one, two, and sometimes three rooms, use the wago counting method. Beyond that use kango.
Counts: all rooms, like back rooms, closets, storage rooms, hotel rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, etc.
- There are three bedrooms in this house.
- We only have two rooms left on that day.
The kanji 歩 means "walk." As a counter, 歩 counts steps. This can refer to both physical steps while you're walking as well as less physical steps of progress in a project, etc.
Counts: steps taken while walking, steps of progress in your work, steps of progress in your education/learning, etc.
- It was so hot that I was drenched in sweat after only ten steps.
- Can you take about three more steps backward?
- The project finally moved one step forward.
名 is a counter for counting people that's more polite than the other person counter, 人. Another difference is that 名 can't be used as an ordinal number suffix like 人 can, so don't try to count the first, second, third (etc.) person. With this one, all you can do is count the number of people.
Counts: number of people
- 何名様ですか？ かしこまりました。５名様ですね。
- For how many people? Understood. Five people, right?
- I want to make a reservation for four people.
文字 means "letters" or "characters," and it's used to count such things. You might use it to count morae (like syllables) in a haiku, but you wouldn't use it to count words in an article. For that, use the counter 字 instead, which also counts blank spaces. That being said, it's common to just use 文字 for this. Twitter's character count is written as１４０文字 instead of 字, so it's common enough where nobody would notice it's technically incorrect.
Counts: letters, characters, morae in poetry
- You need to write haiku with a five-seven-five syllable count.
- Express your current mood with three letters/characters.
- Was Twitter's character limit 140 letters?
- Write a love letter to Koichi within 400 letters.
問 is used to count questions or problems in a test, exam, quiz, textbook, etc. It can also be used with the ordinal number prefix 第 to indicate question number. For example, the third question on a quiz would be 第３問. You can do the same thing with the ordinal number suffix 目. The hundredth question would be １００問目.
Counts: questions and problems in a quiz, test, exam, textbook, worksheet, etc.
- I was incorrect on nine out of ten questions.
- I got the third question wrong.
This kanji means "story" or "talk," and as a counter it's used to count stories. This can apply even to drama episodes on TV, as in "three episodes (stories) of Seinfeld." Add the ordinal number suffix 目 or the ordinal number prefix 第 to indicate which story/episode you're talking about. The third story/episode is 第三話 or 三話目, for example.
Counts: stories, episodes, drama episodes, manga chapters, anime episodes, narratives, myths, folk stories, folk tales, legends, etc.
- I watched ten episodes of a drama in one stretch.
- This anime started getting interesting from the third episode.
40 Somewhat-Common Japanese Counters
What follows is a list (and a few examples) of forty somewhat-common Japanese counters. Although you won't come across these counters quite as often as the ones we've written about in detail, most Japanese speakers will know them and know how to use them. Since you'll come across them eventually, it's not a bad idea to learn them ASAP.
The 案 counter counts plans, ideas, projects, and strategies. While you can also use the 〜つ counter to count these things, you'll probably hear 案 used more often in business situations. Count all 案 numbers with kango.
Counts: plans, ideas, projects, schemes, design ideas, strategies, plots, proposals, suggestions, concepts, bills, program ideas, trap ideas, etc.
- I submitted ten new Tofugu sticker design ideas.
- I think these two project ideas are especially excellent.
位 is an ordinal number suffix that's used for classes, grades, ranks, decimal places, and orders (as in the result of a competition or race—this is actually its most common use case). You can also append the ordinal number prefix 第 onto it, as long as you note that it won't take the ordinal number suffix 目. Technically, it can also count the souls and ghosts of the deceased, though that's not common at all.
Counts: ranks, classes, grades, orders, decimal places, souls, ghosts, etc.
- I got first place in the kanji contest.
- Answer to the first decimal place.
The counter 院 counts organizations or institutions whose names end with 院, including hospitals (病院/びょういん), temples or mosques (寺院/じいん), government houses like 上院/じょういん (Upper House) or 下院/かいん (Lower House), etc. One exception is 美容院 (びよういん), beauty salons. Because they're shops, they're counted with 軒 (けん).
Counts: hospitals, doctor's offices, clinics, temples, mosques, government houses, etc.
- The hospital-acquired infection has appeared in nine hospitals.
- How many temples are there in Kyoto?
The word 駅 means "station," as in a train station. As a counter, it counts train and bus stations. For the first two of either of those, use the wago counting method: 一駅 is ひとえき, 二駅 is ふたえき. After that, use the kango. You can also use the general counter 〜つ to count stations, especially when you're speaking.
Counts: train stations, bus stations
- The terminal station is after three stations.
- I ran one station's distance for exercise.
The word 枝 means "branches," and as a counter, it's used to count branches too. It's most often used for branches with flowers, fruit, or elegant leaves on them. For bare branches, you can use the long stick Japanese counter 本 (ほん), and for one and two, count with the wago counting method. For the rest, use kango.
Counts: branches with flowers, fruit, leaves
- Such beautiful cherry blossoms. May I take a branch?
- There's fruit on the two branches.
- Last year, three zoos were closed.
Institutions that end with 園 or 園地 (えんち), such as zoos (動物園/どうぶつえん), botanical gardens (植物園/しょくぶつえん), theme parks (遊園地/ゆうえんち), gardens (庭園/ていえん), farms (農園/のうえん), orchards (果樹園/かじゅえん), kindergartens (幼稚園/ようちえん), or nursery schools/preschools (保育園/ほいくえん) all use the same counter. You'll see 園 mostly used in writing. When counting schools that use 学園 (がくえん), use either 学園 (がくえん) or 校 (こう) instead of just 園.
Counts: zoos, botanical gardens, theme parks, farms, orchards, kindergartens, nursery schools, preschools, etc.
- There are seven daycare centers in this ward.
- Last year, three zoos were closed.
You can count folded items with 折 or 折り; the two versions are interchangeable. It begins with wago: one fold is 一折 (ひとおり), two folds is 二折 (ふたおり), and three folds is 三折 (either みおり or さんおり). After that, it's all kango. 折/折り is also used to count folded boxes that (usually) contain foods or sweets.
Counts: folds, ekiben, bento in folded boxes, folded paper cranes, boxes of cakes, boxes of sweets, etc.
- Please fold here twice like this.
- Can you go buy three boxes of sweets at the department store?
This counter is used to count sounds, such as syllables and/or musical notes.
Counts: syllables, musical notes, musical scales, etc.
- You should memorize the fifty hiragana syllables first.
- If you suck on this candy, your voice will lose three low notes and gain three high notes.
This counter has two use cases. The first is counting sections of a company or organization, and the second is counting lessons. In Japan, it's not that common—you'll mainly see it in textbooks for Japanese learners.
Counts: company/organization sections, departments, divisions, police divisions, office teams, lessons, etc.
- The sales department is divided into three divisions.
- The chief of Division Two is really my type.
The 海 kanji means "sea" or "ocean." As a counter, it counts seas, as in "seven seas" (and we don't mean the movie theater in SpongeBob SquarePants).
Counts: seas, oceans
- Can you name seven seas in the world?
- It seems there are twelve oceans on this planet.
The word 階級 means class, rank, or grade. As a counter, 階級 counts those things, and can also be used as an ordinal number suffix.
Counts: ranks, grades, classes
- There are thirteen ranks in the US Army.
- Koichi won five different weight classes at the boxing tournament.
The word 回線 means an electrical circuit or phone/Internet lines, as well as their connections. It's also used for counting such things.
Counts: electrical circuits, phone lines, Internet lines, optical communication lines, TV circuits, cable TV circuits, Internet connections, etc.
- Because of the storm, four phone lines got broken in this town.
- Why do you have two different Internet contracts?
The counter 画 is used to count kanji strokes. It can also be used to count divisions of land, lots, blocks, etc.
Counts: kanji strokes, plots of land, divisions of land, blocks of land, etc.
- The kanji 豆 has seven strokes.
- A tofu shop will be opening on this block.
- Put in two cloves of garlic and two pieces of ginger.
The 片 counter is used to count broken-up, random pieces of something. In cooking, for example, it's common to use 片 to count cloves of garlic or "fingers" of ginger. And, while small pieces of bread would be counted with 片, slices of bread would not. (Keep reading, though…) As with many Japanese counters, use the wago reading for one and two, wago/kango for three, and kango for the rest.
Counts: garlic cloves, "fingers" of ginger, pieces of bread, apple pieces, etc.
- Put in two cloves of garlic and two pieces of ginger.
- After Snow White had a bite of the apple, she fell asleep.
Like 片, this counter is used to count pieces of something. In this case, however, it's more for random, broken-off pieces. Using the example above, you would use 欠片 to count bread slices. Like 片, count one and two with the wago counting method, three with either wago or kango, and higher with kango only.
Counts: shards of glass, slices of bread, garlic cloves, pieces of ginger, pieces of anything, etc.
- I mustered up a slice of courage.
- I picked up two shards of broken glass.
The word 籠 means basket, and its counter counts baskets and/or piles of whatever is inside a basket (like a basketful of oranges). Use the wago counting method for one, two, and sometimes three; kango for three and higher.
Counts: baskets, baskets of something, bird cages, etc.
- Is a basket of oranges ¥298? If so, I'd like three baskets, please.
- I ordered three bird cages from Amazon.
Have you ever wondered, "What does 'katamari' from Katamari Damacy mean?" You've come to the right place! "Katamari" means "ball," "lump," or "mass," which is exactly what the Prince is rolling up. The kanji 塊 means a lump, ball, or mass of something, and the counter version is used to count those things. Use the wago counting method for one and two lumps, then kango for any above that. (And, since you're curious, "damacy" means "soul" or "spirit.")
Counts: balls, masses, lumps or chunks of meat, clouds, people, dirt, cheese, fish, etc.
- A fisherman suddenly gave me two blocks of tuna.
- This shop's ramen comes with a block of chāshū.
Although the word 河川 means "river," and the counter version counts rivers as well, it's a bit formal. For regular or casual situations, it's okay to use 本 to count rivers.
- Due to the typhoon, two rivers are getting close to overflowing.
- New water gauges were installed in three rivers.
画素 is a unit for pixels and a counter for them too. You can use the gairaigo counter ピクセル as well, but 画素 is more common in Japanese.
- I took this photo with a 2,000,000 pixel compact digital camera.
- I feel like digital cameras from 1995 cost ¥10,000 per pixel.
You already know that 人 is used to count people. 方 does too, but in a more polite way: in an office setting, for example. For one, two, and three people, you'll want to attach the prefix 御 (お). For four or more people, you don't need to attach 御. Use wago for one person and two people, kango for three and above. Keep in mind that if you use 方 for four or more people, it will sound strange—for that, it's okay to revert to 人. You can also refer to a group of people of an unknown number using 方—a group of sensei (teachers), for example, could be せんせい方.
Counts: people (formal)
- There are two people in reception who have an appointment.
- One person will join later.
The 株 counter counts plants with roots, tree stumps, clusters of mushrooms, and shares of stock in a company. Use the wago counting method for one and two, then kango from three on up.
Counts: plants with roots, tree stumps, clusters of mushrooms, seedlings, stocks, stock certificates, etc.
- Because of the excessive heat, two of the cucumber plants died.
- I want to buy three shares of Tofugu stock.
This kanji means "crown," and you use it to count wins or titles. For example, a Triple Crown winner would be a 三冠王 (さんかんおう)—a "three-crown king."
Counts: wins, victories, championships, crowns, etc.
- After one more win, we'll be the Triple Crown winner!
- That king possesses four crowns.
- One kan is 3.75 kg.
貫 is the Japanese counter for pieces of nigiri sushi. 貫 was originally an old Japanese unit for weight—3.75 kg, about the average weight of a newborn baby—as well as a unit for money: １０００文 was equal to １貫 in the Edo period, and １０銭 equalled １貫 in the Meiji period. Historical dramas and old texts aside, in modern times, you'll see 貫 used for 🍣 .
Counts: sushi, nigiri, archaic units of weight and money
- Three pieces of maguro sushi, please.
- One kan is 3.75 kg.
This counts institutions ending with 館, such as art galleries or art museums (美術館), libraries (図書館), museums (博物館), or aquariums (水族館). You'll especially see it used in writing.
Counts: art galleries, art museums, libraries, museums, aquariums, photo studios, etc.
- There isn't even one library in this village!
- Four art museums were integrated into one.
The counter 基 has six usage categories, all of which have to do with counting installed things that are big or hard to move. From torii gates to airplane engines, wind power generators, gondolas, sprinklers, ancient tombs, and a whole lot more. Learn more about this counter in our in-depth article.
Counts: pyramids, ancient tombs, tombstones, gravestones, coffins, moai statues, torii gates, gates, mikoshi, butsudan, pagodas, stupas, buildings of a Buddhist temple, towers, stone lanterns, street lights, traffic lights, lighthouses, benches, sprinklers, playground equipment, public toilets, the remains of a house, oil tanks, gas tanks, turrets, launch pads, pillars, bridge piers, dams, nuclear reactors, wind power generators, airships, airplanes, helicopters, satellites, blimps, jets, hot air balloons, airplane engines, gondolas, chimneys, fireplaces, air conditioners, bridges, kotatsu, fish fins, elevators, escalators, sculptures, etc.
- Four gas tanks exploded.
- Five nuclear power plants are running here.
機 is generally associated with air transportation and is used to count things like airplanes, helicopters, and even guided missiles. Another similar counter, 台, is more associated with ground transportation.
Counts: airplanes, airships, jets, blimps, hot air balloons, helicopters, guided missiles, airplane crew, etc.
- Tofugu owns two jets.
- One of Koichi's helicopters got broken.
期 is a fairly formal counter used to enumerate terms and periods. For example, the term length of a US President is four years and up to two terms (２期).
Counts: school terms, terms of office, terms of service, stages, phases, sessions (as in a parliamentary cycle), etc.
- Aya served two terms as President of the United States.
- Most Japanese schools use the three-term system.
The counter 客 is used to count things you use only on special occasions—when you have guests (お客様/おきゃくさま) visiting, for example. Think of it like "bringing out the good china for your mother-in-law." Be aware that 客 isn't just used for plates and cups; it can count fancy cushions and any other special items brought out for visitors.
Counts: special bowls, cups, wine glasses, soup bowls, zabuton, any other special items brought out for guests
- I bought a set of five teacups on Amazon for guests.
- Can you put out four zabuton cushions?
The kanji 脚 means "leg" or "foot." As a counter, one of the things 脚 can be used to count are pieces of furniture with long-ish legs, including chairs, tables, and so on. (Short-legged furniture, like beds or couches, are generally counted using 台.) But, 脚 can count long-legged non-furniture items as well: wine glasses, horseshoes, and… legs. In Japanese, a three-legged race is 二人三脚—literally, "two people three legs."
Counts: chairs, tables, desks, wine glasses, horseshoes, legs, etc.
- There are fifty steel chairs in the storehouse.
- There isn't even one bench in this park.
級 can be a counter or an ordinal number suffix. It's used for grades, classes (referring to levels/ranks), or ranks. Ever done any Japanese martial arts with a series of "kyū" ranks? Those are 級s. Similarly, levels of the JLPT test (1–5) are 級s as well. The counter can also be used to count a couple of other (very) random things listed below…
Counts: ranks, grades, classes, stone steps, decapitated heads
- I passed JLPT level 4.
- Koichi is a first-class violinist.
- The pitcher threw the first ball.
Besides light bulbs and flower bulbs, 球 is used to count baseball pitches and certain other actions and equipment in ball-oriented games. And while it's used a lot in sports, 球 becomes a little more formal in other contexts. Combining it with the ordinal number prefix 第 or the ordinal number suffix 目 allows you to count the numbers of baseball pitches, as in: "This is the thirtieth pitch he's thrown."
Counts: baseball pitches, light bulbs, flower bulbs, golf balls, soccer balls, tennis balls, tennis shots, ping pong shots, volleyballs, volleyball shots, etc.
- The pitcher threw the first ball.
- I go to work after smacking fifty shots at the tennis court every morning.
The word 行 refers to a line of writing or a verse in a poem. As a counter, it counts them as well. Easy!
Counts: lines of writing, lines in a notebook, lines of a manuscript, verses of a poem, etc.
- Sum up your review in four lines.
- I wrote a poem with twelve verses.
The Japanese counter 局 is used to count matches of certain games: shōgi (Japanese chess), go, or sugoroku, which is similar to backgammon. Additionally, 局 can count broadcast stations and post offices.
Counts: shōgi, go, and sugoroku matches, broadcasting stations, post offices, etc.
- We had one shōgi match.
- How many post offices are there in Japan?
Long ago, 斤 was a unit of measurement that equaled 600 grams. Later, in the Meiji period, that unit became 454 grams, which happens to be one pound. Loaves of bread at the time weighed about 454 grams, although Japanese bread now tends to weigh about 300 grams. Even though the Japanese version has been losing weight, 斤 can be used for counting it and other loaves of bread.
Counts: loaves of (regular) bread
- Can you go get a loaf of bread at the bakery?
- There are two loaves of rye bread in the freezer.
- The wedding ring is 24k gold.
The 金 counter means karat, i.e., the measure of the purity of gold. Eighteen karats—or 18K, as written in English—would be １８金 in Japanese. Don't confuse this counter with the similar word, 金 (also きん), which means "gold," or お金 (おかね), which means "money."
Counts: karats of gold
- This is the eighteen-karat gold necklace that Jamal really likes.
- The wedding ring is twenty-four-karat gold.
This counter is used for counting haiku, phrases, expressions, or passages of writing.
Counts: haiku, expressions, passages of writing, words, phrases, etc.
- Tofugu members will make one haiku each.
- Please list ten interesting Japanese words or phrases.
If you've ever seen a Japanese address written out, there's a good chance it had a 区 somewhere in it. That's because as a word, 区 means ward, zone, or constituency. 区 can also refer to a segment of a race, which, if you think about it, is actually a "zone" of a race. When used as a counter, 区 counts all those things.
Counts: plots of land, wards, zones, constituencies, segments of a race
- There are twenty-three wards in Tokyo.
- I was picked as the second runner for an ekiden road relay.
Similar to 区, the word 区画 refers to a division, plot or lot of land, or a block. As a counter, it also counts those things.
Counts: plots of land, divisions of land, a block, etc.
- The fee for the food stand is ¥1,500 per lot.
- We bought three plots of land to build the Tofugu office.
As a word, 串 means "skewer," and as a counter it counts food that comes on skewers. Use the wago readings for one and two skewers, kango or wago for three, and straight kango for all the rest. (When there's no food skewered on them, skewers are normally counted with the long-and-skinny-thing Japanese counter 本.)
Counts: skewered foods, skewered meats, skewered vegetables, any kind of food on skewers
- Can I get five chicken and scallion skewers?
- This mitarashi dango is 472 kcal for four skewers.
The word 癖 means "habit" or "peculiarity," and you can count those kinds of things using it as well. Generally you'll see 癖 used idiomatically. Use wago readings for one and two, kango or wago for three, and straight kango for the rest, except in the case of certain idioms. You'll see a few in the examples below.
Counts: habits, peculiarities, one's ways
- That customer has some kind of peculiarity, and I'm not a big fan.
- Koichi is a very difficult person to deal with.
- There is a saying that goes, "Everyone has at minimum seven—and at most forty-eight—peculiarities."
- There is also a saying that goes, "If you think someone has seven peculiarities, you should think you have eight." (Everyone has their peculiarities, and you are not the exception.)
<! Inline 1: two little plastic green army men>
The kanji 軍 refers to army troops. As a counter, 軍 used to count them too, though in recent years it has expanded to include other similar kinds of groups. For example, 軍 is used as an ordinal number suffix to refer to levels in organized sports: a varsity team would be 一軍, while a junior varsity or a "farm" team would be 二軍. It makes sense if you think about it, since sports teams have a lot of similarities to military troops.
Counts: army groups, groups of troops, sports team levels, baseball team levels, etc.
I hear three enemy army troops are headed our way.
I was promoted from the farm team to the main team.
景 is used to count scenic views described in writing, as well as scenes in a play. For example, "Act II, Scene III" would be 第二幕第三景. These days, however, using 景 to count scenes is really only used in traditional Japanese performances such as kabuki and noh—for modern plays, use 場.
Counts: views, scenic views, scenery, scenes in a kabuki/noh/opera
Where are the three best views in Japan?
I published a photo book of a hundred romantic scenic views of the world.
The word 桁 refers to a digit or decimal place in a number, as in "the third decimal place of pi."
Counts: digits, decimal places
I can list pi up to thirty-six decimal places!
Apparently, Jamal's savings is in the six digits.
<! Inline 2: a computer keyboard>
鍵 is used to count keys on a keyboard, whether a computer's or a musical instrument's.⌨️ 🎹
Counts: keyboard keys, piano keys, keytar keys, computer keys keyboard, etc.
This piano has three broken keys.
I took six keys off of my computer keyboard and cleaned them.
- My third period class was canceled.
限 is used as an ordinal number suffix to count college and university periods. If you're attending (or planning to attend) school in Japan, you'll hear this one a lot. (For counting middle or high school periods, use 時間 instead.)
限 can be combined with another ordinal number suffix, 目, to say things like 1限目 ("the first period"), 2限目 ("the second period"), and so on. (For middle and high school, you can also use the counter 時限/じげん alone or with 目 here to make 1時限目, 2時限目, …)
Counts: college class periods, university class periods
I only have first period on Mondays.
My third period class was canceled.
The word 戸 means "door." What has doors? Buildings! This counter is used to count residential houses or apartment units. If you're counting buildings in general, regardless of whether or not they're home to the people inside, use the counter 軒 (けん) instead.
Counts: houses, homes, houses for sale, houses for rent, houses to be constructed, apartment units, etc.
Twelve new apartment units are for sale.
Fanned by strong winds, the fire spread to ten other houses.
<! Inline 3: a sign that says "The Tofugu Group">
行 is used to count banks (銀行/ぎんこう) as institutions. To count branches of a single bank, use 店 (てん) or 店舗 (てんぽ) instead.
行 also counts other things. For example, 一行 used to refer to a group of twenty soldiers, and while this usage isn't as common as it used to be, you'll still hear it used when counting groups or parties of people. 観光客一行 (かんこうきゃくいっこう), for example, is used to count parties of tourists.
Similarly, you may see hotels and ryokan with welcome signs that make use of 行 to indicate groups of people—something like トーフグ御一行様 (とーふぐごいっこうさま): "The Tofugu Group."
Counts: banks, groups of people, parties of people
That year five banks went bankrupt.
The Tofugu party has arrived.
The counter 項 is used to count the clauses in an article or legal document. It can be combined with the ordinal number prefix 第 to indicate 第一項 ("the first clause"), 第二項 ("the second clause"), and so on, or the ordinal number suffix 目 to say the same things. 項 can also be used to count terms in a mathematical equation.
Counts: clauses of an article, clauses of a legal document, articles of a constitution, articles of a legal document, sections of a chapter, paragraphs of a chapter, terms of a math equation, etc.
This article had a hundred and twenty-eight clauses.
I learned the binomial theorem at school today.
号 is an ordinal number suffix used for room numbers, train numbers, magazine volume numbers, and many other ordinal numbers. Inexplicably, it's also a unit for canvas sizes.
Counts: room numbers, train numbers, magazine volume numbers, magazine issue numbers, home run numbers, canvas sizes, etc.
I rode on the Shinkansen Hikari 493.
The character I like is Iron Man No. 28.
<! Inline 4: a rice cooker>
As a unit of measurement, 合 is equal to about 0.18 liters, or about 1/10th of a 升 (しょう), and you can use it to count cups of rice. When a rice cooker or recipe calls for "a cup of rice," it might be asking for one of these instead of a standard "cup." 合 is also used for counting the stages of a mountain trail: the first stage, or first 1/10th of the path, would be １合. You can count other things using 合, but these are the most common.
Counts: 0.18 liter "cups" of rice, 1/10th stages of a hiking trail
We cook three cups of rice every morning.
You can climb to the halfway point of Mt. Fuji trail by car.
The word 声 means "voice." As a counter, 声 is used to count the number of times you "have a word with someone," as well as the number of times someone or something cries or calls out. This counter uses the wago counting scheme for one and two, but three and above are rare, so focus on ひとこえ and ふたこえ. 声 is part of an idiom worth learning too: もう一声, which means "a little more of a discount." It's handy when you want to barter!
声 (せい) is also used to count the number of sounds, noises, or words that come out of something—usually a mouth. The せい version is counted with kango.
Counts: utterances, having a word with someone, crying out, calling out, sounds, noises, words, etc.
You should have said something to me.
Can you give me a little more of a discount, mister?
We haven't seen each other in so long and the first thing you say is that?!
I could hear the lone whistle of a locomotive from far away.
<! Inline 5: an outline of Australia>
A holdover from classical Japanese, 国 is used for counting countries. It's mostly used in older titles and for idioms. You may also see 箇国 or ヶ国, which are used when the speaker or writer is emphasizing a single country.
When was the Triple Entente concluded?
Rather than being used by someone, I'd like to be the king of my own castle.
- I'm always saying one word too many.
The kanji 言 means "say," and as a counter it's used to count words you say or write. For one or two words, use the wago counting method. For three, either is fine. Four and above should be kango. Most of the time you won't hear more than 一言 or 二言, though.
Counts: words you say, greeting words, instruction words, messages of condolences, memorial words, oaths, notes, short messages, postscripts, catchphrases, mottos, etc.
I'm always saying one word too many.
Every other sentence Koichi says is, "Psych yourself up!"
The 齣 counter is usually written in katakana as コマ, and it's used for counting the scenes in a play or movie. It's also used to count the number of classes, lessons, or lectures you have in college or university. Use wago for one and two, kango for three and above.
Counts: scenes of a play/movie/drama, classes, lessons, lectures, etc.
I have to do three lectures tomorrow, so I'm busy with my prep.
It took three hours just to shoot one scene of the drama.
<! Inline 6: a book>
This Japanese counter is used to count works of art (作品/さくひん), which extends to film and literature. To specify if it's the first, second, etc. work, just add the ordinal number prefix 第 or the ordinal number suffix 目. (You can also use the word 作品 to count artworks as well.)
Counts: works of art, novels, movies, films, etc.
So far, I've made three works of art.
It's amazing that your first work became a bestseller.
Strips of fish ready to be sliced into sashimi or sushi are counted using this counter. The same goes for the strips of fish, on display at restaurants, that haven't yet been sliced into bite-sized pieces.
Young people have started using 柵 to count blocks of seats in stadiums and concert halls. In this context, 柵 usually indicates the seats closest to the stage or field where, back in the day, there was once a fence or divider. (柵 means "fence.")
While both the kanji 柵 or 冊 can be used, 柵 is technically more correct. Writing さく in hiragana is common too—just make sure to use the wago counting method for one and two and kango for three or more.
Counts: strips or blocks of fish, rows of a stadium, rows of a concert hall, rows of an auditorium, etc.
We don't have any blocks of sea bream today.
I got a seat in the second row from the front!
刺す means "to stab" or "to thrust." The counter version counts stabs—whether whatever is getting stabbed is being stung by bees, pierced with spears, or happens to be bites of food spiked onto skewers. 🍢
Counts: stabs, stings, thrusts, pierces, pricks, bites, something(s) on a skewer
That pirate put the demon down with a single thrust.
I ate three sardine skewers.
<! Inline 7: a spoon>
匙 means "spoon," and the counter version is used to count the amount a spoon will hold. 大匙 (おおさじ)—literally "big spoon"—is a tablespoon. 小匙 (こさじ)—"little spoon"—is a teaspoon. Be careful, though: like "cups" (合), the amount a spoon can hold may vary from county to country. Use wago for counting one and two, either wago or kango for three, and kango for four and above.
(Also, be aware that although 匙 is still in use, the counter 杯 (はい) is more commonly used for spoonfuls these days.)
Is just one spoonful of sugar okay?
Today's baby food menu is three spoons of rice porridge, two spoons of carrot puree, one spoon of squash puree, and one spoon of sardine paste.
The word 莢 means "pod," "hull," or "the shell of a pea." The counter version counts them all. While it's more common to use the general counter 〜つ or 個, you'll still see 莢 used. When counting with 莢, use wago for one and two, kango or wago for three, and kango for four and above.
Counts: pea shells, pea pods, pea hulls, peanuts with shells, shelled foods, etc.
Viet ate a hundred and sixty-seven edamame with his beer!
I harvested forty green beans and four okra today.
The kanji 紙 means "paper," and its counter version is used to count newspapers and other things like paper that come in flat sheets 枚 (まい).
Tofugu subscribes to three newspapers.
I got five sports newspapers at a convenience store.
<! Inline 8: a tooth>
The kanji 歯 means "tooth," and this counter is used to count teeth. In day-to-day life, it's more common to count teeth using the counter 本, but if you're visiting the dentist, she might prefer the official tooth-counter 歯!
That patient lost four teeth in a car accident.
Implants cost ¥320,000 per tooth.
This Japanese counter is used to count magazines (雑誌/ざっし) or tabloids.
Counts: magazines, tabloids
This dentist always carries four different weekly magazines.
Two magazines will be released by the publisher this year.
The word 字 means "letter" or "character" (of a language). As a counter, it counts the same things.
Counts: letters, characters
Can you go buy a hundred sheets of four-hundred-character manuscript paper?
State your reason in fifty characters or less.
- I passed the first of the exams.
An ordinal number suffix usually combined with the ordinal number prefix 第 (だい), 次 expresses the order of events. For example, 第一次世界大戦 (だいいちじせかいたいせん) is the First World War, and 第二次世界大戦 (だいにじせかいたいせん) is the Second World War. For anything that has a specific sequence, 次 indicates where in that sequence it happened. This includes events, affairs, occurrences, and incidents.
Counts: order of events, order of affairs, order of occurrences, order of incidents, etc.
These are photos from World War II.
I passed the first of the exams.
<! Inline 9: a little kid>
The counter 児 is used to count children in relation to their parents, which means something like 三児の母 (さんじのはは), "a mother of three children." And although the person using the counter doesn't have to be a parent, they do have to be someone's child.
Counts: children, kids
I may not look like it, but I'm a mother of two.
WaniKani was a single father of three, huh?
As a word, 軸 means "axis" or "axle." As a counter, it's used for counting scrolls, rolls, and yarn balls—in other words, things that unwind from a central axis. 軸 can also be used to count the favored horse to win a horse race, probably because horses run in a loop around a central axis. When counting with 軸, one and two are read with wago and the rest with kango.
Counts: scrolls, rolled sheets, hanging scrolls, yarn rolls, axis, the favorite horse
I made two Tofugu hanging scrolls.
I'm thinking of betting on these three favorite horses.
<! Inline 10: an anime girl>
This counter counts dimensions: 2D, 3D, 4D, etc. In this context, you'll use the kango counting scheme. 次元 can also be used to count different "levels" of a person, as in "I'm an entire level above you." When used this way, employ the wago readings for one and two, kango for the rest.
Counts: dimensions, levels of a person
I can only get myself to like 2D girls (anime/manga girls).
I have no interest in 3D people (real people).
It feels like Koichi-senpai is a level above us.
This kanji means "room," and is used to count them as well. Simple!
I'd like to book three double-bed rooms.
There is one VIP room in the Tofugu office.
The kanji 者 means "someone." As a counter, it's used to count the number of people involved or concerned with something. Its use is objective and official: a parent-teacher-student conference is 三者面談 (さんしゃめんだん). For example: a system of three-way communication is 三者間伝達のシステム. It's also used to count the batters or base-runners in a baseball game.
Counts: people concerned, people involved, baserunners, batters, etc.
I have a one-on-one meeting with the president tomorrow.
This inning, the batters went down one-two-three.
The word 種 refers to a "type," "kind," or "variety" of something, and counts those things as well.
Counts: type, kind, variety
I ordered a five-cheese plate.
It's $5 for a three-sticker set.
<! Inline 11: a pommel horse>
The word 種目 both means and counts events during sporting competitions. In gymnastics, for example, each category that uses an apparatus such as a pommel horse, rings, etc., would count as １種目.
Counts: sports competition events, apparatus rotations (gymnastics), categorized lines (insurance), lines, items, descriptions, etc.
In the sports competition, I participated in five different events.
I'm happy I got personal bests at both events.
重 is used to count things that overlap with one another, including overlapped layers and repetitive actions. It's usually translated as "double-," "triple-," etc. For example: 二重生活 is a "double life," 二重顎 is a "double chin," and 二重国籍 is "dual citizenship." To count layers that don't overlap, we usually use the counter 層 (そう).
Counts: overlapping things, jubako (stacking) boxes, overlapping layers, repetitive actions, multistoried pagodas, lines, meanings, life, lock, wrapping, payment, eye vision, chin, nationalities, checks (as in double-check), etc.
Do you wanna go see the five-story pagoda with me?
Look! There's a double rainbow.
周年 is used to count the number of years that have passed since a certain date. We call them anniversaries!
Counts: yearly anniversaries
This year is the one-hundredth anniversary.
Congratulations on your first anniversary!
<! Inline 12: a circular track>
The counter 巡 is used to count rounds, which includes physical rounds such as walking, running, or touring in a loop around a location, as well as sequential order, such as a team's batting order in a baseball game.
Counts: rounds, loops, tours, cycles, laps, revolutions, rounds of order
I took a circular tour of Portland.
We did three laps around the park, but we couldn't find Pochi.
They will bat in the first inning soon.
- We had one boy and two girls.
Although the kanji means "woman," when used as a counter, 女 counts daughters. It's read entirely with kango, except for two, which is read じ.
女 can also be an ordinal number suffix, in which case "one" is replaced with 長 (ちょう) to make 長女 (ちょうじょ) and indicate "first daughter." Similarly, "two" is replaced with 次 (じ) to make 次女 (じじょ) and indicate "second daughter." The rest stay as they are.
We had one boy and two girls.
Our first daughter is twelve years old, and our second is ten.
升 is an old Japanese unit of measurement for 枡 (ます), which refers to a cube-shaped box used for measuring rice, drinking sake, etc.
A 升 indicates 1.8 liters, which is ten times more than 1合 (ごう). 1合 of rice becomes two bowls of cooked rice. If you cooked 1升 of rice, that would be a lot of rice—twenty servings, more or less! Thus 升 is what is now called "party size." The same goes for sake: those little tokkuri bottles usually hold one or two 合, while a 1升 bottle is huge—1.8L! These 1升 measurements can be counted using 一升升 or 一升枡 (いっしょうます).
Counts: mochi, sake bottles, rice, sake, shochu, etc.
Did you drink two one-shō bottles of sake!?
I cooked three shō of rice.
床 is used to count beds or cots in hospitals. It's also used for the fake gums in false teeth, so if you're back at the dentist again and want to purchase a set, the cost may be listed per 一床!
Counts: hospital beds, clinic beds, cots, rafts, false teeth
This hospital has only three available beds at the moment.
Using this machine, one bed can be created in just two to three seconds.
<! Inline 13: a castle>
This kanji means "castle," and it’s used for counting castles and palaces.
Counts: castles, palaces
All 1,029 castles in this country are Tofugu's.
I've been to those two castles before too.
This kanji means "tatami." It’s used to count tatami mats.
Counts: tatami, tatami mats
The size of this room is… what, about ten tatami mats?
I managed to lose my glasses in a two-and-a-half tatami room. Am I genius or what?
<! Inline 14: some pills>
錠 is used for counting pills and tablets. If you receive pill or tablet medicines in Japan, make sure to check how many 錠 it recommends you take per day (一日). Only take the recommended dose! Pills such as supplements that aren't considered medicine are normally counted using 粒 (つぶ) instead.
Counts: pill medicine, tablet medicine, capsule medicine
Please take two capsules before bed.
I seem to have lost three of my stomach pills somewhere.
親等 is used to count the degrees of relation or kinship between relatives. In Japan, you and your spouse are considered 0親等, your parents and children are 1親等, your siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren are 2親等, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, great-grandparents and great-grandchildren are 3親等, first cousins are 4親等, and on from there.
Why are degrees of relation so important? Simple. It's how the police count when they do a background check on you for (say) that job you really wanted. They verify up to the third degree (3親等), so hopefully your great-grandpappy wasn't a shoplifter!
Counts: degrees of relation between relatives
Which relatives are generally considered to be in the first degree of kinship?
Siblings are in the second degree of kinship.
This word means a diagram, illustration (figure), chart, or graph, and counts them when they appear in writing. This is common for textbooks or on tests, but in conversation, the general counters つ and 個 are used more often.
Counts: diagrams, figure illustrations, charts, graphs, sketches, etc.
Take a look at the following three diagrams and answer the question.
Fig. 2 shows changes in the frequency of sneezes.
<! Inline 15: a ladle>
The word 掬う (すくう) means "to scoop," "to spoon," or "to ladle," and 掬い is the noun version used to count these actions. 掬い is usually written in hiragana, though you may see the kanji from time to time. One and two are read using wago, three can be wago or kango, and the rest are kango.
Counts: scoops, spoons, ladles
She poured two ladles of miso soup into my bowl.
One scoop of fried shrimp is ¥298.
筋 can mean "line," "stripe, "streak," "crease," "crack," "wrinkle," or "avenue." 筋 is used to count all of those things—and there are a lot of them. One and two are read using wago, three can be wago or kango, and the rest are kango. This counter is usually written in hiragana or katakana, but you'll see them all used eventually, since it's a pretty common counter.
Counts: straight roads, rays of hope, streaks of sweat, streaks of tears, kimono belts, kimono sashes, straight ropes, straight lights from beacons, straight lights from signal fires, streaks of clouds, smoke plumes, arrows, spears, clear streams, wrinkles, creases, cracks, scratches, hair, loose hair, etc.
I'm starting to see a single ray of hope.
My car got three scratches.
- This is the twelfth printing.
This is used to count specific printings or pressings of printed materials, including novels, encyclopedias, and the like. Combine it with the ordinal number prefix 第 to specify the exact impression or printing of a book. One and two are read using wago, three can be wago or kango, and the rest are kango.
If you want to count the number of copies made of a specific printing, use 部 (ぶ).
Counts: printings, pressings, impressions
The third edition of this novel is in its fifth printing already.
This is the twelfth printing.
世 is used to count generations. Elizabeth I, for example, is エリザベス一世. A second-generation Japanese American is 日系アメリカ人二世. If you want to count an entire generation of people, it’s preferable to use 世代 (せだい) instead.
I'm a third-generation Japanese Brazilian.
Draw an illustration of Tofugu the second.
<! Inline 16: a big cruise ship>
隻 is used for counting big ships. Small boats use 艘 (そう).
Counts: big ships, battleships, vessels, one folding screen, arrows (archaic), birds (archaic), fish (archaic), etc.
There were three ships anchored in the port.
Apparently, two fishing vessels collided with each other on the Sea of Japan.
The word 世帯 means (and is also used to count) households.
Counts: households, families
Sixty-five families live in this apartment building.
I built a two-family house.
This word means (and is used to count) passages, sections, paragraphs, and clauses. "Passages" refers to writing as well as to passages of music.
Counts: passages, sections, paragraphs, verses, clauses, musical passages, periods (sports), etc.
We recited three passages from the Bible together.
We will have to play against the top- and second-ranked teams in the second period.
説 means (and counts) views, theories, and rumors.
Counts: views, theories, tumors, explanations, opinions, differing opinions, differing views, etc.
According to one rumor, Koichi can eat neither tofu nor fugu.
As for that, there are two theories.
This kanji means "selection" or "choice," and it's used to count things that are selected, picked, or chosen.
Counts: selections, choices, things that are picked or chosen, etc.
Tofugu was picked as one of the 100 interesting websites.
We're going to introduce our three choices of delicious natto.
<! Inline 17: a pair of chopsticks>
This kanji is used to count bowls of food and pairs of chopsticks. It's specifically the counter of choice for bowls of rice—bowls of other kinds of food can also be counted with 杯 (はい), but 膳 is more polite. Similarly, counting chopsticks with 膳 is the "correct," polite way to do it.
Counts: chopsticks (as utensils), bowls of rice, bowls of meat, wood that's not yet processed into lumber, etc.
Can you set five pairs of chopsticks on the table?
I got one more bowl of rice.
This one is used to count layers.
Counts: layers, cake layers, building floors, pagoda floors, stupa floors, etc.
I made three-layered grape jelly.
I ordered a booklet of double-layered carbon checks.
This is used to count bathtubs (浴槽/よくそう), water and fish tanks (水槽/すいそう), and washing machine tubs (洗濯槽/せんたくそう), all of which end in the kanji 槽!
Counts: bathtubs, water tanks, fish tanks, washing machine tubs
I bought three fish tanks.
As for cleaning the bathtubs, I've only finished one of the six so far.
<! Inline 18: a little sailboat>
This kanji is used to count boats. If you want to count ships (which are bigger), use 隻 (せき).
Counts: boats, kayaks, bamboo-leaf boats, sailboats, yachts, etc.
Nine boats were floating on the pond in the park.
Koichi said he owned two yachts, but they were origami ones.
This is an ordinal number suffix used to count rules. It's usually combined with the ordinal number prefix 第. 4則 is normally read as よんそく, but when you use it for the four basic arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, etc.), the pronunciation will be しそく.
Did you read the seventh rule of the employee rulebook?
I learned four arithmetic operations at school today.
This is an ordinal number suffix for vehicle and bicycle gears (used to express, for example, shifting into fourth gear).
Counts: vehicle gears, bicycle gears
I shifted into second gear.
It's dangerous to drive at 100km/h in third gear on a snowy road!
- I want a set of rain gear for the photo shoot.
The word 揃う (そろう) means "to be complete." This counter, which is the noun version, means "a set of matching items" (because they're complete). It's used to count sets of items with two or more matching pieces. The wago readings are used for one through three, and four can be wago as well, but it's usually kango.
Counts: chopsticks, futon sets, bedding sets, suits, tea sets, utensil sets, biwa (Japanese lutes), etc.
Why are you buying two complete sets of the same tableware?
I want a set of rain gear for the photo shoot.
<! Inline 19: a Jizo statue>
This is used to count Buddhist and Jizō statues.
Counts: Buddhist statues, Jizō statues, large statues of Buddha (大仏/だいぶつ)
There were three statues of Buddha enshrined in the main temple.
There's hair coming out of one of the Jizō statues!
This is used to count hits in baseball (that actually hit the ball), strokes in golf, and swings in tennis and table tennis.
Counts: hits in baseball, golf strokes, tennis swings, table tennis swings, punches, hits, etc.
I got a one-stroke penalty in golf.
That second punch looked painful.
<! Inline 20: a barbie doll>
This one's used to count dolls, statues, and unidentified deceased bodies.
Counts: statues, large statues of Buddha (大仏/だいぶつ), unidentified corpses, carvings, horse pictures, earthen/clay figures, dolls, puppets, plush toys, stuffed animals, Buddhist statues, Jizō statues, Moai statues, objects in which deities or spirits reside, wax models, snowmen, chromosomes, typefaces, styles of handwriting
Koichi has six Barbie dolls.
Were there three stone statues here?
This is used to count corps, units, parties, troops, and so on. Groups of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts that go on expeditions are all included in this counter's uses.
Counts: troops, corps, units, parties, expedition teams, medical corps, hospital units, etc.
Forty-four expedition teams went missing in this jungle.
Two troops from the Japanese Self-Defense Force have been dispatched.
This counter is used for generations (of about thirty years), decades, lifetimes, eras, reigns, and so on. It's also used to count how many decades old a person is. For example, someone in their twenties would be in their 20代.
Counts: generations, lifetimes, specific decades, eras, reigns
Koichi grew Tofugu this much in his lifetime.
I was drinking a lot in my twenties.
I like 60s music.
題 is used to count titles, problems, and questions on a test. It can be combined with the ordinal number prefix 代 and the ordinal number suffix 目 to refer to specific problems or questions.
Counts: titles, problems, questions, separate rakugo stories
There were three difficult questions.
I try solving two questions a day.
I came up with more than a hundred titles for the new movie, but the director didn’t like any of them.
<! Inline 21: a restaurant-style table>
You use this one to count tables, especially those in a restaurant or diner.
Counts: tables, desks, Mahjong tables, dining tables, etc.
This diner only has three tables.
We are accepting board game entrants for five tables.
This counter is for barrels and kegs. The wago reading is used for one and two, though two can be kango as well.
Counts: barrels and kegs
Is it true that there are always five beer kegs at the Tofugu office?
I bought two wine barrels.
<! Inline 22: a bullet>
This is used to count bullets. It’s also used to count commercial events and campaigns (that come out quickly, one after another, like gunshots). It's common to combine this counter with the ordinal number prefix 第 for when you want to refer to a specific event, like "the first event of this series."
Counts: bullets, events, projects, plans, ideas, etc.
That gun isn't supposed to have any bullets in it.
I won a sticker in the second round of Tofugu's free gift promotions.
This kanji is used to count groups, troops, and bodies of people.
Counts: orchestras, travelers, students, fellowships, troops, theatrical troupes, acting troupes, etc.
Unfortunately, I ran into a group of tourists.
I belong to Girl Scout Troop 8 in Tokyo.
This word is used to count academic credits.
Counts: academic credits
I need four more credits to graduate.
I got the flu during exams, and I lost twenty credits for this term.
This word means "steps"—not stairsteps, but stages or phases.
Counts: steps, stages, phases, plans, negotiations, processes, procedures, productions, levels, etc.
There are two phases to accomplishing this project.
You can pick your curry's hotness from three levels.
Manual cars usually have five gear speeds.
This is used to count paragraphs and stages of tasks. It can be combined with the ordinal number prefix 第 or the suffix 目 to specify which paragraph or stage is being referenced.
Counts: paragraphs, stages of tasks
Wouldn't it be better to separate this paragraph in two?
I'll call you when I finish the task I'm working on.
Can you teach me how to read the kanji 豆腐河豚 in the second paragraph?
<! Inline 23: a block of tofu>
This counter is used for six different categories of things. The most common of these is tofu, but there are so many, we wrote an entire article about them! To read more, check out our in-depth guide to the counter 丁 (coming soon).
Counts: tofu, koyadofu, ganmodoki, hanpen, konnyaku, tuna, orders of ramen, orders of soba, lively actions, games, matches, kitchen knives, scissors, etc.
Can you buy a block of tofu at the tofu store on your way back?
Here is your ramen, sorry for the wait!
- Viet took a gun out of his desk drawer.
This counter is used to count four different categories of things. The most common are kitchen knives and guns, so make sure to remember those. To learn more, read our full article about the counter 挺 (coming soon).
Counts: kitchen knives, carving knives, axes, saws, chisels, scissors, ice axes, sickles, files, wrenches, nail clippers, spears, lances, oars, spades, hoes, guns, pistols, rifles, guitars, shamisen, violins, palanquins, portable shrines, rickshaws, ink sticks, candles, abacuses, etc.
There are three kitchen knives in the suitcase.
Viet took a gun out of his desk drawer.
This kanji can mean "opposite," "equal," or "compare," and it's used to count pairs.
Counts: stilts, pairs of hanging scrolls, earrings, pairs of flower offerings, pairs of rice balls, etc.
An angel gave me a pair of wings.
I bought two sets of glasses and gave one pair to my parents.
The verb 掴む (つかむ) means "to grab." 掴み is the noun version, and it's used to count grabbable portions. It's usually translated to "handfuls" in English. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are normally in kango.
Counts: handfuls of things
I wonder how much a handful of parsley is.
Prepare two handfuls of shimeji mushrooms and a lot of bacon.
<! Inline 24: a money envelope>
The verb 包む (つつむ) means "to wrap." 包み is the noun version, and it's used to count wrapped things. Paper money (bills) "wrapped" in envelopes also count. One or two wrapped things will be counted with the wago readings, then the rest will use kango.
Counts: wrapped gifts, wrapped sweets, envelopes of money, individual packages, etc.
I prepared fourteen wrapped tea treats as souvenirs.
I ate two (individual) packs of cookies for breakfast.
This is used to count sets of papers connected together. This includes small booklets of coupons, pages with multiple discount tickets, or meal vouchers that come attached to one another. 一綴り can be used to count any number of connected items in one packet, as long as they come attached. One or two sets will be counted with the wago readings, three can be either, then the rest use kango.
Counts: sets of coupons, sets of discount tickets, sets of meal vouchers, sets of stamps, etc.
Workers get two sets of meal coupons every month.
I bought a set of stamps at the post office.
This is a Japanese unit of land size. 一坪 (ひとつぼ) is about 3.31 square meters. In English, these units are usually left untranslated, and referred to as just "tsubo." One or two tsubo are read using wago, three plots can be wago or kango, and the rest are (you guessed it) kango.
Counts: 3.31 square meters of land
I bought thirty-three tsubo of land.
Jamal opened a five-tsubo standing bar.
<! Inline 25: a nice big pot, like the ones from zelda>
This word means "pot," "jar," or "vase," but it refers to a specific type of Japanese jar. If you do an image search, make sure to set your language to Japanese, because Chinese 壺 are a bit different, but you'll get a good idea of what these count. This counter is only used to count these traditionally-shaped containers, so its usage is falling out of favor, but it's still used in museums and older texts. The wago readings are used for one or two pots, three can be either, and the rest are kango.
Counts: tsubo jars of sea urchin, tsubo jars of umeboshi, tsubo vases full of flowers, tsubo jars, tsubo pots, etc.
My mom sent me three tsubo jars of umeboshi from Japan.
I smashed nineteen pots in The Legend of Zelda today.
This is used to count pinches of something. It's written in hiragana (without the kanji) fairly often. The wago readings are used for one and two pinches, but the rest are kango.
Counts: pinches of salt, pinches of spices, pinches of katsuobushi, pinches of sesame seeds, etc.
Finish it off with a pinch of salt.
Sprinkle on two pinches of white sesame seeds and it's done!
This one counts martial arts techniques (技/わざ), shogi moves, sumo tricks, hands in card games, general means, ways, and tricks, as well as groups of people.
二手 can be read as ふたて when it's used to refer to two ways, groups, or people, so watch out for that.
Counts: martial arts techniques, shogi moves, hands (in card games), sumo techniques, means, ways, tricks, traditional dance moves, groups, people in charge, etc.
Let's split up into two groups and chase after them.
When I play shogi, I always try to think five moves ahead.
This is used to count boats, yachts, and sailing boats specifically made for and used in races.
Counts: racing boats, racing yachts, racing sailboats, etc.
I participated in a five-boat race.
I have four model submarines.
<! Inline 26: an IV dripping>
You count drops or drips of liquid with this one. Anything from drops of sweat to drips in an IV.
Counts: drops, drips
There was no water left in my water bottle, not even a single drop.
I put two to three drops of lavender oil onto my pillow before bed.
This is used to count shops, restaurants, and branches or chains of companies. You can also use two other counters, 軒 (けん) and 店舗 (てんぽ), for shops and restaurants, but 軒 is not used for branches.
Counts: shops, stores, restaurants, diners, cafes, branches, chains, store locations, etc.
Tofugu is running five tofu shops in Portland.
I went to three record stores and finally found this at the third one.
Like the previous counter, this is used to count shops, restaurants, and branches or chains of companies. You can use two other Japanese counters, 店 (てん) and 軒 (けん), for shops and restaurants, but 軒 is not used for branches.
Counts: shops, stores, restaurants, diners, cafes, branches, chains, store locations, etc.
This shop is a donut chain that has twenty-two locations in Tokyo.
There are six Starbucks locations close to one another.
This is a unit of measurement that is about 18.04 liters. It counts all the traditional items that used to be measured into units of 斗.
Counts: 18.04 liters of kerosene, paraffin oil, oil, sake, rice, etc.
I bought a one-to (eighteen-liter) drum of paint online.
I won the grand prize, which was two to (about 36 liters) of rice.
<! Inline 27: a street light/lamp>
This is used to count lights and light-related objects, like street lights.
Counts: electric lights, gas lamps, street lamps or lights, lighthouse lights, mercury lamps, lightbulbs, heaters, etc.
Seven new street lights have been installed.
I decided on this car because of how cute the two round lights were.
投 counts throwing actions in sports, like pitching or throwing in baseball, and casting a line in fishing. It can also be combined with the ordinal number suffix 目 to count specific throws.
Counts: pitches, bowls, casts (in fishing), javelin throws, shot put throws, discus throws, etc.
You get three throws total.
The second throw went well.
This counter counts islands, especially in writing.
There are eight isolated islands around here.
I completed my visit to all seven of the Hawaiian islands.
This is used to count steals (of bases) in baseball. 1盗, 2盗, and 3盗 are used to refer to stealing first base, second base, and third base, respectively. 本盗 (ほんとう) is used when counting stolen runs (to home base).
Counts: stolen bases
That player stole seven bases in one game.
Stealing second and third base in the first inning is breathtaking.
<! Inline 28: Tokyo tower>
This kanji is used to count towers, especially in writing. It can also be combined with the ordinal number suffix 目 to count specific towers.
Counts: towers, steeples, tall monuments, pagodas, stupas, etc.
Three radio towers fell due to the lightning.
I completed the first domino tower.
- Seven houses were completely burned down by the fire.
棟 counts buildings and houses. It's also used to count buildings that humans do not live in, like garages, detached storehouses, and sheds. The kanji can be read either as とう or むね, but they're both about equally common. When the reading is とう, it uses the kango readings. When the reading is むね, one and two are wago and the rest are kango.
Counts: buildings, houses, tenements, warehouses, factories, garages, storehouses, outhouses, huts, sheds, etc.
Seven houses were completely burned down by the fire.
We're planning to build two facilities for missile development.
This is used for hot springs and hot spring resorts. The kanji can be read as either とう or ゆ, but とう is more common.
Counts: hot springs, hot spring resorts, onsen
Tofugu has an article about 10 Secret Onsen in Japan.
The second hot spring I tried was the Tofugu-Yu foot bath.
This is an ordinal number suffix for orders, classes, and grades.
Counts: prize numbers, places in a race, engineer ranks, officer ranks, train carriage classes, passenger classes, star magnitudes, etc.
The prize for first place is a stuffed Tofugu doll.
How was sleeping in the economy cabin (railroad car)?
<! Inline 29: a temple>
This is used to count buildings with names that end in 堂, like chapels (礼拝堂), temples (お堂), and halls (〜堂).
Counts: chapels, temples, shrines, halls, lecture halls, auditoriums, assembly halls, churches, cathedrals, etc.
In this building, there are three chapels.
One of the temples will be demolished.
This is used to count ways, methods, and procedures. One, two, and three ways can be read with wago or kango, but four and up are kango.
Counts: ways, methods, procedures
There are two ways to master Japanese in a short period of time.
This t-shirt is a handy item that can be coordinated in five ways.
度数 is used to count the credit amounts on telephone cards, the strength of glasses or contact prescriptions, angles, and degrees of temperature.
Counts: phone card credit or usage amounts, TV card credit or usage amounts, strengths of prescriptions, angle degrees, temperature in degrees
Oh dear, that's the good old fifty-message phone card.
I'm using -3.50 contact lenses.
<! Inline 30: a nabe pot>
This word means nabe pot, and it's used to count the pots themselves and the dishes served in them. One and two nabe are read with wago, and the rest are kango.
Counts: nabe pots, nabe
That sumo wrestler ate up a whole nabe pot of chanko by himself.
I made two pots of nabe, one spicy and one not spicy.
This kanji means "man," but it's used to count sons. They're read using the kango readings, but two is an exception—instead of に, it's read as じ. It can also be used as an ordinal number suffix, but one and two become 長男 (ちょうなん) and 次男 (じなん).
My dream is to have two sons and two daughters.
My first son's name is Koichi and my second's name is Viet.
This word means "grip" or "handle," and it's used to count handfuls of various things. One and two handfuls are read with wago, and the rest are kango, but it's very rare to see people use it for three or more handfuls these days anyway. You only have two hands, after all.
Counts: handfuls of things
We only have two handfuls of rice left.
Only a handful of people succeed.
<! Inline 31: a wave in the ocean>
波 counts all waves, from tangible tsunami waves to invisible radio waves. It's also used to count air raids, as well as groups flocking to a location, like a protest or demonstration. It can be combined with the ordinal number prefix 第 to specify which wave you're referring to.
Counts: waves, tsunamis, ripples, radio waves, radio signals, air raids, student demonstrations, mass demonstrations, protests, crowds, etc.
This is the first wave of the tsunami.
This radio tower broadcasts twenty-eight different signals.
This is used to count groups, parties, schools, factions, denominations, and sects.
Counts: factions, denominations, groups, literature groups, schools of poets, political parties, Buddhist sects, etc.
The Tofugu employees split up into two factions and are fighting each other.
I'm indecisive, so I'm having trouble narrowing it down to one party.
This kanji means "twice," "double," or "a number of times," and it's used to count multiples of something.
Counts: multiples of a particular thing, sizes, numbers, competition ratios, magnifications, etc.
Mami eats triple the amount of bacon Michael does.
Japanese people know a hundred times more Japanese words than I do.
This word means "to clap" your hands, so it's used to count beats and time in music, as well as mora (similar to a syllable in English, but not quite the same).
Counts: beats, musical time, morae
This is a quarter note triplet.
"Australia" has seven morae.
<! Inline 32: a brush painting a stroke of color>
刷毛 means "brush," and it's used to count brush strokes, especially those in painting. The wago readings are used for one and two, but the rest are kango.
Counts: strokes, paintbrush strokes
I smeared on two strokes of okonomiyaki sauce.
Aya quickly added a stroke of paint.
Together these kanji literally mean "horse body," so this is used to count lengths of horse bodies (from nose to tail). Specific, but useful for horse racing.
Counts: horse lengths
Tofugu lost by three lengths and got second place in the Japanese Derby.
One horse length is about 2.4m.
- I used one sack of salted salmon roe.
This kanji means "belly," and it's used to count things that live inside bellies. This includes sacks of raw fish and clutches (ie., one birth's worth) of bird or reptile eggs. It's also used to count jars like kame (瓶) or tsubo (壺), whose middle part (belly) expands outward (like a beer belly). The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and kango are used for the rest.
Counts: sacks of roe, sacks of soft roe (milt), sea urchin, clutches of crocodile eggs, etc.
I got five sacks of spicy cod roe from a relative.
I used one sack of salted salmon roe.
This word means "needle," and it's used to count stitches (especially surgical stitches). Doctors might use a different reading for 針, which is しん with kango numbers, but it's generally read as はり with the wago readings for one and two, and three can be either. The rest are kango, though.
Counts: seams, stitches, sutures
I got twelve stitches in my forehead.
The string snapped when I got to four stitches.
<! Inline 33: a tent>
The verb 張る means "to spread out," and this is the noun version, so it counts things that can be spread out. This includes tents, mosquito nets, and stage curtains. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and the rest are kango.
Counts: tents, stage curtains, banners, mosquito nets, paper lanterns, instrument strings, bowstrings, bows, tent-style pavilions or gazebos, traditional Japanese umbrellas, bamboo screens, etc.
Sixty-five tents have been set up at the disaster area.
I was surprised when Viet showed up at the office with two bows.
This is used to count criminal records and jail records.
Counts: criminal records, jail records, prison records
He's a yakuza who's committed six crimes already.
Mami has three counts of eating pilfered bites of bacon on her record.
You count sheets of ISO 216 paper (the international standard) with this one, including books and magazines that are size A4版, B5版, and the like. This is the standard paper size in Japan, so this is a really useful counter to learn.
Counts: ISO 216 paper
Do you have A4 size copy papers?
You can download B3-sized PDFs here.
This is used to count editions, impressions, printings, and magazine issues.
Counts: editions, impressions, printings, issues, etc.
I have the fourth edition of this textbook.
It seems the third edition will be published in about half a year.
班 is used to count groups and squads.
Counts: groups, squads
We were divided into five groups, and we cleaned the classroom.
I really wanted to be in Group 3!
<! Inline 34: a dalmatian with spots>
This is used to count the spots, speckles, and even dappled light on an animal's fur, especially in written Japanese.
Counts: cat and dog spots, leopard spots, speckles on an egg, etc.
I'm looking for a dog with three spots.
A leaf with five yellow spots caught my eye.
晩 counts nights. It's read with the wago readings until three, and the rest are kango, but you'll usually only hear it counting up to three nights, so it's unlikely you'll need to know any more than that. To add to that, 三晩 is usually only used for its idiomatic usage in the phrase 三日三晩 (みっかみばん), which means three days and three nights.
Counts: nights, all-nighters, full nights (of sleep)
I feel much better after a full night of sleep.
If it's just two nights, I can stay up.
This is an ordinal number suffix for turns, orders, or ranks. It's also used for units of yarn, thread size, and thread count, which are less common use cases.
Counts: turns, sports players' turns, performances, thread count, yarn, thread, etc.
I'm the second one on.
We ran out of No. 14 yarn.
<! Inline 35: a fish with fins and a tail>
This is used to count fish, and crustaceans with fins or tails. Fish that are fishing targets or that have been caught and are for sale at the market are counted by fishermen and fish store employees with this counter. Fish for sale at pet stores are also counted this way, but usually by the seller, not the buyer. For other fish and crustaceans, it's more common to count them with 匹 (ひき).
Counts: fish, shrimp, prawns, crabs (for eating), crayfish, lobsters, etc.
We got in twenty shrimp today.
I couldn't even catch one fish today.
This means "writing brush," and it's used to count signatures, messages, books, writing brush strokes, and calligraphy. It's also used to count registered divisions of land, but that's a legal use case you won't see often.
Counts: signatures, messages, books, writing brush strokes, calligraphy, calligraphy strokes, plots of land, divisions of land, etc.
Can you put your signature here?
This three-line letter paper is so cute.
This is used to count straw bags or sacks for rice. These 俵 (たわら) were also used to store things like charcoal, salt, corn, and cotton, so these days, you can see them used to count those as well.
Counts: straw bags or sacks of rice, salt, etc.
I won two straw sacks of rice from the raffle.
What on earth would you do with these two straw sacks of corn?!
拍子 is used to count musical time and beats.
Counts: musical time, beats
This song's tempo has four beats.
Tango is an up-tempo style of music with two beats.
<! Inline 36: an empty glass bottle>
This is used to count glass bottles, glass jars, flagons, decanters, phials, and vials. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are read with kango. These things can also be counted with the counter 本 (ほん), and I personally use 本 for them, but you'll see this one as well.
Counts: glass bottles, glass jars, thermoses, phials, vials, decanters, flagons, etc.
Did you empty four beer bottles?
I made two jars of cherry jam.
This word is used to count items, types of products, varieties of dishes, meals, and types or numbers of ingredients.
Be careful not to mix up 品目 with the counter 品 attached to the ordinal number suffix 目 (しなめ). If you see 四品目はラーメン and it means "the fourth dish is ramen," it's よんしなめ. However, if it means "ramen with four ingredients," it's よんひんもく. The reading is entirely dependent on the context, so try to pay close attention when using these two counters.
Counts: items, varieties of dishes, numbers of ingredients, types of products, meals, exhibits, etc.
I'm trying to ingest thirty-two different ingredients per day.
I only ate seven different ingredients today.
- My temperature's gone up to 39.6℃.
分 counts ten percent units as well as degrees. It's a unit of body temperature (one-tenth or one degree), one percent of a bank rate or interest rate, a traditional Japanese unit of length of about 0.303cm (one-tenth of 寸/すん), tabi socks or shoes of 0.21cm (one-tenth of 1文 もん), a traditional Japanese weight unit of 0.375g (one-tenth of 1匁/もんめ), and a unit of Edo period money (one-fourth of gold 1両/りょう or one-tenth of silver 1匁/もんめ).
Counts: degrees of a flower blossoming, body temperature, bank rates, interest rates, etc.
I went to see the cherry blossoms yesterday, but they were still only half-bloomed.
My temperature's gone up to 39.6℃.
<! Inline 37: a stack of copies of one book or magazine>
This is used to count parts or groups of something that's been divided up into smaller units, and copies or sets of books and documents.
Counts: copies (of books, magazines, documents), company divisions and departments, parts of a play, daytime vs nighttime performances of a play, parts of a report, musical groups, books in a series, plays in a series, etc.
I made 122 copies of this flyer.
Nowadays, it's good enough if a book sells fifty thousand copies.
You count envelopes of money and sealed letters in envelopes with 封. This counter is becoming archaic, except for its usage in the word 金一封 (きんいっぷう), which means money in a sealed envelope.
Counts: (sealed) envelopes of official letters, (sealed) envelopes of (paper) money, sealed wills, etc.
Viet gave me an envelope that says "sealed money."
The public office sent me three official letters.
This is used to count doses of medicine, poison, or drugs. Rest, which is good for you, can also be counted with it. And sips or bowls of tea, which can be medicinal, as well as puffs of cigarettes, which can be bad for you, are also counted with it. You can also use 一服する to say you're taking a rest.
Counts: sips of tea, doses, bowls of matcha, puffs or tokes of a cigarette, rest, etc.
I'm gonna go after I have a smoke.
I gave him two doses of the poison, but he didn't die.
<! Inline 38: a bunch of grapes>
Bunches, clusters, tassels, tufts, and fringes are counted with 房. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either wago or kango, and the rest are all read with kango.
Counts: grape bunches, tufts of feathers, curtain fringes, sweater fringes, wisteria flower bunches, banana bunches, orange or tangerine segments, etc.
There were two bunches of pink fringe on Kristen's knit cap.
There were five bunches of grapes in the bag.
This is used to count bamboo joints, tree knots, parts of poems, melodies of (traditional) songs, etc. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either wago or kango, and the rest are all read with kango.
Counts: bamboo joints, tree knots, melodies of traditional songs, stages of life, seasons, quarter tuna strips, katsuobushi, etc.
I made chopsticks using bamboo with three joints (three-joint lengths of bamboo).
Grandpa, sing me a part of that traditional song!
This kanji means Buddha, and it's used count statues of Buddha.
Counts: Buddhas, Amitābha, Buddha statues
You are protected by three Buddhas.
Buddhas appear in various different forms, but they may actually just be the one Buddha.
<! Inline 39: a calligraphy brush>
This word means "writing brush," "painting brush," or "Japanese calligraphy brush," and it's used to count strokes in a painting or in calligraphy. It's also used to count the action of putting ink or paint on a brush. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either wago or kango, and the rest are all read with kango.
Counts: brush strokes, putting ink or paint on a brush
Did you write this in one stroke?
I ignore kanji strokes and just write 口 in one stroke and 山 in two strokes.
This word is used to count boats and food in boat-shaped serving dishes. Sashimi on those fancy wooden boats at sushi restaurants can be counted with this! The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and the rest are kango.
Counts: boats, sashimi on boats, takoyaki on boats, etc.
I ordered four boats of sashimi.
Isn't ¥98 for one boat of takoyaki cheap?
<! Inline 40: a dog tail wagging>
The word 振る (ふる) means "to swing," "to sprinkle," "to shake," or "to wag." 振り is the noun version of this verb, so it counts swings, sprinkles, shakes and more. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and the rest are kango.
Counts: sword swings, golf swings, bat swings, sprinkles of spice, drizzles of sauce, tail wags, shakes of a cocktail, shakes of a bottle or can, etc.
Jamal smashed a watermelon in one swing.
I sprinkled pepper into the soup three times.
This word is used to count sentences, which is convenient since it also means "sentence."
I try to memorize five sentences every day.
I couldn't really understand the last sentence.
This one's used to count the smallest units of words in a sentence that still make sense. These are called either phrases or clauses in English.
Counts: phrases, clauses, small sentence units
This sentence can be divided into four phrases.
I forgot what I wanted to say in the second clause.
<! Inline 41: a triangle>
This is used to count sides of polygons like triangles, squares, pentagons, etc. It's also used to count various edges and borders, like the edges of a table or the borders on a tatami mattress.
Counts: sides of polygons, edges of tables, borders of tatami mattresses, height, length or width measurements, borders of a carpet or rug, etc.
A triangle has three sides.
These two sides are each eighteen centimeters long.
This Japanese counter is used to count actions, deeds, and experiences. Unlike 度 (ど) and 回 (かい), 遍 (へん) emphasizes the number of times something's being counted. It's often used to express frustration with a repetitive action.
Counts: the number of times something happens, actions, deeds, experiences, etc.
Don't make me say the same things over and over again.
I can't remember what you're saying if you all talk at once.
This is used to count poems, pieces of writing, and other smaller units within the world of writing.
Counts: poems, pieces of writing or poetry, essays, novels, parts of stories, volumes, academic papers, etc.
This ebook contains 1,029 of Tofugu's short stories.
The second book in Tofugu's Three Sisters series really moved me.
<! Inline 42: the head of a flower with its petals attached>
弁 counts petals that are still attached to a flower. If you want to get technical, it's the petals that are still attached to the calyx (sepals), not loose, individual petals.
Counts: petals (with calyx or sepals)
I made a five-petal origami flower.
There were some big, wonderful-smelling, six-petaled flowers in bloom.
- There's one with fourteen bags for sale here.
This one is used to count something that's wrapped, but the only common usage is counting granulated medicine wrapped in folding paper or a paper bag. This can be any medicine that's powdered or granulated, and an entire bag is １包.
Counts: bags of granulated or powdered medicine
There's one with fourteen bags for sale here.
This comes with five bags that have six individual bags in them each, so it'll be thirty individual bags total.
<! Inline 43: a mountain peak>
This kanji means "mountain peak," "mountain top," and "summit," and it's used to count pointed or steep mountains. When it's read as ほう, the readings use kango. When it's read as みね, the wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: steep mountains, pointed mountains
The mountains that rise above Kyoto's east side are known as the "36 East Mountain Peaks."
These are photos that I took for the Three-Peak Challenge.
This is used to count reports, news, and information.
Counts: news, reports, information, updates, etc.
The news shocked everyone.
Has the second report come yet?
This word was originally used to count the spaces divided by folding screens (byōbu). These days, it's used to count the number of rooms in apartments and houses (usually Japanese-style ones). The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: rooms, tatami rooms
I live in an apartment with one three-mat room.
The house I lived in when I was a kid only had one six-mat room and one four-mat room.
<! Inline 44: an arm with a big white bandage wrapped around it>
The verb 巻く (まく) means "to roll," and 巻 is the noun version. It's used to count how many times something has been rolled, wrapped or coiled around another thing. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: wraps of a scarf, bandages on a body part, hair curls, clock winds, rope coils, fishing line reels, rolls of tape, rolls of kitchen twine, etc.
I wrapped the scarf around my neck twice and went outside.
I have one extra roll of fishing line.
幕 is used to count acts of a play or performance. It's also used to count particularly memorable moments from real life. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: acts, memorable moments
That play was made up of three acts.
I was dancing while keeping myself from crying during the fourth act.
<! Inline 45: a piece of manuscript paper with the boxes on it>
This is used to count the squares on manuscript paper and in writing notebooks. It's also used to count things held in masu cups, which are a type of square wooden measuring cup. There are a few different sizes of masu cups, so they can't be counted as their own measured unit. Instead, they're counted with this! The wago readings are used for one and two, though they can all be counted with kango, so it depends on the person.
Counts: squares or boxes on paper, blank spaces, masu cups
When I was a kid, I was good at 10-by-10 grid calculations.
(This is a method of learning through repetition conceived by Kageyama Hideo, which involves carrying out calculations using 10-by-10 grids of numbers.)
There are five blanks for you to fill in the answer.
This counter counts the number of times something has gone around something else, and rounds—but only rounds of one to three, and they use the wago readings. For rounds of four or more, we use the counter 周 (しゅう). There's a lot more to learn about these, so read our article on the 回り counter (coming soon).
Counts: the number of times something goes around something else, rounds, circuits, laps, etc.
I went around the school one more time, but I couldn't find it.
I ate so much, I feel like my body doubled in size.
This word means "eyes," but it's used to count words that use 目 in their name, not physical eyeballs. Use it to count seams, sutures, and stitches (縫い目/ぬいめ), mesh (網目/あみめ), knitting stitches (編み目/あみめ), squares on manuscript paper (升目/ますめ), and the pips on dice (サイコロの目/さいころのめ). 一目 also has an idiomatic usage of "one glance" or "one look." The wago readings are used for one and two, and are usually the only two used.
目 can be used as an ordinal number suffix after the general counter 〜つ. For example, 一つ目 is "the first one," 二つ目 is "the second one," and so on.
Counts: seams, sutures, stitches, mesh, manuscript squares, notebook squares, pips, looks, glances, etc.
Today, I'm gonna teach you how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting.
There are six pips on a die.
<! Inline 46: a mask>
This word can mean many things, but the most common (and important for counting) meaning is faces and surfaces. It's used to count the faces of cubes and other geometric shapes. It's also used to count masks, which have a different type of face. Read our in-depth article about the counter 面 (coming soon) to learn about everything it can count. To learn more about this counter, check out our in-depth article.
Counts: surfaces of shapes, newspaper pages, monitors, digital signs, game boards, video game stages, sports fields, rinks or rings, fields, masks, abacuses, binoculars, inkstones, traditional instruments, folding fans, framed paintings, etc.
How many faces does a cube have? Six faces.
I cleared the first stage of Super Mario in an hour.
The verb 盛る (もる) means "to heap," "to pile," "to serve food," and "to fill up a plate with food." 盛り is the noun version, and it's used to count heaps or piles, usually of food. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: bowls of oranges, offering bowls and plates, full baskets of fruit, etc.
A pile of Japanese persimmons for ¥498, huh? I wonder if I should get them.
The second cup is dark chocolate ice cream.
This is used to count nights. Normally, it's read with kango using the や reading for 夜, but one and two nights can also be counted with the wago readings. When that happens, 夜 becomes よ.
It's also used to count nights in the lunar calendar, which resulted in the idiom 十五夜 (じゅうごや), which means "a full moon night."
We're going to air the Toy Story series two nights in a row.
The strong winds caused all of the cherry blossoms to fall in a single night.
<! Inline 47: a mountain of cucumbers>
The counter 山 counts mountains. It's also used to count things that resemble mountains when piled up, like fruits and vegetables, or packages of items in a grocery store.
There are two idiomatic usages for this counter that use 一山 (ひとやま), or "one mountain." The first can be written as either 山当てる (ひとやまあてる) or 一山儲ける (ひとやまもうける), and means "to make a killing" (literally, to win a mountain). The second is 一山越える (ひとやまこえる), which means "to get over a hard or difficult period" (literally, to climb over a mountain).
The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: mountains, piles, mounds, etc.
A mountain of cucumbers is ¥99 today. It's a really good deal.
We're gonna pass through two mountains via tunnel.
This is used to count wings, or to count birds in a more poetic way. It can also be used to count roles, spots, or posts, as seen in the idiom 一翼を担う (いちよくをになう), meaning "to take a role."
Counts: bird wings, airplane wings, birds, roles, spots, posts
I want to be someone who takes on a role in Tofugu.
The two wings of the airplane were very dirty.
- Can you add one more scoop, please?
The verb 装う has two possible readings and meanings. The first is よそう, which means "to serve something into a place or dish." The second is よそおう, which means "to dress oneself." The counter 装い is used to count both servings (よそい) and sets of clothes, costumes, or furniture (よそおい). It's much more commonly used to count servings of food (よそい), however, so it's really the only one most people need to be familiar with.
The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are quite rare. It's also normal to see this written in hiragana, without kanji.
Counts: ladles of miso soup, scoops of a meal, servings of rice, etc.
Can you add one more scoop, please?
Do you think two servings each will be enough?
<! Inline 48: a train car>
This kanji originally meant "pairs," so it's used to count pairs of clothes, like pairs of socks, for example. Later, it began to be used to count things with pairs of wheels on both sides (台/だい). It began with horse-pulled carriages, carts, and wagons. These days it's mostly used to count train cars.
It can also be used with the ordinal number suffix 目 to count specific cars on a train. For example, 一両目 is the first car, 二両目 is the second car, and so on.
両 also used to be a currency unit back in the Edo period. Have you seen a lucky cat holding a big coin? Many of the coins say 千万両 or 百万両, and that is this 両 currency. One 両 is valued at ¥40,000, which is about $400, so 千万両 (ten million ryo) would be four billion dollars!
Counts: train cars, railroad cars, horse carriages, horse carts, horse wagons, old units of money, etc.
This train has seven passenger cars.
I'm on the first car of this train.
輪 is used to count circles, rings, hoops, wheels, flowers (because the petals make a circle), and crowns of flowers. In Japanese, the Olympics are called 五輪 (こりん) because of the five Olympic rings.
Counts: circles, rings, hoops, wheels, flowers, flower crowns
Darin comes to work by unicycle.
The six lilies Aya drew are beautiful.
This is used to count baseball bases. It can be added to the counter for hits, 打 (だ), to say things like 一塁だ (いちるいだ) for one-base hits or singles and 二塁打 (にるいだ) for two-base hits or doubles, and so on.
You can also use the gairaigo counter ベース for general base counting.
Counts: baseball bases
Baseball has four bases total.
I ran toward third base as fast as I could.
<! Inline 49: a person bowing>
礼 counts bows and acts of bowing.
Counts: bows, nods
Why did you just bow twice?
At Izumo Taisha, you don't do "two bows, two claps, one bow," instead you do "two bows, four claps, one bow."
This is used to count mountain ranges and mountain peaks in succession.
Counts: mountain ranges, series of mountain peaks
I went to the Nanling Mountains during summer vacation.
Mt. Miune was named after its three peaks.
This counter is used to count lines or queues of people. It can also be used to count rows of things in lines.
Counts: lines, queues, armies in file, rows of seats, etc.
On Kanae's desk, there were eighty-eight Koichi dolls arranged in eight lines.
Please wait in two lines.
<! Inline 50: a pearl necklace>
This is used to count similarly-shaped items strung together or in rows—for example, a string of pearls or prayer beads. More recently, it's been used to count shots taken in gacha games. Some other less common usages include reams, stanzas, and 500 square meters of cellophane.
Counts: pearl necklaces, prayer beads, dried konbu, katsuobushi, dried octopus, sausage links, oranges or tofu stacks on top of one another, gacha rolls, etc.
Apparently three-strand pearl necklaces are trendy this year.
It says you get ten gacha rolls for free.
浪 is used to count the number of years a person has been studying to pass college or university entrance exams—but only after they failed the first time.
Counts: years spent studying and preparing for entrance exams after failing
I've been studying for Tokyo University for the last three years (since failing the first time).
I went into my second year of exam prep (after failing the first exam).
路線 counts train lines and bus routes.
Counts: train lines, bus routes
Train services on four lines are not running on schedule due to the typhoon.
Apparently, one of the two bus routes is being discontinued.
This is used to count bundles and bunches that can be carried by hand. It's also used for units of fifty-one arrows in traditional Japanese archery performances, but that's a pretty uncommon usage these days.
Counts: bunches of greens, bunches of noodles, bundles of firewood, bundles of sticks and branches, bundles of incense sticks, etc.
My parents sent me thirty bunches of somen noodles.
I used up an entire bunch of Chinese chives.
<! Inline 51: a window frame>
The counter 枠 counts frames, borders or boxes on paper, and job positions. It can also be used to count gates in horse racing (which originally grew from the job position meaning). The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango. If you're counting horse gates, however, the kango readings are used for all of them.
Counts: frames, window frames, boxes on paper, borders on paper, horse racing gates, job positions, positions, time slots, etc.
There are usually eight horse racing gates.
There is still one time slot available, but it's the only one left.
- We have six rice bowls.
This is used to count meals in bowls, though it's becoming archaic. These days we usually count bowls with 杯 (はい), but some people and some traditional restaurants still use 椀 (わん). The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: soup in bowls, meals in bowls, rice in bowls
We're going to prepare one bowl of suimono soup as soon as possible.
We have six rice bowls.
22 Rare But Interesting Counters
The following counters are not common, but they are interesting, and some of them are used in beautiful expressions. While you probably don't exactly need to remember them, they are nice. Rare counters like these are also sometimes used in Japanese trivia quizzes, so if you're into those, you may want to pay closer attention.
握 is used to count handfuls of sand, powder, rice, etc. While it isn't very common to use it as a counter, it is in a beautiful expression that is used in literature.「一握の砂 (いちあくのすな)」(A Handful of Sand) is a very famous collection of tanka poems by Ishikawa Takuboku, for example.
WaniKani was able to give a handful of hope to someone like me who didn't like kanji.
<! Inline 52: a cherry blossom with many layers of petals>
This counter used to count things that overlapped (doubled, tripled, etc.), but that usage has become archaic, and it is currently just used idiomatically. Some common examples of this include: 二重まぶた (ふたえまぶた) "double eyelids," 八重桜 (やえざくら) "double cherry blossoms," and 幾重にも (いくえにも) "repeatedly, over and over."
This is a particularly beautiful traditional expression. The 八重 (eight layers) of 八重桜 invokes a magnificent cherry tree overflowing with blossoms, each with many layers of petals.
These expressions usually use one, two, or eight, and they're all read with the wago readings.
Counts: eyelid layers, cherry blossom petal layers, kimono layers
I was born with single eyelids, but they naturally became double eyelids as I grew up.
This one is similar to 重 (え), but it's used to count the actual number of times something overlaps and creates layers, and it isn't just used idiomatically. That being said, its usage is limited to: clothes; 重箱 (じゅうばこ), multi-tiered lacquered boxes with a lid, usually used to transport cooked foods over short distances; 鏡餅 (かがみもち), round, mirror-shaped rice cakes used as an offering at the household altar at New Years; as well as bedding and bedclothes.
It's normally only used for one to three using the wago readings. For general use, we use the counter 重 (じゅう) when something overlaps and 層 (そう) for layers.
Counts: layers of kagami mochi, tree rings, layers of piled futon, layers of jubako boxes, layers of zabuton cushions, layers of bedding, etc.
On New Years, 1,029 layers of mirror-shaped mochi are placed at the Tofugu office.
<! Inline 53: an eggplant>
This is used to count fruit. And while people usually count fruit with the general counters 〜つ and 個 (こ), this is a more traditional, poetic way to count them. For example, 白桃一果 (はくとういっか) is a slice of white peach.
Counts: peaches, Asian pears, apples, persimmons, eggplants, etc.
When growing eggplants, you should only keep one or two fruits on a single branch.
角 is used to count horns and antlers. For example, a unicorn is 一角獣 (いっかくっじゅう), which literally means "one-horned beast." It's also used as a unit of Chinese money (one-tenth of a yuan).
Counts: horns, antlers, official documents, official papers
The fight between the unicorn and the bicorn is about to start at the Tofugu office!
This is used to count knights and warriors on horseback. It can be used to count horses without riders, as well.
Counts: warriors on horseback, horses
The Tofugu army was accompanied by 15,000 warriors on horseback.
掬 counts handfuls of liquid. While it's no longer common, it's another lovely expression that's used in literature. For example, the phrase 一掬の涙 (いっきくのなみだ) can either mean a little or a lot of tears, depending on your idea of a "handful."
Counts: handfuls of tears, handfuls of water, handfuls of other liquids
I didn't feel even a handful of sympathy for my dad, who gained weight from eating my ice cream on the sly.
<! Inline 54: a bridge>
This is used to count bridges in written language. It's also used to count rainbows in a more poetic way. After all, what are rainbows, but bridges of the sky?
Counts: bridges, rainbows
In the sky, after the rain, there was a rainbow.
The counter 雫 is used to count drops or drips. A single tear is usually written as 一雫の涙 (ひとしずくのなみだ). This isn't as rare as the others in this section, because it's used quite often in song lyrics. The wago readings are used for one and two, and usually you don't hear people singing about more than that.
Counts: drops of rain, water drops, tear drops, etc.
My tears fell, one drop after another.
You use this one to count piles or bundles of thin things, like paper and nori seaweed sheets. This one is tricky, though—the actual number depends on what is being counted. For example, if you're counting 海苔 (のり), nori seaweed, 一帖 means ten sheets. If you're counting 半紙 (はんし), traditional writing paper, 一帖 means twenty sheets. And, if you're counting 美濃紙 (みのがみ), which is 半紙 made in the Mino region (美濃/みの), 一帖 means forty-eight sheets!
Counts: photo albums, notebooks, sets of ten nori seaweed sheets, Japanese manuscript paper, folding screens, sets of twenty hanshi sheets, sets of forty-eight minogami sheets
Four timeworn photo albums came out of the closet.
<! inline 55: a stone>
This is used to count stones, but it's more common to use the general Japanese counter 個 (こ) these days. While you can still use it to count stones, it's more commonly used for its idiomatic meaning. For example, 一石を投じる (いっせきをとうじる) means "to bring up a problem" or "to stir up controversy." There's also 一石二鳥 (いっせきにちょう), which means "to kill two birds with one stone."
Counts: stones, pebbles, small rocks
Switching to commuting by bicycle killed two birds with one stone; I lost weight and my gas bill went down.
- Two years have passed since I separated from Lord Koichi.
This is a poetic way to count years or ages. While it's rare, the way you read it is interesting. We use the wago readings like this: 三年 (みとせ), 千歳 (ちとせ), etc. The most common usage, however, is 千歳飴 (ちとせあめ), which is a long stick of red and white candy that we eat to celebrate the 七五三 (しちごさん) festival. It represents hope for a long life, which is why it's called "thousand year candy."
Counts: years, ages
Two years have passed since I separated from Lord Koichi.
This is used to count rivers, streams, flags, banners, floats, and things that align vertically like the kanji 川 (river), like written lines. Some people in certain regions count futon mattresses with 流れ as well, though it's usually when they're lined up together in a room (and look like 川). The wago readings are used for one, two, and three, and the rest aren't used very often, if at all.
Counts: flags, banners, streamers, floats, battle flags, written lines, rivers, streams, futon mattresses
Three streamers were waving leisurely.
<! inline 56: a snowflake>
You count small, thin, flat things that can flutter in the air with this, including petals, confetti, and snowflakes. It was originally a counter like 枚 (まい), and it counted paper, leaves, tatami mats, straw mats, and so on, but this usage has become archaic. The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are kango.
Counts: petals, confetti, snowflakes, etc.
A cherry petal lightly fluttered down from somewhere.
This kanji primarily means "mouth," but it also means "to swing down a sword and cut something open." Because of that, it's used to count swords and knives. The counters 振り (じふり) and 口 (くち) can also be used to count them. The wago readings are used for one and two, three can be either, and the rest are kango.
Counts: swords, katana, knives, kitchen knives, etc.
Boss Viet is hiding twenty-three katana in his enormous vaults.
When read as へい, this is used to count earthenware pots, jars or vases. It's also used to count traditional Japanese flower arrangements (ikebana). It's read with the kango readings.
When read as かめ, this is used to count earthenware pots, jars or vases that hold food, like umeboshi, miso, and syrups. In this case, the wago readings are used for one, two, and three, and the rest are kango.
Counts: earthenware pots, earthenware jars, earthenware vases, flowers in vases, water in jars, ikebana, etc.
Thirty-two ikebana flower arrangements were displayed in the room.
There was always an earthenware jar of umeboshi in my grandma's bedroom.
This is a literary expression used to count separations, partings, or goodbyes.
Counts: separations, partings, goodbyes
How have you been since that goodbye?
片 is used to count fragments, broken pieces, and small or negligible things. It's also used to count small pieces of paper, broken pieces of things, sections, or petals. Unlike 切れ (きれ), which is used to count nicely sliced pieces of things, 片 (へん) is used to count things in random shapes.
It can also be used to count papers that no longer hold value. This includes used mail stamps, used train tickets, losing horse racing tickets, losing lottery tickets, and so on.
Counts: petals, pieces of paper, pieces of broken glass, ripped pieces of origami, used stamps, used tickets, losing tickets, etc.
There were three pieces of scrap paper in my hair.
<! inline 57: a folded map>
This is used to count papers that are usually folded, but are unfolded when used, like maps. In fact, it's used mostly when counting maps!
Counts: folded maps, folded documents, etc.
My hobby is to collect Japanese maps, and I have over a hundred of them.
門 counts doors and gates, as well as things that decorate doors and gates. This includes kadomatsu New Years decorations, which are made from pine branches, bamboo sticks, and plum sprigs. They're set up on either side of front doors and gates. This kanji also means "narrow opening," so it can be used to count cannons and other types of heavy artillery.
Counts: kadomatsu, gates, tower gates, cannons, artillery, bazookas, etc.
I wonder if Viet truly owns nine bazookas.
This is used to count leaves and small, thin, flat things that are not folded. This is usually used in very literal expressions.
Counts: leaves, postcards, bookmarks, business cards, photographs, cards, book pages, notebook pages, dust, small boats, light boats, etc.
Tofugu sent me one postcard and two stickers.
<! Inline 58: a flag>
This kanji means "flow" or "stream," and it's used to count floats, banners, and flags.
Counts: flags, banners, floats, streamers, standards, etc.
I could see over a hundred standards in the distance.
This is used to count fish scales. It's also a fancy and elegant way to count fish.
Counts: fish scales, fish
Three crimson carp were swimming around the pond.
57 New Gairaigo Counters
Japanese people have borrowed many words from other languages, and they continue to add new words every day! This includes new counters and units from overseas.
With these new counters, the numbers are usually read with either the gairaigo (English counting) method of ワン, ツー, and スリー, or the kango readings. For gairaigo, usually only one through three are read this way, and the rest will use the kango readings. Ten is the highest a counter will go using gairaigo readings. And while it's rare, there are some situations where you'll see borrowed counters counted with wago as well.
If you remember back to our main article on Japanese counters, Japanese doesn't account for singular or plural (which is why there are counters). That means that even though you may count something just like you would in English, the counter does not go from singular to plural. For example, one item is ワンアイテム but two items is ツーアイテム. This also works in the other direction with the counter for feet (units). Feet in Japanese is フィート (not foot), so one foot is １フィート.
While this list covers fifty-seven gairaigo counters, there are a lot more used every day. For example, words used on social media like retweet (リツイート), like (いいね), favorite (お気に入り), and so on, all work as counters, but they are not included in this list. I'm sure there are others that were outside the scope of this article as well.
Luckily, since these counters came from English, and you presumably also speak and read that, picking up gairaigo counters should be much easier than the rest!
This is used to count items or products. While it's usually read with kango, the gairaigo counting method can be used for one through three as well.
Counts: fashion items, stable items, etc.
2019 Summer Fashion "3 Must-Have Items"
<! Inline 59: a pageview counter a la early 2000s internet>
アクセス counts access numbers, especially online page views and hits. It's usually read with kango, but it could be read with gairago, though it's not common.
Counts: access numbers, hits, page views
I've been blogging for a year now, but I still only get about ten hits a day.
This is used to count innings in baseball. It's usually read with the gairaigo readings, but kango is used sometimes too.
Counts: baseball innings
Today, Michael pitched seven innings.
インチ is used to count inches.
If I was three inches taller, I bet my world would change.
エーカー counts acres.
Cyrus's best friend's property is five acres.
This is used to count—you guessed it—ounces.
I drink eight ounces of tomato juice a day.
<! Inline 60: a carton of cigarettes>
This is used to count cartons, but usually only paper box cartons. For milk cartons, it's more common to use パック (pack) in Japanese. One through three are usually read with the gairaigo readings, and the rest are usually kango, but both can be used for any of them.
I bought three cartons of cigarettes at a duty-free shop.
- Can I have three pieces of this cake, please?
This counter has three different usages. The most common is to count things that are cut into pieces, like watermelon and cake. The other usages are common too, so check out our full article about the カット counter (coming soon) to learn more. You can use any of the three reading methods with it!
Counts: pieces of fruit, pieces of cake, cuts of film, movie scenes, small illustrations, etc.
Can I have three pieces of this cake, please?
This is used to count cups, specifically the unit cups. Like カット, you can use any of the three reading methods with it. Learn more in our in-depth article.
Counts: cups, measuring cups, ice cream cups, pudding in cups, golf holes, etc.
I bought six cups of Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
There is already a counter for colors in Japanese: 色 (しょく). However, people in the fashion industry tend to use the gairaigo counter カラー to sound more fashionable. While it's usually read with the gairaigo readings, it can also be read with kango.
Counts: colors, hair colors
Do you want to make a gradient with three colors?
<! Inline 61: a diamond>
This is used to count carats (gems) and karats (gold).
Counts: gemstone carats, gold karats
I gave her a ring with a ten-carat diamond.
ガロン is used to count gallons.
This container can hold about fourteen gallons.
キログラム counts kilograms. The shorter version キロ is used frequently as well.
I weigh sixty kilograms.
キロメートル is used to count kilometers. Like with the previous counter, people often use the shorter キロ as well.
I jogged three kilometers.
This comes from the French term "cour(s)" and is used to count the three-month periods television shows usually air for. While they may not be considered a unique season, cours usually have about thirteen episodes, and each one has different opening and ending themes.
Counts: three-month TV cycles
We finished shooting one season (about thirteen episodes).
This is used to count school classes, or classes as in levels or ranks. For the former, the readings for one and two are wago, and the rest are kango. For the latter, the readings are usually in gairaigo (ワンクラス, ツークラス, etc.), but wago and kango work as well.
Counts: school classes, classes, ranks
The way you dress is one level beyond (everyone else).
グラム is used to count grams.
Add five grams of sugar.
This is used to count groups. The readings can be either gairaigo or wago for one and two, three can be either gairaigo or kango, and the rest are usually read with kango.
We split into six groups and did experiments.
ゲーム counts games. The readings are usually gairaigo or kango.
Counts: games, matches
We won the first game.
<! Inline 62: a soccer goal>
This is used to count goals in sports. It's usually read with the gairaigo counting method, but kango is fine as well.
That player scored three goals in one game.
This one's used to count scenes in dramas, movies, comics, and manga. One can be read with either gairaigo and kango, but the rest are usually read with kango.
Counts: scenes, scenes in your life
What are the three most memorable scenes of this manga to you?
ステップ is used to count steps (as in phases). It can be read with either gairaigo or kango, but for four and above, kango is more common.
Counts: steps, plans, stages, phases, grades, etc.
I'm going to teach you how to make delicious natto rice in just four steps.
This is used to count sets. One through three can be read with any reading method, but four and above are usually read with kango.
I do two sets of fifty sit-ups everyday.
You count centimeters with the counter センチメートル, but there's also a shorter version you can use: センチ.
Koichi's bangs are always eighteen centimeters long.
<! Inline 63: a carton of a dozen eggs>
This is used to count dozens.
Can you order three dozen of this sticker?
タイプ counts types. It's usually read with kango, but gairaigo works too.
Counts: types, kinds
There are four blood types.
This one's the counter for teams. One and two are usually read with wago, but they could be read with kango or gairaigo as well. The rest are normally kango.
Two teams practiced together.
チャンス is used to count chances or opportunities. The shorter version of one chance, which is ワンチャン, is popular slang among younger generations.
Counts: chances, opportunities
I wonder if I could get one chance.
<! Inline 64: a pair of tights>
This is used to count deniers, which is the unit used to measure the thickness of the fabric used to make tights and pantyhose.
I can't decide which one to pick: sixty-denier tights or eighty-denier tights.
You count dollars with ドル.
Lucky me! I found a one hundred dollar bill.
This is used to count tons.
This bacon weighs four tons.
<! Inline 65: a net full of fish>
ネット counts products in nets or mesh bags (like onions or potatoes). The wago readings are used for one and two, and the rest are usually kango, but they could be gairaigo as well.
Counts: nets, mesh bags, laundry nets, fishing nets
There are five mesh bags of oranges in my freezer.
パターン is used to count patterns.
Counts: patterns, ways
I came up with five different variations on how the rest of the story could go.
This is used to count bytes.
I used 200 gigabytes in three days.
<! Inline 66: a milk carton>
パック is used to count packs or things in a pack, along with cartons of milk.
Counts: packs, milk cartons
I always try to buy three packs of croquettes on typhoon days.
I bought two cartons of milk.
This is used to count furlongs (one-eighth of a mile).
In Japanese horse racing, two hundred meters is considered to be a furlong.
ピース counts pieces of something. It can be read with either gairaigo or kango, but for four and above, kango is more common.
Counts: pieces, puzzle pieces, cake pieces, suit pieces, dress pieces, etc.
I want to make a five-thousand-piece Tofugu puzzle.
<! Inline 67: some pixels/pixelated colors>
Pixels are sometimes counted with ピクセル, but it's more common to use the Japanese counter 画素 (がそ) for them.
I'm looking for 120-pixel images.
ヒット is used to count hits, like those in baseball, tennis, and golf, but also physical hits (punches) and digital hits (search results). One through three are usually read with gairaigo, and the rest are read with kango.
Counts: hits, punches
I Googled "Tofugu" and "Koichi," and I only got fifty-three hits.
ビット counts bits, like in 8-bit and 16-bit. The readings can be either gairaigo or kango, but for four and above it's normally kango.
I make 8-bit songs.
<! Inline 68: a person's foot>
This is used to count feet. Be careful, because one foot will still be フィート!
I'm five feet six inches tall.
This counter's used to count plans. It can be read with either gairaigo or kango, but wago can be used for one and two as well. For four and above, kango is more common.
I made five plans, for the time being.
This is used to count pages. It can also be written with the kanji 頁, which is still read as ページ.
So this novel has 333 pages.
<! Inline 69: a baseball base>
Bases in baseball are counted with ベース. It's read with gairaigo, unless you're selling bases in bulk (then you can use kango). If you're counting base hits, it's ワンベースヒット for one base hit, ツーベースヒット for two base hits, and スリーベースヒット for three base hits. It does not become plural like in English!
Did you carry all four bases by yourself?
This is used to count hectares.
Koichi's dog lives in a forest that is five hundred hectares.
ポイント is used to count points. It can be read with either gairaigo or kango. For four and above, both are still okay, but kango is more common, unless it's a specific way to count points in certain sports.
Counts: points, points in time, points of interest, etc.
I got two hundred WaniKani points.
ポンド / パウンド (pound)
This is used to count pounds (the currency) and pounds (the weight).
I only have a hundred pounds left.
The pork was on sale, so I bought three pounds of it!
マイル counts miles.
I walked three miles on my hands.
メートル is used to count meters.
Koichi's tie is two meters long.
<! Inline 70: a yardstick>
You use this one to count yards.
It's impossible to hit two hundred yards with that golf club, isn't it?
ユニット is used to count units of people or things. One through three are usually read with gairaigo, but the kango can be used as well.
Counts: units, program units, units of furniture, storage units, units of singers, units of comedians, etc.
Seventeen units debuted from this agency this year.
ラウンド counts rounds of something. It can be read with either gairaigo or kango.
Counts: rounds, baseball rounds, boxing rounds, etc.
After school, I played three rounds of bowling and then went home.
リットル is used to count liters.
I prepared eight liters of barley tea.
You use this counter for rooms, especially in Western-style apartments and houses. It's usually read with gairaigo, but the kango readings can be used for three and above.
I'd like to live in a three-bedroom apartment someday.
レース is used to count races.
I participated in six races total.
<! Inline 71: a roll of toilet paper>
ロール counts rolls (especially paper rolls). It can be read with either gairaigo or kango, but kango is more common with four and above.
Counts: rolls, paper rolls, toilet paper rolls, cake rolls
I dropped seven rolls of toilet paper into the river.
This is used to count words. It's usually read with kango, but the gairaigo readings can be used as well.
Cyrus tries to reply to emails with five hundred words or less.
You did it! You made it to the end. There are no more counters.
Haha! Just kidding, there are still more. But look how many you know now. That's a pretty ginormous dent you made.