Japanese Counters or 助数詞

When I first learned the Japanese counters, about 10 or 15 of them, I thought that it was all I had to know. In reality, there are so many more counters in Japanese language. There are different Japanese counters or 助数詞 (josuushi) used to count objects of different shapes or kinds, living things, time etc. For example, リンゴを一個ください (give me an apple), the counter for round objects is ‘ko.

I have listed down the commonly used counters and their usage. This list can also be referred by the students who are preparing for JLPT.


Counter for tangible objects

hon    counter for long and slender objects  umbrella, sensu, obi, pole, flower, banana, tree, thread etc.

hachi counter for potted plants – bonsai, flower pot etc.

ko      counter for small, round or dense objects – ball, apple, stone, bucket etc.

jou     counter for grains or tablets medicine, pill etc.

mai    counter for flat, thin and broad objectspaper, twig, plate, kimono, comb, carpet etc.

tsuu   counter for documents – letter, written data, contract etc.

satsu  counter for bound materials – book, magazine etc.

bu       counter for a copies of documents – newspaper, booklet, pamphlet etc.

kan    counter for sequence or volumes – volume of books or comics etc.

dai      counter for vehicles or machines – car, television, washing machine etc.

機 ki        counter for large machines – aircraft, heavy machinery etc.

seki    counter for huge sea vessels- tanker, submarine etc.

kyaku counter for tools having four legs – chair, table etc.

ken       counter for buildings house, shop etc.

hai        counter for containers filled with liquid – sake cup, glass of water etc.

teki       counter for drops of liquid a drop of water, ointment etc.

chaku  counter for clothing- suit, dress etc.

zoku     counter for a pair – a pair of socks, shoes etc.

nin       counter for persons – human beings

名 mei       counter for persons (formal) – human beings


Counter for time, number and intangible objects

bai               counter for multiples – two times, three times etc.

ban               counter for order or ranks – number one, number two etc.

i                     counter for grade or ranks –  1st place, second place etc.

番め banme    counter for ordinal number – first, second etc.

kai                 counter for occurrences – once, twice etc.

do                  counter for occurrences and alcohol strength – once, twice etc.

hen               counter for occurrences (old Japanese) – once, twice etc.

hon               counter for runs or showcase – video, cinema, bus or train operation/service etc.

shu                  counter for classical poems or songstanka, waka etc.

kaku             counter for kanji stroke order – one stroke, two strokes etc.

ken                counter for subjects – message, matter etc.

haku             counter for number of night stayed- a night, two nights etc.

ka                  counter for specific aritcles – specific place, portion etc.

kai                 counter for floors – first floor, second floor etc.

sai                  counter for age – a year old, two years old etc.

dai                 counter for generation era, reign etc.

byou             counter for seconds – one second, two seconds etc.

fun                 counter for minutes – a minute, two minutes etc.

時間 jikan         counter for hours – an hour, two hours etc.

nichi/ka        counter for days   –  a day, two days etc.

週間 shuukan counter for weeks – one week, two weeks etc.

(ヶ)月 ka       counter for months –a month, two months etc.

年間 nenkan           counter for years – a year, two years etc.

Counter for animals

hiki  counter for small animals – fish, insect, worm, racoon etc.

tou   counter for large animals – cow, horse etc.

wa   counter for animals that can fly or jump – bird, rabbit etc.


Counter for measurments

メートル me-toru counter for length or distance (meter) – one meter, two meters etc.

リットル rittoru    counter for volume (liter) – one liter, two liters etc.

キロ kiro               counter for weight (kilo) 1 km, 2kms etc.

jou                    counter for tatami mats (to measure the carpet area of a room) – sanjou, yojou etc.

割り wari              counter for percentage ichiwari (10%), niwari (20%) etc.

kin                    counter for bread loaf weighing 350g ~ 400g – ikkin, nikin etc.

tsubo                counter for land or building area hitotsubo (3.3 m^2), futatsubo etc.

shou                 counter for measuring container of rice, sake or soya sauce – isshou (1.8 lts), nishou etc.

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