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
本 hon counter for long and slender objects – umbrella, sensu, obi, pole, flower, banana, tree, thread etc.
鉢 hachi counter for potted plants – bonsai, flower pot etc.
個 ko counter for small, round or dense objects – ball, apple, stone, bucket etc.
錠 jou counter for grains or tablets – medicine, pill etc.
枚 mai counter for flat, thin and broad objects – paper, twig, plate, kimono, comb, carpet etc.
通 tsuu counter for documents – letter, written data, contract etc.
冊satsu counter for bound materials – book, magazine etc.
部 bu counter for a copies of documents – newspaper, booklet, pamphlet etc.
巻 kan counter for sequence or volumes – volume of books or comics etc.
台 dai counter for vehicles or machines – car, television, washing machine etc.
機 ki counter for large machines – aircraft, heavy machinery etc.
隻 seki counter for huge sea vessels- tanker, submarine etc.
脚 kyaku counter for tools having four legs – chair, table etc.
軒 ken counter for buildings – house, shop etc.
杯 hai counter for containers filled with liquid – sake cup, glass of water etc.
滴 teki counter for drops of liquid – a drop of water, ointment etc.
着 chaku counter for clothing- suit, dress etc.
足 zoku counter for a pair – a pair of socks, shoes etc.
人 nin counter for persons – human beings
名 mei counter for persons (formal) – human beings
Counter for time, number and intangible objects
倍 bai counter for multiples – two times, three times etc.
番ban counter for order or ranks – number one, number two etc.
位 i counter for grade or ranks – 1st place, second place etc.
番め banme counter for ordinal number – first, second etc.
回 kai counter for occurrences – once, twice etc.
度 do counter for occurrences and alcohol strength – once, twice etc.
遍 hen counter for occurrences (old Japanese) – once, twice etc.
本 hon counter for runs or showcase – video, cinema, bus or train operation/service etc.
首 shu counter for classical poems or songs – tanka, waka etc.
画 kaku counter for kanji stroke order – one stroke, two strokes etc.
件 ken counter for subjects – message, matter etc.
泊 haku counter for number of night stayed- a night, two nights etc.
箇 ka counter for specific aritcles – specific place, portion etc.
階 kai counter for floors – first floor, second floor etc.
歳 sai counter for age – a year old, two years old etc.
代 dai counter for generation – era, reign etc.
秒 byou counter for seconds – one second, two seconds etc.
分 fun counter for minutes – a minute, two minutes etc.
時間 jikan counter for hours – an hour, two hours etc.
日 nichi/ka counter for days – a day, two days etc.
週間 shuukan counter for weeks – one week, two weeks etc.
箇(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
匹 hiki counter for small animals – fish, insect, worm, racoon etc.
頭 tou counter for large animals – cow, horse etc.
羽 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.
畳 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.
斤 kin counter for bread loaf weighing 350g ~ 400g – ikkin, nikin etc.
坪 tsubo counter for land or building area – hitotsubo (3.3 m^2), futatsubo etc.
升 shou counter for measuring container of rice, sake or soya sauce – isshou (1.8 lts), nishou etc.