numbers and money

Digits

kanji kun-yomi on-yomi
ひと 一つ one, only いち one, best, first
ふた 二つ two two
みっ 三つ three, tri- さん three, tri-
四つ four four
よん four
いつ 五つ five five
むっ 六つ six ろく six
なな 七つ seven しち seven
なな seven
やっ 八つ eight はち eight
ここの 九つ nine nine
きゅう nine

comments: suggestions to memorize some of these kanjis.

  • 六 (6) looks like a combination of the digits of the roman number 6, i.e., VI
  • 七 (7) is an upside-down 7 crossed out the European way

3 pieces of cake, please.
keiki wo mitsu kudasai.
ケーキを みつ ください。
ケーキを三つくさい。


give me 5 dollars, please.
go doru kudasai.
ご ドル ください。
五ドルください。


Numerology

We count with on-yomis (ichi, ni, san, …). Unfortunately, the on-yomi of 4 is ‘shi’, which means ‘dead’ in Cantonese, so it is considered an unlucky number, which is why Chinese families dislike buying houses whose number includes a 4 [wikipedia]. Thus, the Japanese modified the kun-yomi ‘yotsu’ into ‘yon’, to have an alternate way to count 4 without the unlucky implication.

Likewise, the on-yomis of 7 and 9 – ‘shichi’ and ‘ku’, sound like ‘near-certain death’ and ‘pain and suffering’ in Japanese, so they were given the alternate names ‘nana’ (a modification of ‘nanatsu’) and ‘kyuu’ (a modification of ‘ku’ that sounds as ‘relief’) [wikipedia].

Shopping

とお ten じゅう ten
ひゃく hundred
せん thousand
かね お金 money, metal きん gold
まる circle, round えん yen

comments: suggestions to memorize some of these kanjis.

  • 十 (10) is the roman number 10, i.e., X, standing on a leg.
  • 百 (100) looks like ‘100’ rolled 90° to the right

All the multiples of 10, 100 and 1,000 are the first digit followed by the multiplier, e.g., 20 is ni-juu, 200 is ni-hyaku, and 2,000 is ni-sen; the following are the only exceptions:


number
300
600
800
3,000
8,000


romaji
sanbyaku
roppyaku
happyaku
sanzen
hasen


hiragana
さんびゃく
ろっぴゃく
はっぴゃく
さんぜん
はっせん


kanji
三百
六百
八百
三千
八千



the pen is 300 yens.
pen wa san-byaku en desu.
ペンは さんびゃく えん です。
ペンは三百円です。


the radio is 3,600 yens.
radio wa sanzen roppyaku en desu.
ラヂオは さんぜん ろっぴゃく えん です
ラヂオは三千六百円です。


八百屋 (やおや, ya-o-ya)

八百屋 (ya-o-ya, vegetable shop)

The suffix 屋 (や – ya) indicates a store of some kind, or a person that works at that store. For example, 魚屋 (sakana-ya) is either a store that sells fish, or the person that works at that store. The same goes for パン屋 (pan-ya – bread store, a.k.a. bakery), 本屋 (hon-ya – book store), 肉屋 (niku-ya – meat shop), 花屋 (hana-ya – flower shop), and many others. Well… with this background we would be at a loss with a store called 八百屋 (the 800-store) that is pronounced, of all things, やおや (ya-o-ya). What does it sell?

It turns out that in English we use the word ‘zillion’ to describe a large number, while Japanese used to use the number ‘800’, so the 800-store is a store that sells a large number of ‘things’, and it turns out to be… a produce shop; yeap… a store that sells vegetables. The pronunciation appears to be a combination of the abbreviation of ‘yasai’ (vegetable), and ‘o-ya’ (respectable shop), i.e., ‘yasai-o-ya’, reduced to ‘ya-o-ya’. What throws us off is that the pronunciation and the writing have nothing to do with each other.

Strokes

These are the strokes of each kanji, based on the strokes of other kanjis and radicals. In general, we write the parts of the kanji from top-to-bottom, and from left-to-right.