A Fun Guide to Mastering Japanese Numbers in Kanji!

  • Numbers are one of the most important things to learn when living abroad. Without them, how could you shop, understand your salary, or most important, exchange phone numbers with a new friend (or potential date)?

    Although most people are able to memorise the numbers after a few practices, the true test is being able to read and write the numbers too. Think of it, new to the country, barely speak a word and yet, you manage to give your digits to a potential date in the local script. Now, that is the stuff of James Bond movies. Here is a quick guide to help you with your Japanese numerology.

    Here’s the trick


    As simple as can be. Simply stroke your pen across the paper in a straight, horizontal line. Extra points if you stroke it like you’re mad at it. Kanji is all about the beauty and force of the stroke. Extra points for a little splutter.


    Same as above, but twice for good measure. The second stroke should be slightly longer than the first. Not all crazy long, just about twenty-five percent longer than the first. The stroke order is important, but so is the size (or length) of the stroke…


    You know what they say, the third time’s a charm. Make sure to get the sizes right. Longer on the top, smaller in the middle, longest on the bottom. Three quick strokes and you have yourself a three in Kanji. Like a horizontal Kanji for river. Practice it. One, Two, THREE!


    Now, we get all complicated. You would think four strokes would do, but ohhhh no, that would be two easy. Draw a window. Hang some curtains that are a little off centre, and you have yourself a four in Kanji. Cool, right? Go hang them curtains. Fours for everyone.


    Oh, well, this one is too complicated to describe. Just follow the stroke order above and master your fives. It kind of looks like a wobbly rocking chair with a bar on top. Maybe, that is just me.


    Now, we get back into the easy territory. This Kanji looks like a headless dude with his arms outstretched, kind of doing the splits. Or one of those rock sculpture things from Canada – the Inukshuk. Google it, you will see what I am talking about.


    Easy peasy! Make the Kanji for one, slice it down the off centre middle, and hook it out like a hockey stick. Practice makes perfect, so keep on trying.


    Basically upraised eyebrows, this is another easy one to master. Like a very sad clown. Use your imagination, and you will be good to go with this one.

    Nine- Kyu/Ku

    Oooh, we have found ourselves a tricky one. This Kanji is easy on the eyes, but difficult to write. The only advice I have is to slice a line from the top to the bottom, then across horizontally, only to violently whip it out at the end, turning up at the very tip. Swish and flick. Harry Potter style.


    Arguably one of the easiest of all, a simple cross, with the horizontal bar a little lower than the usual crucifixion version. Once across the horizontal, then on the vertical. What could be easier? A child could master this.

    Also, if you want to be super cool, you can even get a Kanji numbered watch. Go ahead, unleash your inner nerd, you know you want to. Now, go get some digits!

    *Featured Image: PhotoAC

    Related Articles:
    Warning! ’Numbers and Counting in Japanese’ will make your head spin!
    Goroawase: Wordplay to Remember Dates the Japanese Way!
    2 Survival Phrase Books Every Beginner Needs