Learning Japanese Kanji is one of the toughest areas in the process of Japanese language learning, especially for Non-Chinese foreigners in Japan. Kanji has its origin in China and hence for Chinese people, that toughest part of the learning is discounted heavily. I have been searching for a better method to memorize Kanji in the shortest possible time. As part of my study to pass Japanese language proficiency test level N4, I had studied 300 Kanji. That was almost 3 years ago and most of those Kanji had buried deep somewhere in the brain.
Starting with simple Kanji is one method. Some of the most frequently used and simple Kanji are that of numbers. I was revising those Kanji today and thought of writing about them (in an effort to reinforce my learning too).
一 いち、いつ、いと Examples of this Kanji appear in the number One (1), which is pronounced as “ichi”. This Kanji is used to write “January” as 一月, which can be written as いちがつ in Hiragana. The reading is “Ichigatsu”. Another example comes in 一番, いちばん(ichiban) meaning “The best”. Ichi is used in 世界一 (せかいいち). When it is used in 一つ (hitotsu or first), the reading becomes ひと (hito). Hito is used in 一人(Hitori, ひとり), meaning “One person” or “Single”.
二 に、ふた、Pronounced as Ni or Futa, this Kanji is used to write the number 2 (ni). Ni is used to write February as 二月 (Nigatsu, にがつ), literally meaning the second month. When this Kanji is used in 二人、ふたり (futari), the meaning is two people and the reading becomes futa. This Kanji is used when we want to say Two months as 三か月Sankagetsu (さんかげつ),
三、さん、みつ. When it is used alone, reading as さん (San), the meaning is “Three” (3). It is used in 三人(さんにんSan nin, three people) and also in 三角San kaku, さんかく, meaning “Triangle”. When used in 三か月、Sankagetsu, さんかげつ, the meaning is three months.
The Kanji for 4 (四、よんyon, しshi or simply よyo） is little confusing as it looks similar with 西、にしnishi, which means West. If you remember this similarity of 四with 西, it is helpful to learn the kanji for the east. Since this Kanji has two reading for number four itself, it is often confusing to students. Yon is used to say the number and shi is used when we say April, shigatsu しがつ 四月. This Kanji when used to mean “fourth” in Yottsu is written as 四つ (よっつ). We need to stress the “tsu”. Yon is used in Yon kyuu meaning “fourth grade” as 四級.
The number 5 is written in Kanji as 五, go ご. It can be read as itsu when used to mean fifth (itsutsu, いつつ). Thus, 5 months can be written in Japanese as 五ヶ月、ごかがつ gokagatsu. Number 6 is written as 六、ろく roku. It is pronounced as mu む also. Thus number 6 is roku ろく. Six trees can be written as Roppongi 六本木 (which is a popular meeting spot for foreigners with lot of pubs and is one of the famous happening place in Tokyo). Sixth day of the month is called Muika in Japanese, which is written as むいか 六日.
The number 7 has two readings such as Nana なな and Shichiしち. Nanatsu ななつ becomes seventh (7th). Seven wonders of the world is written as 世界の七不思議(Sekai no nana fushigi or in hiragana せかいのななふしぎ). The number 8 is written as 八. It is very easy to write はち in Kanji than in hiragana. Also pronounced as ya with a stress on t, when used to say eighth as yattsu やっつ. Hachinenkan (はちねんかん 八年間 is 8 years.
The number 9 is ku く or kyuu きゅう and the kanji is 九. In this case also, Kanji is easier to write than きゅう. It is pronounced as kokono ここの when used in Kokonotsu ここのつ, which means 9 months. September is くがつ kugatsu 九月. The number 10 is juu じゅう and is written as 十. Remember the + sign. This Kanji is pronounced as too, とお. Example for too とお is 十日, とおかtooka or tenth day. December is 12th month and in Japanese it is written as 十二月 じゅうにがつ juunigatsu. The numbers from 11 onwards are combinations of two numbers from numbers from 1 to 10. Thus eleven is Juuichi, 十一 じゅういち. The number 34 is さんじゅうよん三十四 and number 87 is はちじゅうなな 八十七.
One hundred is called hyaku in Japanese and is written as 百. In hiragana it is ひゃく. 100 Yen shops are popular in Japan, that are popularly known as hyakuyen shops 百円店. This kanji is pronounced also as momo もも. 1000 is Sen せん and is written as 千. In 千円 せんえん sen yen or 1000Yen note you might have seen the picture of a famous Japanese novelist Natsume So-seki. The kanji for 1000 is pronounced as chi ち also when used in combination with other Kanji.
The number 10,000 (ten thousand) has a leading role in Japanese accounting and sales, finance and in almost every walk of life. Japanese people use the base of 10,000 when they shorten large numbers. 10,000 is 万、まんman. Thus, 100,000 Yen is juumanyen. 1000,000 Yen, one million Yen is hyakumanen. See the common manまん, which is used for 10,000. It is pronounced as banばん and yorozuよろず.
Correct me if I have made any mistakes.