Japanese numerals

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The system of Japanese numerals is the system of number names used in the Japanese language. The Japanese numerals in writing are entirely based on the Chinese numerals and the grouping of large numbers follow the Chinese tradition of grouping by 10,000. Two sets of pronunciations for the numerals exist in Japanese: one is based on Sino-Japanese (on'yomi) readings of the Chinese characters and the other is based on the Japanese kun'yomi readings.


Basic numbering in Japanese

There are two ways of writing the numbers in Japanese, in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) or in Chinese numerals (一, 二, 三). The Arabic numerals are more often used in horizontal writing, and the Chinese numerals are more common in vertical writing.

(Some numbers have multiple names.)

* The special reading maru (which means "round" or "circle") is also found. It is used when reading individual digits of a number one after another, instead of as a full number. A popular example is the famous 109 store in Shibuya, Tokyo which is read as ichi-maru-kyū. (It can also be read as 'ten-nine' - pronounced tō-kyū - which is a pun on the name of the Tokyu department store which owns the building.) This usage of maru for numerical 0 is similar to reading numeral 0 in English as oh. It literally means a circle. However, as a number, it is only written as 0 or rei (?).

The numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky in Japanese: 4, pronounced shi, is a homophone for death (?); 9, when pronounced ku, is a homophone for suffering (?). See tetraphobia. The number 13 is sometimes considered unlucky, though this is a carryover from Western tradition.

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