When The Numbers Should Be Written in Kanji Characters

Kuzuryusen by Kenshin, numbers are written in Japanese Kanji characters

The only common language all over the world is mathematics. Of course, it is the case in Japan as well. Japanese use numeric characters (0-9) to describe numbers. However, we Japanese have Kanji characters that describe numbers as well! In this post, I’ll introduce Kanji characters to show numbers and when do we use it.

Kuzuryusen by Kenshin, numbers are written in Japanese Kanji characters

How Numbers Are Written in Kanji Characters?

Kanji characters designate numeric letters are written as followings.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

How do you feel? Aren’t they simple? 1 is written by a crossbar, 2 is written by two crossbars, and three by tree bars. However, these simple characters began to be used recently.

Old Form of Numeric Kanji Characters Are More Complicated

Until several decades ago, numeric Kanji characters were much more complicated. Here are the numeric Kanji as followings.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Furthermore, there were variations in some numbers. For example, “7” could be written either of 漆 or 柒 or 質. Kanji of “2” had changed a lot; its first form was 貳, changed to 貮, then changed again to 弐, and finally reached the current form of 二. Can you recognize which point were changed?

When The Numeric Kanji Characters Should Be Used?

Then, when this kind of Kanji should be used? There’s no absolute rule for it. However, there are some cased most people choose to write Kanji rather than numbers. It’s a kind of custom or tradition.

In case of vertical writing, Japanese use Kanji for numbers. Originally, Japanese language is written vertically. In this writing direction, people tend to choose numeric Kanjis until today.

Sosho style of Japanese Kanji calligraphy writing

In addition, Kanji is a tradition of Japan. So, numbers in Japanese bills are definitely written in Kanji characters. It is also written in numbers so anyone using the bill can understand its value, so you don’t have to worry to use Japanese bills. However, some old Japanese bills were written only in Kanji characters, and they are also written vertically as shown below.

Japanese $100 bill, whose number is written in Japanese Kanji
Current Bill of 10,000 JPY
Local bills used in old Japan, values are written only in Kanji characters
Old Bill Issued by a Municipal Government

Hope you enjoyed the story about numeric Kanji characters!

blog author hiro

Author - Hiro

Lived in Kyoto in school days, I was impressed by profundity of history and tradition of the city. Had a job to join the three major festivals of Kyoto: Aoi, Jidai and Gion festivals. Love Kyoto and Japanese culture.
Manager of OrientalSouls.com, selling items of Japanese culture, tradition and craftsmanship. I'll introduce interesting information about Japan!

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