Kanji Grade 1 一 二 三

We will take up 12 characters today – the numbers (kazu) 1 to 10, 100 and 1000.

It is very important to know these characters because we use these everyday. In counting money, the months, days of the month, age, the list is long.

I remember one time we were out of town some of our friends counted our funds in chinese. They said that way it won’t be too obvious how much money we had with us so we won’t attract possible robbers.

If you click on the rows, the kanji’s corresponding page in jlpt-kanji.com will be opened in a new window. The page contains additional information and more examples on the kanji.

Kanji English On Kun
one ichi, itsu イチ、イツ hito, hajime ひと、ひとつ
two ni, ji ニ、ジ futa ふた
three san サン mi み
four shi yon or yo
five go itsu-tsu
six roku mu
seven shichi nana
eight hachi ya
nine ku or kyuu kokono-tsu
ten juu to
hundred hyaku momo
thousand sen chi

In the table above, there are two other columns labeled On and Kun. These correspond to the On and Kun readings of the kanji. But what do these two columns mean?

Q. What is On-reading and Kun-reading?

A. On-reading (On-yomi) is the Chinese reading of a kanji character. It is based on the sound of the kanji character as pronounced by the Chinese at the time the character was introduced, and also from the area it was imported. That is why the On-reading might be quite different from Standard Mandarin today.

The Kun-reading (Kun-yomi) is the native Japanese reading associated with the meaning of a kanji.

Almost all kanji have On-readings except for most of the kanji that were developed in Japan (e.g. 込 has only Kun-readings). Some dozen kanji don’t have Kun-readings, but most kanji have multiple readings.

Q. How do you know when to use On-reading and Kun-reading?

A. Unfortunately there is no simple way to explain when to use On-reading or Kun-reading. However, here are some facts that are worth remembering.

On-reading is usually used when the kanji is a part of a compound (two or more kanji characters are placed side by site).
Kun-reading is used when the kanji is used on its own, either as a complete noun or as adjective stems and verb stems.

Let’s take a look at the kanji character for “水 (water)”. The On-reading for the character is “sui” and the Kun-reading is “mizu.” “水 (mizu)” is a word in its own right, meaning “water”. The kanji compound “水曜日(Wednesday)” is read as “suiyoubi.”




One Response to Kanji Grade 1 一 二 三

  1. […] Learn 一二三 or Japanese 1, 2, 3 here. Also try to get familiar with the kanji for the numbers. Some people also like to remember kanji by using kanji mnemonics. I have also written Kanji Mnemonics for 一二三 here. Have a look at it and see if this approach suits you. […]

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