Hidden Japanese #1

We are mostly all familiar with the typical numbers in Japanese:

一ニ三四五六七八九十

But did you know that these are not the only Japanese numbers?  I’m not talking about ひとつ , etc., I’m talking about an entirely different set of kanji for the on’yomi readings.

These kanji exist because in the ancient Chinese culture, long before their language was exported and integrated into Japanese, the Chinese had a problem.  It was really easy to just add strokes to 1, 2, 3, and 10, to make it into another kanji.  So 100 could easily be made into 200, etc.  So in order to counteract such forgeries, they added a few separate hanzi, and these were imported (with the change of a couple of strokes) into Japanese language.  These are known as formal numbers, or 大字 (だいじ)and are used in financial or other uses where preventing forgery is important.

See Wikipedia for more information, including a list of the formal kanji.  You’ll also see some more obsolete kanji that appears to have been simplified at some point into what we all know today.

This is going to be a regular feature – I’m going to shoot for at least once a week, maybe more.  I’m working on also starting a video series I’ll put on YouTube or somewhere else appropriate.  There are so many things in Japanese that people don’t seem to know, and I love doing this kind of digging, so I figured I’d share the little treasures I’ve found with y’all.  Hope you enjoy.

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