Start your Kanji Journey – It can be as easy as 一, 二, 三 !

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These are the first three Japanese kanji characters that everybody learns. The kanji here represent the numbers one, two, and three. The meaning can be simply depicted from the number of strokes. There are two important writing rules that a beginner could learn from these simple examples:

  • Horizontal strokes are written from left to right
  • The order of horizontal strokes usually goes from top to bottom
Kanji for number one

One – Ichi (いち)

Kanji for number two

Two – Ni (に)

Kanji for number three

Three – San (さん)








In modern Japanese usage though, the kanji for numbers are typically restricted to words that are built from multiple kanji. For example 一番 (ICHIBAN / いちばん) means best. It is built from the kanji ONE and the kanji for NUMBER or TURN.

You will also see

If you want to tell time, like it’s 1 o’clock or 15 minutes passed, the Japanese preferably use the Roman numerals. So you will not often see 二時 (NIJI / にじ) for two o’clock, or 三分 (SANBUN / さんぶん) for three minutes. These days 2時 and 3分 are more common.

Here are some common words where these kanji appear.

一度 (ICHIDO / いちど) one time, as in “I did it one time.”

一家 (IKKA / いっか) house, home, family

一気 (IKKI / いっき) chug! drink!

The last one is good to remember when you are going out with friends. You say it repeatedly as someone is trying to chug away a beer or the likes of. 一気一気!

You will see used in Japanese names like 譲二 (Jouji / じょうじ) or 浩二 (Kouji / こうじ)

(Probably one of the hardest and painful kanji to remember and read are the ones used in names, but we will get to this topic in a later post. )

is also used as a part of a word, like 第三者 (DAISANSHA / だいさんしゃ)

We will get to the rest of the numbers in a later post. For now the important thing to remember from this lesson is to write horizontal strokes from left to.right, and top to bottom!