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How Old?

November 10, 2015

Sometime last year Microsoft created a website called to showcase its machine learning tools. the premise is that you upload a picture of your self and the programming behind the site can analyze it and guess your age. It is freakishly accurate while still offering some hilariously wrong answers because it doesn’t care when it is wrong or by how much. After today’s Japanese lesson I can now answer the same question as, but in Japanese.

If you have studied Japanese a bit then you might be aware that there are different counters for everything. Days of the month have their own counters, small animals, flat objects, round objects, and these are all different from the numbers used just for counting. There are some patterns and the kanji for the numbers remains constant, but I don’t think I will ever remember all of them. Today I learned the numbers used for “years old.” They are pretty straight forward with only a few exceptions from the counting number. The suffix for years old is ~sai. Here are the words for 1-10 to tell someone how old you are.

  1. issai
  2. nisai
  3. sansai
  4. yonsai
  5. gosai
  6. rokusai
  7. nanasai
  8. hassai
  9. kyuusai
  10. jussai

They work like the counting numbers in that to get 13 you just say the number for 10 and then 3 (jyuu sansai) or for 28 it is two then 10 and then 8 (ni jyuu hassai).

There is one more exception that I will be able to remember because it applies to my oldest daughter. The word used for 20 years old is hatachi. Twenty is the age of adulthood in Japan so it gets a special word.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 10, 2015 8:34 pm

    Actually most of the even tens get special names: misoji, yosoji, and so on. Then you have special ages like 60, which is a full cycle of the Chinese zodiac plus the five elements, and is called kanreki. Another special age is 88, which is called “beiju” because it can be written with kanji for 8-10-8 arranged to look like the character bei, “rice.” Some more are described here:

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