Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

September 26, 2012

Large numbers in Japan

Large numbers in Japan are difficult as you do not count in units of thousand, but rather in units of ten thousand (with different names for those units the higher you get):

1 = ichi (一、one)
10 = ju (十、ten)
100 = hyaku (百、one hundred)
1,000 = (is)sen (千、one thousand)
10,000 = (ichi)man (万、ten thousand). You can also write 4man, or 4.5 man=45,000
100,000 = ju-man (hundred thousand) - ten man or 10 x 10,000 = 100,000
1,000,000 = hyaku man (one million) - hundred man or 100 x 10,000 = 1,000,000
10,000,000 = (is)sen man (ten million) - one thousand man or 1,000 x 10,000 = 10,000,000
100,000,000 = (ichi) oku (億、hundred million). Again you can say 4 oku or 4.5 oku = 450,000,000
1,000,000,000 = ju oku (one billion; in Europe people call this "milliard") - ten oku or 10 X 100,000,000
10,000,000,000 = hyaku oku (ten billion) - one hundred oku or 100 x 100,000,000
100,000,000,000 = sen oku (thousand billion) - one thousand oku or 1,000 x 100,000,000
1,000,000,000,000 = (it)cho (兆、one trillion; in Europe people call this "billion"!). Again you can say 4 cho or 4.5 cho = 4,500,000,000,000
10,000,000,000,000 = ju cho (ten trillion).
100,000,000,000,000 = hyaku cho (hundred trillion)
1,000,000,000,000,000 = sen cho (quadrillion; in Europe people call this "billiard")

We could go even higher (the next unit coming up is called "kei" (京), a one with 16 zero's or 10 quadrillion), but in practical use cho is the highest counting unit. But you see the changes with myriads and not thousands: 1 followed by four zeros is man, 8 zeros oku, twelve zeros cho, and 16 zeros kei etc.

So when you see "92 cho 2694 oku" it is 92,269,400,000,000 etc. Here the counting is clearly in "man" units, therefore you have four digits in front of the "oku". The US GDP is (in yen) 1401 cho 7171 oku = 1,401,717,100,000,000. Mindbogglingly large figures...