IF you learn nothing else when you’re in Niseko – you should at least learn how to order a few drinks in Japanese. Then you’ll be able to impress your mates back home when you order a beer at your local Japanese restaurant – or a water with your sushi. And while we’re on the numbers, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to ask how much something is and actually understand the answer? In today’s lesson you’ll learn the difference between one hour and one o’clock as well as how to avoid ordering four bottles of wine, when you just want four glasses.
1. Ichi ji – It’s one o’clock.
You’ll need to know the basic numbers to be able to tell the time. Here’s one to ten: ichi, ni, san, yon, go, roku, nana, hachi, kyuu, jyuu. Eleven is easy, just stick ten and one together: jyuu ichi. Twelve? You guessed it: jyuu ni. Then add ji for o’clock. Ima nan ji? (What time is it?) Ichi ji. (It’s one o’clock.) For half past, add han. Rifuto wa nan ji kara yatteru? (What time do the lifts open?) Hachi ji han (Eight thirty). To be more specific, the word for minutes is either hun or pun. Bar wa nan ji kara yatteru? (What time does the bar open?) Yo ji ni jyu ppun (4:20). Basu wa nan ji ni deru? (What time does the bus leave?) Jyuu ichi ji ni jyuu san pun (11:23).
2. Biiru futatsu onegai shimasu – Two beers, please.
Huh?! Why futatsu? What about ni? Keep your pants on – sometimes two is ni, sometimes it’s futatsu and sometimes it’s something else. We don’t say a flock of fish or a school of birds in English – that’s just the way it is. Might as well learn the numbers for drinks if you’re planning to get thirsty: hitotsu, futatsu, mittsu, yottsu, itsutsu, muttsu, nanatsu, yattsu, kokonotsu, too. Then you just need to know the order: drink + number + please. Mizu mittsu onegai shimasu (Three waters, please). You can also use these counters for coconuts, so the next time you want to order nine coconuts you can have fun saying: kokonattsu kokonotsu (nine coconuts). Oh, and when you’re ordering beer, don’t forget the long ii sound or you could up ordering two buildings. They’ll be way more than 500 yen each – especially in Hirafu!
3. San shuu kan – three weeks
If you’re talking about a period of time, you’ll need to remember the word kan. Niseko no taizai kikan wa? (How long are you in Niseko for?) San shuu kan (Three weeks). Nan jikan no tour? (How long is the tour?) Ni ji kan (Two hours). If you’re talking about minutes, you don’t need the kan. Gondola no machi jikan wa? (How long did you have to wait for the gondola?) Go hun gurai dake (Only about five minutes).
4. Wain yon hon – four bottles of wine
If you want four glasses of wine, it’s: wain yottsu, but four bottles is: wain yon hon – things could get messy if you make a mistake! Let’s see how many ways we can say the number four: yokka kan (four days), youka (the fourth), yon sai (four years old), yo nen kan (four years), yo nin (four people), yon mai (four flat/thin objects), yottsu (four drinks etc), yon dai (four big objects – like a car), yon ko (four round objects), yon hyaku en (400 yen), shi gatsu (April), yon (four – when counting on your fingers).
5. Go hyaku en – five hundred yen
If you want to make your yen go further, it could pay to ask around about prices. Banana Bar no biiru ikura? (How much is beer at the Banana Bar?) Go hyaku en (Five hundred yen). Thousand is sen and Japanese also counts in ten thousands: man. Shiizun pasu ikura? (How much is a season pass?) Jyuu go man (One hundred and fifty thousand).
6. Nimotsu rokko – six bags
The counter ko is used for things like parcels or bags. Nimotsu nan ko? (How many bags do you have?) Rokko (Six). Kids also use it for almost anything before they’ve learnt the correct counter. So if in doubt, try throwing a ko on the end of the basic numbers – at least you’ll sound cute!
7. Shichi nin no samurai – seven samurai
When you’re counting people, you need to say nin after the number. That’s why they didn’t call the movie: Shichi Samurai. There are exceptions: hitori (one person), futari (two people). When you walk into a restaurant, they ask: Nan mei sama desu ka? (How many people are there in your group?) If there are five of you, answer: Go nin. While we’re on the number seven, have you tried the popular Japanese condiment Shichimi? There are seven different ingredients, hence the name shichi (seven) mi (taste). Seven isn’t always shichi though, sometimes it’s nana.
8. Hachi gatsu – August
Months are easy in Japanese! It’s just a number, plus the word gatsu (month). Itsu Nihon ni tsuita? (When did you arrive in Japan?) Jyuu ichi gatsu (November). Itsu kaeru? (When are you leaving?) Shi gatsu (April). Tanjyoubi itsu? (When’s your birthday?) Go gatsu (May).
9. Kyuu ka getsu – nine months
When you’re talking about a period of time, change the gatsu to getsu and throw a ka in front. Niseko no taizai kikan wa? (How long are you in Niseko for?) Kyuu ka getsu (Nine months).
10. Too ka – the 10th
Most dates have a ka on the end – but it’s not quite as simple as attaching th to a number, the numbers for dates change again. Itsu kaeru no? (When are you going back?) Tsuitachi (the first), futsu ka (the second), mikka (the third), yokka (fourth), itsu ka (the fifth), mui ka (the sixth), nano ka (the seventh), you ka (the eighth), kokono ka (the nineth), too ka (the tenth). From the eleventh the numbers get easier: jyuu ichi nichi, jyuu ni nichi … until you hit twenty and there’s a special word: hatsu ka. By the way, if you’re counting the order people cross the finish line, you’ll need the word ban. Ichi ban (first), ni ban (second), san ban (third).
Pronunciation guide: Since this magazine can’t talk, your best bet is to find a Japanese person and ask them to say the words and repeat after them. Then buy them a beer
studio tdes produces a daily online English language show, based in Kutchan: www.thedailyenglishshow.com