WaniKani teaches a lot of counter words. Sometimes we hear complaints of too much counting.
Well, suck it up, because here comes some more.
I picked some weird things for the examples at times, but the explanations let you know when there are actually more general applications as well.
This is not exhaustive, because counting is an immensely deep area of Japanese.
Anyway, let’s get to it.
What we’re counting: dead squid
What you use: 杯 (はい) Main WK meaning: cup of liquid
Why it’s used: So, basically if a squid is alive and well, it’s counted with 匹 (ひき) like most small animals. But when you kill one, take everything out of the insides, and look at what you’re left with… I guess it looks like you could fill it with liquid? WK does teach the reading for this way of counting for other words, so I won’t reiterate it here.
What we’re counting: rabbits
What you use: 羽 (わ) Main WK meaning: feather
Why it’s used: So, this is actually most often used to count birds. I’m a little surprised WK didn’t teach that. And feel free to use it to count those, since that’s a common animal category. But why would it be used to count rabbits? There are a couple explanations, though I’m not sure what the level of validity is for any particular one. One says that monks who were not allowed to eat most animals, but were allowed to eat birds, counted rabbits with the bird counter as a justification for eating them. Another is that the ears kind of resemble wings? Not much solid ground to stand on here. It’s also acceptable to count rabbits with 匹, but that’s no fun, is it?
What we’re counting: sets of clothing
What you use: 着 (ちゃく) Main WK meaning: wear
Why it’s used: It means wear. You wear clothes. Case closed, I think. Things like suits and pajamas and more are included in this category.
What we’re counting: sets of coffee cups and saucers
What you use: 客 (きゃく) Main WK meaning: guest
Why it’s used: It’s used to count things that are meant to be used by guests or customers. Other things that can be counted the same way include bowls 茶椀 (ちゃわん) and sake bottles 徳利 (とっくり).
What we’re counting: levels in old school video games (like NES)
What you use: 面 (めん) Main WK meaning: face
Why it’s used: It can be used to count long, flat object generally, including mirrors and coastlines, and I guess this is what gamers back then felt was the appropriate word. Now it’s fallen out of use with regard to games. Generic counters (つ, 個) or just the word ステージ are common now.
What we’re counting: gods
What you use: 柱 (はしら) Main WK meaning: pillar
Why it’s used: Gods were often thought to reside in trees.
What we’re counting: planetariums
What you use: 基 (き) Main WK meaning: foundation
Why it’s used: This is used to count things that are solidly installed and meant to not move, more commonly for things like stone lanterns, gravestones, or even jungle gyms. In this case, the word “planetarium” is referring to the actual device, not the building where it’s installed.
What we’re counting: wind
What you use: 陣 (じん) Main WK meaning: army base
Why it’s used: I know this one probably feels like it’s coming completely out of left field. Why are we even counting wind anyway? And what do army bases have to do with wind? Well, actually the meaning that is used here is “sudden,” not “army base.” This meaning can be seen in the words for contractions, you know those things that push babies out, 陣痛 (じんつう) and gales 陣風 (じんぷう). But, it’s only used for counting in one expression, 一陣の風 (いちじんのかぜ) “a wind.” So you never talk about more than one. But that’s how you count to one for wind.