When writing in Japanese, do you usually write out numbers in kanji? or regular numbers?

  • Will “1321 machines” be translated into “1321台” or the alternative which only uses kanji and not numbers?

  • Will “One machine” being translated into 一台 or 1台?


If you’re dealing with numbers, times, dates, etc. then numerals are more common. If the number kanji is part of a word or expression that isn’t explicitly number-related, then you probably are required to keep it in kanji form.

For instance, if you say “one o’clock” you could say 1時 or 一時, but using the 1 is probably most common. But if you mean “temporarily” as in 一時停止 (pause temporarily) then the kanji is required.

In your case of counting machines, I would say you’ll almost always see numerals. Unless you’re reading an older book, or something stylized to feature more kanji.

If the number is small though, the odds of seeing kanji used for counting increases a bit, I’d say.


Also, in the same way that you write big numbers in English with both numerals and words (e.g. 3.2 billion), big numbers in Japanese are often written with both numerals and kanji - 32億.

Sometimes restaurant menus will have numbers written digit-wise in kanji. For example, 340 yen written as 三四〇円 rather than 三百四十円.


An example that sprang to my mind is this money indicator in a video game:


Disgaea 6 :joy:


Also - do note that there’s likely exceptions to every custom, as any of these approaches are technically just as valid as any other.

For example, the vast majority of books I’ve seen use numerals (e.g. page 123) as page numbers, but at least one I own uses kanji-as-numerals (e.g. page 一二三) despite being a modern, recently-printed sci-fi novel, which reads as a vaguely austere production-choice to me.

I’d imagine the farther back you go in time the more likely you are to see kanji in each of these situations, as well.


Excellent example! These kanji digit numbers on menus are also often written vertically, so this took some getting used to. I’m still not the greatest at instantly understanding prices this way…


I think it might be because they’re written vertically.
In (vertically written) books you will often find years and dates written in kanji, while for horizontal writing using arabic numerals is more common.