Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to Read Japanese Menu Prices

Japan is a country where you'll get stuck sometimes for not being able to make sense of the local orthography. While the more important signs in the bigger cities are presented bilingually, you might have trouble understanding the restaurant menus even in central Tokyo.

Even if you're just a traveler wanting to go for a slurp in the local noodle shop, you might want to learn the Chinese numerals, because (1) they're still widely used in Japan, and (2) most restaurants don't have English menus. Where's Google Translate when we REALLY need it!?

While it is usually safe to order without knowing the contents of a dish, it will become a much greater problem if you fail to heed the price on the dish! So at least learn the numbers!

Here they are:

〇 zero (零 for zero isn't typically used on menus)
一 one
二 two
三 three
四 four
五 five
六 six
七 seven
八 eight
九 nine
十 ten
百 hundred
千 thousand
万 ten-thousand

and 円 denotes yen (¥)

So how do we combine these characters to express larger numbers like 860? It's easy. Numbers in Chinese/Japanese follow a very logical rule. Ten is ten (十), 11 is ten-one (十一), 39 is three-ten-nine (三十九), 512 is five-hundred-ten-two (五百十二), et cetera.

However, Japanese menus will usually display the prices in a simpler fashion.

If a plate of salmon nigirizushi costs ¥120 it will be displayed as 一二〇円 (one-two-zero yen). Familiar? Yup, the number composition is very Western. 一... 二... 〇; 1... 2... 0!

QUIZ TIME! Decipher the following prices:

  1. 串カツ 三〇〇円
  2. 豚骨醤油ラーメン 七八〇円
  3. てっさ 五九〇〇円
  4. 唐揚げ 二一〇円
  5. 生ビール 四〇〇円


Sora said...

....ooohh... yay! >D I'm glad I did take that short class on Chinese :3

Eric said...

Hey, no mocking!

But don't you think numbers in Chinese are far more logical than their English equivalents? What the hell is a number like 'eleven' anyway?

Sora said...

...? eeeh? but I didn't mock anyone lol XDD

Lol true... I don't get why "twelve" should be "twelve" and not "Tenty-two" :P

I still can't read much Kanji though...

Eric said...

Just joking!

Yea, some dumb-ass just wanted to make everything so complex and sophisticated! It sucks for us who had to learn math in "elevens, twelves, and twenties", so to speak...

Sora, how are you studying kanji?

Sora said...

When I was little, I get confused over "billion" and "million" lol

Well, I go browse my dictionary when I have the mood to :P (and sometimes come over some funny word XP I browsed an online kanji dictionary and accidentally came over the kanji for "rape" LOL)

Or make a poem (with my almost non-existent Japanese skills .__.) and look for the right word/kanji.

Drubs said...

Great site.

The eleven and twelve always puzzled me because we have ten digits on our hands and base our number system on tens, but I'm pretty sure the eleven and twelve are to give unique numbers to the hours on the clock. Making the english numbers time oriented. Kind of weird.

I'm going to Osaka for a week in October so just checking various blogs.

The menu cost script is really helpful info.

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