How to read room numbers in Japanese
The Japanese language has many types of counters. You might even know the basic counter:
0(zero/rei), 1(ichi), 2(ni), 3(san), 4(yon/shi), 5(go), 6(roku), 7(nana/shichi), 8(hachi), 9(kyuu), 10(jyuu)...
And perhaps even a few of the common counters for things, paper, bottles:
ひとつ(hitotsu), ふたつ(hutatsu), みっつ(mittsu)...
1まい(ichi mai), 2まい(ni mai), 3まい(san mai)...
1ぽん(ippon), 2ほん(ni hon), 3ぼん(san bon)...
However, with Japanese, there are about 500 different types of counters! That is a lot of counters, I won’t lie - but…..
I’m Japanese - and do I know every single counter? Noooo!
Even native Japanese speakers don’t use all 500 different types of counters. In everyday life, we may only use a small subset of the many counter types available.
Today, I would like to share a special counter for room numbers! Yep, a counter dedicated to room numbers. Apartment numbers, hotel numbers, and so forth. You might say or hear a room number when you stay in a hotel in Japan or if you are living in Japan. So pay attention, it’s a little different.
Imagine you are at a hotel, how would you say this room number?
Would it be one of the following?
ごひゃくさん？(go hyaku san)?
ご ぜろ さん？(go zero san)?
ご れい さん？(go rei san)?
If you did pick one of the above three counters, a native Japanese speaker would understand - but there is another counter! A counter just for room numbers:
“ご まる さん” (go maru san).
Using “まる” is most commonly used in three-digit room numbers where “0” is in the middle such as:
201 (ni maru ichi)
602 (roku maru ni)
804 (hachi maru yon)
Whereas, when it is a four (or more) digit room number, or where the “0” is not in the middle, it is spoken as:
1102（ichi ichi zero ni）
510（go ichi zero)
A quick note, ご ぜろ さん（go zero san) would also be fine, but many Japanese native speakers use “まる” instead of “ぜろ” in this situation.
I think this is a pretty unique but fun counter as it’s quite common. It’s also a really great way to sound more natural as it’s not commonly taught in textbooks.
Next time you are visiting an apartment or staying at a hotel (even when not in Japan), practice using まる as you look at each room number.