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Sushi Counting Jargons

The counting unit of sushi is "Kan" for nigiri sushi.
But it is unclear at all what is the 'kan' and the reason why it became to use.

Basic numeration:

Numeral adjective for sushi, for nigiri in particular, is 'Kan.'  It is counted as one-kan, two-kans, three-kans..., which are corresponding in Japanese to hito-kan, futa-/ni-kan, san-kan... (No plural inflection in Japanese.)  Regrettably no decisive and reasonable meaning of 'kan' is known at all today. (Some suggest that it relates to money/gold and/or weight unit.)  For rolls, this adjective is seldom used but 2/3 of one uncut long thin roll (i.e. two cut-pieces) are regarded equall to one kan as a conversion.

Jargons for cardinal numbers:

No.   Cipher   i.e.
Soku, Yorozu Pin ('pinta' [ = 1 ] from Portuguese)
Buri, No-no-ji Ryan ('two/pair' from Chinese - Tang-reading)
Kiri, Geta (wooden 'Geta' shoe has 3 holes)
Dari (came from packhorse driver's jargon)
Me, Me-no-ji, Garen (Kanji character of 'Me' (eye) is written with 5 strokes)
Ron-ji, Ronoji
Kiwa (the edge (kiwa) of single digits)
10  Choh, Yorozu (, Pin)
100  Ninben
1000  Keta

Such terms are often varying much among restaurants, regions and/or districts.
Above is mainly for Tokyo areas.

Usage Examples:

When you visited a sushi restaurant with your colleagues, as soon as you entered the restaurant, the service would say 'Agari-Seinan.' This means that your group is seven persons and 7 'Agaris = Green teas' should be served.

After you finished your lunch or dinner at a sushi restaurant, you would say 'Check please,' then a sushi-chef in the counter would say (or shout) to the cashier that 'Soku-Dari' or 'Geta-Me.' This is a secret communication between them on how much you have eaten and what you have to pay, for not informing other customers there. Sometimes it is not a pleasant each other to hear or inform others of the price one has eaten.

Soku-Dari: 1 and 4 = Yen 1,400 or 14,000 (depending on when - lunch or dinner - and what you eat)
Buri-Kiwa: 2 and 9 = Yen 2,900 or 29,000
Geta-Me: 3 and 5 = Yen 3,500 or 35,000

The other day at a restaurant, 'Chon-Me' meant Yen 1,500 for a lunch.

No.    Cipher    i.e.
11   Pin-pin, Pin-soku  
12   Chon-buri, Soku-buri  
13   Sokkiri Soku-kiri
14   Soku-dari  
15   Ano, Soku-garen  
18   Soku-ban Soku-bando
22   No-nara Nonoji-nara[bi]
25   Yakko  
35   Geta-me Geta-menoji
45   Dari-garen  
55   Me-nara Menoji-nara[bi]
 narabi = side by side/double

Another Well-known Method:
  A Phrase in Japanese: 'A-ki-na-i no shi-ya-wa-se'

  Meaning: The Happiness of the Business, or   商いの幸せ


    A-no = 15 or 150
    Ki-shi = 26 or 260

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Updated on: 2007.04.20
Created on: 2003.03.20
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