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Advanced Japanese Lesson: 一枚、二枚






How would you count paper, boards, or plates in Japanese?

Right, you would count it as “ichi-mai, ni-mai or one sheet, two sheets…” With things that are flat and plane, mai is used.
The unit for money is yen, but if you perceive it as coins or bills, it is counted as “ichi-mai, ni-mai”.
Now how about zaru-soba or noodles served on a bamboo drainer?

When you order at a restaurant, if you say, “one (or one serving of) zarusoba”, then they will understand. However you can also use mai here.
Soba itself is counted as “hito-suji, futa-suji or one string, two strings” or “ippon, nihon or one stick, two sticks,” but if it’s for one serving, the counting changes to “hito-tama, futatama or one pile, two piles.”

On top of this, if you boil soba, put it in a bowl, and it is in a prepared state, it is counted as hai or “shallow bowl.” For things that are similar to coffee or juice in that a liquid is in a container, “ip-pai, ni-hai,” but for things like kakesoba ippai or “one serving of buckwheat noodles” and kitsune soba ni-hai or “two servings of kitsune soba.”

However, in the case of zarusoba, since  the soba is boiled and then drained and placed on a bamboo drainer, you cannot use hai.  In that case, you switch your attention to the bamboo drainer the soba is on. Since the bamboo drainer is a sort of dish, you count it as ichi-mai, ni-mai.

Now, surprisingly, you can also count “rice fields” and “cultivating fields” with mai. Of course there’s square meters and hectars to measure area, but to count a divided block you can say “ichi-mai, ni-mai.”

Also if you thinly slice ichi-bi or “one head” (literally meaning “one tail”)   of fish into three pieces, you can say san-mai ni orosu or “to put apart into three pieces.”