≡ Menu

The kanji 四, four

This is 5 Minute Kanji, and today we are going to go over another simple kanji, the kanji for four.


My mom was strict. Every morning at 4, SHE would say “YO! Wake up!” And then she would say “Eat YO OATS!” We could never stop YONing.




yo,    yon,     yottsu

If you recall from our previous lesson on the kanji for the other numbers , the onyomi or Chinese pronunciation is usually used to count up in Japanese. However, よっ., the kunyomi or Japanese pronunciation, is used as a generic counter for objects that don’t have a specific counter.

Mnemonic Factory

For the looks of the kanji, it’s a little more complicated than 1 through 3. You can think of it as a fist with its palm down, which has a missing thumb, so there are only 4 fingers. Another way to think of it is as a window with curtains. And a window like this usually has 4 panes.

For the reading, there is one very common word you can use for the onyomi , which is of course SHE, as in the pronoun we use to refer to a woman. But, you can also use SHEEp or a SHEEt of paper in a mnemonic as well. For the kunyomi, you have YO or YO-YO, the yon reading can be more difficult, you will probably have to bury it in a word like craYON, canYON or even carrYON. Yottsu will be the most difficult of course, so you could try words that are similar like YACHT, or YOU TOO.

Example Words

Let’s look at some examples where this kanji is used.

For onyomi, we have for four. Keep in mind though that the kanji is rarely used in everday situations. You will most likely only see it on formal documents, awards, or price lists at old-fashion Japanese-style restaurants. You might also see it for April, 四月しがつ on a decorative calendar for example.

To talk about 3 people, we used the onyomi, さん, but for 4 people, we actually use the kunyomi, よん. So we would say 四人よんにん. In fact, if you use the onyomi and say しにん, you are actually talking about a corpse or a dead person. Since four and death share the same onyomi reading, people in Japan tend to avoid giving 4 of anything and will often use 5 yen or 50 yen coins at shrines in order to avoid the bad luck associated with giving something in 4s.

One of the common jukugo that regularly use the kanji for four is 四角しかく, or square. This won’t appear on the N5, but it’s a useful word nonetheless.

For kunyomi, there is the generic counter よっ, that can be used to count objects that don’t have a specific counter or that you forgot which counter to use. Of course, try to use the counter for that particular kind of object, but when you get stuck, you can use this.

The pronunciation is used for times of day like 四時よじ, four o’clock or periods of time like 四時間よじかん, 4 hours time.

If you’ve watched the videos for one through three, you can probably guess by now that the day of the month is slightly irregular as well. It’s not 四日よんにち, but rather 四日よっか. In other words, it uses a slightly different version of the kunyomi for four, and the kunyomi for day.

Story Review

Can you remember the story from the beginning? Let’s give it a try, and yell out the words that are missing.

My mom was strict. Every morning at _, ___ would say “__! Wake up!” And then she would say “Eat __ _____!” We could never stop ___ing.

Perfect? Let’s give it another try.

My mom was strict. Every morning at _, ___ would say “__! Wake up!” And then she would say “Eat __ _____!” We could never stop ___ing.

Word Review

Can you read these? I’ll give you the kanji and please yell out the reading for each word






That’s it for the kanji for four. Be sure to visit the Courses site to download the kanji practice sheet, which will walk you through how to remember this kanji’s reading and help you use it well.

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below. If you’d like to learn more kanji, hit the subscribe button and hit the bell mark to get a notification every time I send out a new video. Also be sure to check out my other 5 Minute Kanji videos.