In English, if we're tallying something on a piece of paper, etc., we usually write a vertical line to count 1, and then when you reach four of them, you cross it with a horizontal line to mean 5, and repeat. I saw a Japanese paper that seemed to be a similar concept, but the kanji 一 seemed to be used for 1, and the kanji 正 seemed to be used for 5 (there weren't any other numbers shown). What's the whole system in Japanese?

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    As a small remark, in case you are looking for the characters in your fonts... The five tally marks are not yet available in Unicode (of course similar characters can be used in lieu of them, though it is not the preferred way), but they are slated for the summer 2017, Unicode 10 release: latest proposal. Among other things slated to come this summer (2017) are hentaigana and further small kana forms. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 8:19
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    Ooh, that's interesting. Unicode is always fun.
    – Kurausukun
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 18:00
  • Correction: I got the numbers wrong, sorry about that! While Hentaigana is coming this summer (along with further kanji, some Chinese luck symbols and a slew of emoji among other additions), we have to wait some more for the tally marks and small kana forms, till summer 2018, I guess. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 9:28

1 Answer 1


The conventional Japanese tally follows the stroke order for 正. So if the total were 8, it'd look like [正下], and if it were 20, it'd be [正正正正]

This link shows an animation for the stroke order: http://kakijun.jp/page/sei200.html

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    Ah, so 一 wasn't "one," it was the first stroke of 正. Thanks for the clarification.
    – Kurausukun
    Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 8:14

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