I'm a super beginner in Japanese, so excuse me if this question is really simple. Or stupid.

As an exercise, sometimes I count up the things on nearby desks or tables and try to list them in Japanese, just to get used to the counters. Today, I was waiting to get lunch and I saw a table with three sandwiches (amongst other things) on it, but I don't know what the counter for the sandwiches would be. I know if I was to count the slices of ham within one of the sandwiches, I could use -[切れ]{きれ}. Otherwise, I don't know. Is there a counter for something made up of smaller pieces of something else?

I suppose I could use a general counter, but I was wondering if there was a counter for things like loaves of bread or blocks of cheese that could also apply to things like sandwiches?

  • 2
    Welcome to JLU. Perhaps you did, but please try searching for similar topics (or Googling some information) before you post. Here is a very similar post for counters. You might want to edit your question to something more specific, otherwise it may get closed as a duplicate.
    – istrasci
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 18:14
  • 1
    @istrasci "Is there a counter for something made up of smaller pieces of something else?" sounds pretty specific to me. Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 2:05
  • @phoenixheart6: I agree and that's why I didn't vote to close it, but others may not agree.
    – istrasci
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 14:21
  • As well as needing to know which counter to use is it also true that you need to know whether to use the Sino-Japanese or native Japanese numbers? Or are ひと~, ふた~, etc strictly only used with つ? Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 2:14

4 Answers 4


I believe the most common thing to do with sandwiches is use つ. (サンドイッチを3つもらえますか?) There probably is a correct counter for loaves of bread, but I don't know it, and again I think つ is more common.

  • 6
    Or it can also be 3個. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 0:13
  • I'm pretty sure the word for a loaf of bread is 一斤{いっきん}, although I think that might only be used in the singular, so no two or above...
    – ssb
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 2:39

At first the counting system might seem quite random. But rather than wondering whether there is a counter for blocks of cheese, or for objects containing slices of ham, a better strategy might be to use the counter you already know (and the first one you should know is つ) and take it from there.

That is to say, you start out by saying サンドイッチ2つ. When you learn about the usage of other counters, you may choose to use サンドイッチ2個 or even サンドイッチ2切れ (depending on the type of sandwich) and this last one is probably the most elegant way of saying "2 sandwiches", if you are thinking of those cut triangles.

切れ works for slices of ham, because the ham is cut. Similarly, it works best for sandwiches, which are cut (like triangles or in whatever other way), and one half, then, would be 1切れ. In Japan most sandwiches are made, and then cut, which allows you to see the filling. If your sandwiches aren't cut in half, you might get away with 切れ, because the bread and the ham are cut, but 個 (or つ) might be more natural...

枚 works for slices of bread, but not really for sandwiches, because sandwiches contain multiples layers themselves. 枚 works best for things, which are flat and are essentially one layer. But then, it all depends on the sandwich. If you were to make a flat sandwich from pita bread (which you cut open, rather than cutting it into two halves) with, say peanut butter and honey, then 枚 may well be appropriate.

On the other hand, Middle Eastern style sandwiches (e.g. filling rolled up in lavash bread) might accommodate 本, etc.

In my mind, the better strategy is to start with the counter and see what objects you can count with this counter, rather than to start with an object and see what counters are allowed to count that object.


Instead of giving you a long boring answer...I'll get to the facts. Yes you can use just the ~つ counter but the ~こ counter works just as well. like いっこ、にこ、さんこ and so on. This counter is used for round objects (like cheese wheels,sandwiches,balls,etc...). Hope this helped!

  • 2
    Both つ and こ have been mentioned in (or on) the answer by Billy, which is equally short.
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 3:05
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    ~こ is used for ROUND objects...? Then it's not used for square erasers, square sandwiches, tissue boxes...?
    – user1016
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 7:22

A loaf of bread is called 斤(kin) in general.

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