While I understand that the 歳 counter is used to indicate ages of people and animals, I was wondering if it could be used to also talk about ages of inanimate things like architecture or furniture.

For example,

sentence: That castle is more than 500 years old.

According to me, it should translate to:

あの しろう わ 500さい より おい です
(which is: Ano shirou wa 500-sai yori oi desu)

However, the answer I get from google translate is:

(which is: Ano shiro wa 500-nen ijō maedesu.)

I am completely new to the Japanese language and this has completely confused me. I'd appreciate it if you could help me out please.

  • 2
    "Castle" is しろ, not しろう. The particle is は and not わ even though it is pronounced わ. It is おおい and not おい. May 1 '19 at 4:59
  • Thank you for the corrections. I'll keep them in mind.
    – Shivangi
    May 1 '19 at 5:57

As you said, 「N 歳{さい}」 is reserved for humans and other animals. For other objects, it is not used except for when one personifies them humorously (or for other literary effects).

For buildings, by far the most common phrase would be:

「築{ちく} N 年{ねん}」

We would normally say:


It is not correct/grammatical or natural-sounding to say:


DO NOT trust Google Translate. To use 「N 年以上前{ねんいじょうまえ}」 correctly, you need to use a real verb as in:


"It was over 500 years ago when that castle was built."

Moving on to furniture..

For furniture, a very common way to indicate the age is to use:

「N 年物{ねんもの}」

as in:

「20年物のイス」、「70年物のタンス」, etc.

Or you could use "explanatory" phrases such as:


「これは70年前に作られたタンスです。」, etc.

  • Thank you. I understand it well now. You also said not to use Google translate to verify if my translations are correct. Then, can you also recommend some resource which can help me in its stead?
    – Shivangi
    May 1 '19 at 5:56

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