During class today, we were discussing the difficult and interesting parts of Japanese. We placed “counters” in the “difficult” category. That said, there are ways make learning counters – and how to use them – easier.
Nihonshock has a good page that will get you started in terms of common counters, and how to use them. This is especially handy to get down the three main pronunciation constructs, as well as those pesky exceptions (e.g., the “ji” or “ch” sounds).
Tofugu, a trusted and entertaining source of Japanese learning knowledge, provides good advice, as well as a link to a Japanese counting e-book. A functional list of counters can also be found here, at the Japanese page of about, and one including a list of rare counters can be found here – including the counter for chopsticks (膳 – “zen”), pills/tablets (錠 – “jo”), and bonsai trees (鉢 – “hachi”).
This level of dedication to counters, however, may backfire. A friend of mine was often met with eye-rolling or looks of confusion when he used the chopstick counter at our favourite izakaya. He remains, to this day, undeterred.
Finally, what good is a lesson without a good song. Below is a YouTube video of a song (“ippon demo ninjin”) used by kids – and me – to learn about counters. Educational and catchy.