Learn Japanese with Demon Slayer: Numbers in Kanji


When you watch the anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, you sometimes see Japanese characters and you might wonder what the characters mean. This article explains numbers written in Japanese.

Basics of numbers written in Kanji

In Demon Slayer numbers are written in Kanji called “Daiji (大字)” meaning “large letters”. Currently the numbers are written in small letter “Shoji (小字)” in general. “Shoji (小字)” is a simple way of writing numbers, and “1, 2, 3” is written as “一、二、三”, for example.

“Daiji (大字)” is used in the following situation:

  • When numbers are written in a formal situation
    e.g. in Japan it is common to bring an envelope to a wedding ceremony. We write the amount on the envelope in Daiji.
  • In order to avoid falsification of important documents
    一 (one) can be changed to 二 (two) or 三 (three) easily by adding strokes. 壱 (one), 弍 (two), and 参 (three) cannot be changed. Daiji is used in order to avoid falsification of important documents such as contracts, registration documents or financial documents.

It’s about formal or informal, rather than old style or new style, although more Daiji might have been used in the Taisho period.

Japanese Numbers in Demon Slayer

In Demon Slayer numbers are written in large letters “Daiji (大字)“. There are two possible reasons:

  • Demon Slayer is the story of the Taisho period (1912〜1926) and Daiji was more frequently used at that time.
  • Numbers play crucial roles in Demon Slayer and they should not be mistaken:
    Eyes of Twelve Kizuki show ranks in Kanji.
    Breathing techniques have First Form, Second Form, etc.
Arabic numbersShoji (小字)
Small letter/informal
Daiji (大字)
Large letter/formal
4shi (yon)
7shichi (nana)
9ku (kyū)
Numbers in Kanji

Currently only 壱, 弍, 参, 拾, and 萬 (1,2,3,10, and 10000) are used in practice.
Zero is written as 零.

Ranks of Twelve Kizuki

Upper rank demons of Twelve Kizuki are called “Jogen (上弦)“. The Upper Rank Demons have the kanji character for Upper Rank in their right eye and their ranks in their left eye.

Upper Three Demon Akaza with three “参” in his left eye.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Comic 8, Chapter 63,
by Koyoharu Gotouge, SHUEISHA

The Lower Rank Demons have their ranks and numbers engraved together in one eye. 

Lower One Demon Enmu with Lower “下” & One “壱” in his left eye
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Comic 7, Chapter 58,
by Koyoharu Gotouge, SHUEISHA

Forms of Breathing Techniques

By watching the anime Demon Slayer we do not see the forms of breathing techniques written, but if you read the comics, you will see it. The large letters Daiji (大字) is used also here.

ichi no kata
(1 st Form)

Water Breathing of Giyu Tomioka has 11th Form “Dead Calm”. Eleven is written as combination of ten and one: 拾壱.

The Water Hashira Giyu Tomioka preparing for Water Breathing 11th Form
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Comic Vol.5 Chapter 42
Y’s Crow
Y’s Crow

Now you know the difference between formal numbers and informal numbers in Kanji, and can read what is written on the demon’s eyes!

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