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is the character which signifies the number ten thousand in Japanese. The most common reading of this kanji is MAN, an on reading:


  • 二万    (にまん)   20,000
  • 三万    (さんまん)  30,000
  • 十万    (じゅうまん)  100,000
  • 百万長者   (ひゃくまん ちょうじゃ)    millionaire


Straightforward enough, right? Well, not quite. This character is also employed in certain figurative words and expressions. Some of these use the MAN reading, while others use the character’s other on reading, BAN.  

The BAN reading of means “all, everything” rather than specifically the number ten thousand. Not surprisingly, usage examples that contain the BAN reading are rich in metaphor:


  • 万事に (ばんじ に) in all things; in all respects
  • 万里の長城 (ばんり の ちょうじょう) the Great Wall of China
  • 万感胸に迫って (ばんかん むね に せまって) overcome by emotion
  • 万雷の拍手 (ばんらい の はくしゅ)  a thunder of applause
  • 万歳 (ばんざい)  hooray!; may you live ten thousand years!



Does this mean that all figurative expressions use the BAN reading? Well, not quite. One of the more common figurative expressions is man’ichi, which takes the MAN reading:


  • 万一の場合には (まんいち の ばあい に は) in case of emergency
  • 万一の事があっても (まんいち の こと が あって も) in case of some snafu

Is there a silver lining here? Perhaps. One nice thing about is that you only have to worry about MAN and BAN. The character has no other on readings, and no kun readings at all.