Non-Japanese: This one please. /Gaikokujin: Kore, kudasai. Shop assistant: It’s ichi man en. /Tennin: Ichimanen desu. Non-Japanese: What? It should be jussen (ten thousand) yen. /Gaikokujin: E? Jussenn en deshou? Shop assistant:“Man” (10,000) is used as the next unit up from “sen” (1,000). /Tennin: “Sen” no ue no tanni ha “man” to iimasu. Non-Japanese: But why don’t you put a “one” before man yen? /Gaikokujin: Demo, naze man en no mae ni ichi (1) wo tsukeru no desuka. Shop assistant: People don’t say ippyaku yen or issen yen. /Tennin: Souieba, ippyaku en toka, issen en tokha iwanai desu ne. Shop assistant: It’s probably because it’s possible to confuse it with sen (1,000) yen. /Tennin: Sen en to manichi, machigaenai youni desu yo, kitto. Non-Japanese: Man ichi? Why have you reversed the order of ichi and man? /Gaikokujin: Manichi? Doushite ichi to man ga irekawaru n desuka. Manga Explanation: Scene 1. A non-Japanese man who is buying jeans and a shop assistant at a clothing shop. Scene 2. When the shop assistant says ichiman yen, the non-Japanese, who saw the price tag written as “10,000” (ten thousand yen), says it should be juu sen yen. In the West large numeric sets are grouped into three digits (multiples of a thousand), while in Japan they are grouped into four digits (multiples of ten thousand). In other words, in Japan there is a unit for tens of thousands that doesn’t exist in the West. Scene 3. The non-Japanese man can’t understand why ichi is added before man, in spite of the fact that Japanese do not say ichi hyaku or ippyaku yen for hyaku yen, and ichi sen or issen yen for sen yen. The shop assistant realizes that he has a point. Scene 4. The shop assistant says that “manichi” (which means that there’s a slight chance and can also be expressed as man ga ichi) it might be mistaken for sen yen. However, the non-Japanese doesn’t understand the word manichi (one in ten thousand, or rare). He is confused as this time ichi and man are in reverse order.
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