I'm localising a times-table app aimed at children. I understand that the Japanese and Chinese languages have a variety of ways to represent numbers. I also have read that, particularly with Japanese, 0-9 are commonly used for representing numbers.

Is it appropriate to use arabic numerals (particularly in education apps) is in Japanese and Chinese culture?

I know that arabic numerals aren't the solution to representing number. I also know that Japanese and Chinese cultures are completely different; however they are both very large markets with some similar challenges in localisation. I also know that large and small numbers (like 1,001 or 1.001) are formatted differently. This question is specific to integers less than 999 and greater than 0.

  • Time strings (year, month, day, hour, minute) tend to be arabic numerals. As for other use cases, you will have to provide precise examples (as screen mock-ups), and ask the intended audience of your application.
    – rwong
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 3:41
  • The wikipedia article on this topic might be a good starting point. Note that part of that article refers to spoken conventions, which is not applicable to your app.
    – rwong
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 3:47
  • Yes, same for Japanese. Regardless of how they are written, Japanese names for the numbers are used. For instance, the title of Murakami's 1Q84 is a pun, in that the Japanese word for '9' is pronounced 'kyu'.
    – user53141
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:07
  • I see you've updated your answer to mention that it is about an app aimed at children. I am less confident that my answer applies as I don't know what age Japanese school children learn Arabic numerals.
    – user53141
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:15
  • 1
    The interesting ones at the smaller restaurants (I'm in Japan at the moment) are the prices that look like this: 五00 - (the first character is 5). There isn't really a "0" kanji in this context. Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 12:49

2 Answers 2


In Japanese, Arabic numerals are widespread, and in computer contexts, are more common than the native character sets. In Japan, things like tickets, receipts, etc. will nearly always use Arabic numerals. As an example, Asahi Shimbun is one of the big Japanese newspapers. Notice that despite having almost no latin-character character-set text, the date and time are rendered as "2015年6月18日12時31分" on the site. You can assume any literate Japanese person will understand them perfectly.

I can't speak for Chinese.

  • +1 : Same for Chinese. Note that Taiwan schools may use a different style of year representation in the form of 民國紀年 which commemorates the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC).
    – rwong
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 3:44
  • Example quoted from Wikipedia with slight modification: For example, 3 May 2004 may be written 2004-05-03 or 民國93年5月3日.
    – rwong
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 3:46
  • In my experience, dates are nearly always written like 15年4月4日. (In Japan)
    – user53141
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:01

I asked a colleague who is a principal at an international school in China about this. She said that numerals are commonly used in China to represent number, and that arabic numerals are most appropriate for this use-case. This explains the way iOS handles the localisation of number for Chinese locales - converting words but leaving number as-is, even when using NSString localizedStringWithFormat: and NSNumberFormatter localizedStringFromNumber:myNumber numberStyle:NSNumberFormatterDecimalStyle].

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