Post by Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson Post by Nagare Mitarai Post by Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson
I noticed the above entry in EDICT, "kou-otsu-hei" means "ABC, 123". Why?
As far as I know, teachers used to give grades on the "kou-otsu-hei" basis
at school (maybe until World War II). Now, as you might know, it has been
replaced with the numbers 1 through 3 or 5, or the alphabets A through E or
We may still see the "kou-otsu-hei" form used in the contract with a real
estate firm in the way like "The Renter (hereafter referred to as KOU)....
the Landlord (hereafter referred to as OTSU)....."
Hope I took your question right.
Thanks, that was half my question. The second half is how did "kou"
become equal to 1/A, "otsu" 2/B, "hei" 3/C? I can't see why the three
kanji represent some sort of ordering. I also don't understand the
reasoning for the "i-ro-ha" ordering, and are the two systems
As others have pointed out, the kou otsu stuff most often comes up nowadays
in things like contracts, if anything. However, I've come across it
extensively in my history readings.
There is a concept in Japanese (this all comes from Chinese of course) known
as the Jikkan (十干). They are the following ten kanji:
I'm not sure of the exact origin for these or what the significance of each
kanji is but they used to be used in combination with the 12 signs of the
Chinese zodiac (see below) for counting days, hours, etc. The jikkkan can be
pronounced in one of two ways. The first (and most common?) is to use their
respective onyomi: こう、おつ、へい、てい、ぼ、き、こう、しん、じん and き
respectively. The other way is to use the pronunciation of the five
elements: 木火土金水 (き、ひ、つち、か and みず) alternating with a yang (兄
or え) and ying (弟 or と) to give you: きのえ、きのと、ひのえ、ひのと、つち
のえ、つちのと、かのえ、かのと、みずのえ and みずのと respectively. (Note
these are pronunciations for each individual kanji. In other words, 甲 would
be pronounced "hinoe," 乙 would be pronounced "hinoto," etc. The stuff about
the five elements and ying and yang is just to give the origin of those
Along with jikkan is a related concept known as the 十二支 じゅうにし. These
are the twelve Chinese zodiac signs that we're probably all familiar with: