Ichiban Meaning in Japanese – The Best Japanese Word

There is a common Japanese word that you often times see as part of a Japanese restaurant’s name here in America. It is the word Ichiban and you spell it with the kanji 一番.

But what does this word mean? And how do you use it? I will explain the Ichiban Meaning in Japanese now.

First off, the word ichiban is made up of two different words. The first word is ichi  which means the number “one” in Japanese.

And the second word that is used is ban which means “number in a series.”

一番 (ichiban) therefore means “number one” and is often used to indicate how things rank in position against each other. A good example would be like, who took first place (一番) in a race vs. who took second (二番) and so on.

And here are the results of the race:

  • 一番 Mario
  • 二番 Yoshi
  • 三番 Luigi
  • 四番 Bowser

But wait! There’s more.

In English we often use #1 as a synonym for “the best” when describing something. You could say “I am the best Pokémon trainer” or you could say “I am the #1 Pokémon trainer.”

They pretty much mean the same thing, but saying that you’re #1 is a little stronger as you are emphasizing that everyone else is below you in rank. And Japanese is the same way. You can use 一番 when talking about something to say that it is the best.

  • 私は一番ですよ!
    (watashi wa ichiban desu yo!)
    I am the best!

But you can also use 一番 in combination with adjectives to meat “the most” of that adjective.

  • この車は一番大きいです。
    (kono kuruma wa ichiban ookii desu.)
    This car is the biggest.


  • トムはクラスで一番優しいです。
    (tomu wa kurasu de ichiban yasashii desu.)
    Tom is the kindest in class.

Back to restaurants, have you ever seen one named “Ichiban Steak & Sushi House” or something similar? That’s basically the owners saying that they have The Best steak & sushi place. It’s kind of similar to “1st Baptist Church” or “1st National Bank” or something like that.

It’s kind of silly, but in all honestly you wouldn’t go to “2nd National Bank” to store your money would you?

Only the best will do for you 😉

The “Ban” used for Numbers

The ban we just went over () is used to denote a number’s place within a series, but it is also used to talk about an entire series of numbers too. It is the kanji that is used for “number” in the word “phone number.” The whole word in Japanese is 電話番号 (denwa bangou).

Just note that this word for “numbers” (番号) is only used for numbers with meaning such as a phone number or an address. If you were just talking about abstract numbers like “my favorite number is the number four (yikes!)” you would actually use (kazu) to talk about it.

  • 2番の席はどこですか?
    (niban no seki wa doko desu ka?)
    Where is seat number two?


  • 電話番号は何ですか?
    (denwa bangou wa nan desu ka?)
    What is your phone number?


  • 好きな数は何ですか?
    (sukina kazu wa nan desu ka?)
    What is your favorite number?

Another way to say “The Best”

Another word you can use is 最高 (saikou) which literally translates as “the most high” but means “the best.” That first kanji (sai) can be combined with others to express “the most xxxx” for whatever the second kanji is.

  • 最高 (saikou) The Best
  • 最悪 (saiaku) The Worst
  • 最大 (saidai) Maximum
  • 最小 (saishou) Minimum
  • 最初 (saisho) First
  • 最終 (saishuu) Last


  • ああ、数学は最悪です…
    (aa, suugaku wa saiaku desu…)
    Ah, math is the worst…


  • 最初の日はいつも一番難しいです。
    (saisho no hi wa itsumo ichiban muzukashii desu.)
    The first day is always the hardest.

It is also used in 最も (mottomo) to bring the meaning of “most” to the sentence.

  • 最も読むことを楽しむ。
    (mottomo yomu koto o tanoshimu.)
    I enjoy reading the most.

Was this the 一番 post that you’ve read all day?

Probably not 🙁

But all the same, I want to hear from you now! Where else have you seen the word ichiban used? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

6 thoughts on “Ichiban Meaning in Japanese – The Best Japanese Word”

  1. OMG, I love your Post! I found it very interesting since where I live there many Japanese restaurants, and obviously, I do not understand what all their ads say. But after reading this post at least, I know one word which is so cool! I can not wait to tell my friends about it 😉

    Thank you!

    • Yeah, it’s a pretty cool feeling to be out with friends and be able to drop some knowledge on them outta’ nowhere like that! I’m sure you will see a lot of the chiefs wearing a white headband with the kanji for “ichiban” on them as well. At least, that’s what I see them wearing more often than not when I go out to eat there!

  2. I love this! There is a Japanese restaurant I pass often, called Ichiban and I’m so happy I know what that means now. I’ll have to go in sometime.
    Thanks for this article, it’s so easy to understand and I appreciate the detail you’ve given in regard to the meaning.

    • You are welcome Joanne! Yeah, I know what you mean. There is a sushi restaurant that I love to go to that is also named Ichiban. Pretty common name for a Japanese place in America.

      And if you study Japanese for any time at all, then you’ll definitely run into this word a lot. So it’s good to learn it early on!


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