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 一 which means the number “one” in Japanese.
And the second word that is used is ban 番 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.
(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.
(kono kuruma wa ichiban ookii desu.)
This car is the biggest.
(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 (番) 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 数 (kazu) to talk about it.
(niban no seki wa doko desu ka?)
Where is seat number two?
(denwa bangou wa nan desu ka?)
What is your phone number?
(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 最 (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
(aa, suugaku wa saiaku desu…)
Ah, math is the worst…
(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.
(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!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: