### Meet the G that killed me

The standard Japanese counting units go like this:

Kanji | Pronunciation | 10 to the power of ... |
---|---|---|

十 | juu | 1 |

百 | hyaku | 2 |

千 | sen | 3 |

万 | man | 4 |

億 | oku | 8 |

兆 | chou | 12 |

京 | kei | 16 |

垓 | gai | 20 |

(There was actually an older system whereby the number of zeros kept increasing at the same rate, so that, for example, a *kei* was only 10,000,000 instead of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, but since the Edo period at least things have worked as described in the above table.)

Obviously, going up to one *gai* is enough for almost any conceivable purpose to which counting might be put. Nerds, however, have always been with us, and nerds crave more, more, *more* useless definitions. Thanks to the tireless work of these geeks of old, an even more magnificent set of pointlessly vast numbers crowns the standard ones. This is the series as described in in YOSHIDA Mitsuyoshi's 1627 mathematics textbook *Jinkouki* (『塵劫記』):

Kanji | Pronunciation | 10 to the power of ... |
---|---|---|

禾予* | jo | 24 |

穣 | jou | 28 |

溝 | kou | 32 |

澗 | kan | 36 |

正 | sei | 40 |

載 | sai | 44 |

極 | goku | 48 |

* As one character -- can't find this in Unicode, and according to the Iwanami Bunko edition it's probably a mistake on Yoshida's part anyway. But I can't find the correct character (禾市) either.

10 to the power of 48: that's a big number. Surely Yoshida would stop there? But no! He presses on, assigning specific values to various phrases from the Lotus Sutra that were never meant to be treated that way:

Kanji | Pronunciation | 10 to the power of ... | Meaning |
---|---|---|---|

恒河沙 | gougasha | 56 | "Sands of the Ganges" |

阿僧祇 | asougi | 64 | Transliteration of Sanskrit word meaning "uncountably large number" |

那由他 | nayuta | 72 | Transliteration of Sanskrit word meaning "extremely large amount" |

不可思議 | fukashigi | 80 | "Incomprehensible" |

無量大数 | muryoutaisuu | 88 | "Infinitely large number" (oh, the irony) |

You'll notice that the number of zeros starts increasing by eights instead of fours at the start of this series. This was, it seems, a quirk of Yoshida's, and nowadays it's more usual to stick with the fours all the way through, so that a *fukashigi* is only ten to the power of 64.

But, seriously, that's only a trillion times greater than the observed universe's total mass as measured in kilograms (at least according to some site I *it-chou-muryoutaisuu*'d up just now). What possible use could such a tiny number be? Silly modernizers and their lack of vision.

## Mark S.:

I didn't have any luck with 禾 + 予. But I did find 禾 + 市 (Unicode 25791, GB+ 9639e633). It's in the

Hanyu Da Zidian: vol. 4, p. 2601, entry 5. I'll paste the character here, but I doubt it will appear as it should: 𥞑.If Yoshida had kept going just a little further, to 10 to the 100th, Google might have had yet another alternative to 谷歌 (Gǔgē). But I suppose that wasn't a big priority for a company that didn't use "googol" in the first place.