第181課: ヶ & ヵ

These two little glyphs are perhaps the most interesting quirks to Japanese orthography. 

ヶ is a character that resembles a small ケ. However, it has a different origin than the Katakana ケ. It is instead viewed as being an abbreviation of the Kanji 箇 or 个. Except in place names, it has become completely interchangeable with か. Before this, however, there existed a lower case け, ゖ, to mimic ヶ. Though it exists, it has never caught on. If you do see it, though, you'll know that you and the Japanese person that used it are not crazy. 

It is typically used in certain counter expressions. For things to be fully written in Kanji, you would need to use個 or 箇 instead (these characters mean the same thing).

 ヶ月 Months ヶ国語 Languages ヶ所 Places ヶ条 Articles ヶ年 Year periods

For all of these counters, か is the most prevalent spelling. ヵ, which will be discussed next in this lesson, is just as common in print and media, in which ヶ is not accounted for. In personal writing, however, ヶ・か are the most common. Kanji is typically only used in official documents, with 個 being used the least. 个 is no longer used in Japanese.

Usage Notes:

1. ヶ月・箇月・個月・か月 is for periods of months; がつ is in the names of the months of the year; げつ is constructive in words but not a counter; and つき is as a counter for periods of months with a few native numbers.
2. 国語 in this case refer to languages. As you would imagine, ~ヶ国 counts countries.
3.  ヶじょう items (as in itemization) versus 条 (article/provision in documents).


1. ぼくはまだ一ヶ月分のメールを読んでいない。
    I still haven't read a month’s worth of email. 

2. 二、三ヶ所誤りがあります。
    There are two or three areas with mistakes.

3. 二ヶ国語を話す人のことをバイリンガルと呼びますが、三ヶ国語の話者をトライリンガルもしくはトリリンガル       と呼びます。
    We call people who speak two languages bilingual, but we call speakers of three languages                 trilingual. 

4. 10か国会議
    Ten country meeting

5. ブスの10ヶ条  
    Ten things that define ugly people 

6. 4ヶ年計画
    Four year plan

7. 8ヶ村
    Eight villages

8. 五ヶ六分の三
    5 and 3/6 

9. 百か日・百箇日 (Fixed spellings)
    100th day after a person’s funeral

10. 五箇条の御誓文 (Fixed spelling)
      The Charter Oath (The Oath in Five Articles)

Spelling Note: Using a full-sized ケ for this is no longer used, but it was in times past.

Usage Note:  The following outlets use か月: 読売新聞, NHK, 日本テレビ, and テレビ東京. The following outlets use カ月: 朝日新聞, 毎日新聞, 日本経済新聞, 産経新聞, テレビ朝日, and フジテレビ.

Reading Note: ヶ may also be pronounced as ko as an abbreviation of 個 in 一ヶ, which is still normally spelled as 一個. 

In Place Names

ヶ is also used in many place names, most of which are in East Japan. In this case, it is used as the old particle が equivalent to の. There are also times when it is full-sized but still read as が. In some place names it happens to be read as か, but in these instances it is the last character in the name and cannot be representing the particle が.

 Place Name Reading Place Name Reading Place Name Reading Place Name Reading
 関ヶ原 せきがはら 鳩ヶ谷 はとがや 市ヶ谷 いちがや 袖ヶ浦 そでがうら
 茅ヶ崎 ちがさき 槍ヶ岳やりがたけ 青ヶ島 あおがしま つつじヶ丘 つつじがおか
 八ヶ岳 やつがたけ 鎌ケ谷 かまがや 上二ケ かみにか 下二ケ しもにか

Another interesting instance is (かり)()(), which when spelled this way is synonymous with 茎茶 (tea made from twigs pruned from the tea plant during its dormant season).

 読み物: 桃太郎ももたろう

Long ago, there was an old man and woman living in a certain place.
The old man went to the mountains to get firewood, and the old woman went to the river to clean clothes. 
When she was doing laundry in the river, a great peach came tumbling, tumbling down.  
"My, what a great souvenir this will be!"
The old woman picked up the great peech and carried it home with her. 
Then, the old man and woman tried to eat the peach and cut into it, and lo and behold from inside a healthy baby boy came out. 
"This is no doubt a gift from the gods"
This was a source of great joy for the old couple for they had no children. 
The old man and woman named the boy born from the peach "Momotaro". 
Momotaro grew quickly and eventually became a strong boy. 
And, one day, Momotaro said:
"I'm going to Onigashima to get rid of the bad oni. 
He then had the old woman make him kibidango and headed out for Onigashima. 
Along the way, he met a dog.
”Momotaro-san, where are you going?” 
”I’m heading to Onigashima to get rid of the oni".
”Then, how about you give me one of those kibidango on your waist. I'll come along". 
The dog received a kibidango and accompanied Momotaro.
Then, he next met a monkey.
”Momotaro-san, where are you going?"
"I'm going to Onigashima to get rid of the oni"
"Then, how about you give me of those kibidango on your waist. I'll come along".
Next, he met a pheasant.
"Momotaro-san, where are you going?"
"To Onigashima to get rid of the oni"
"Then, how about you give me of those kibidango on your waist. I'll come along".

And so, Momotaro arrived at Onigami with his new friends, the dog, monkey, and pheasant. 
On Onigashima, the oni were having a feast and in the midst of merrymaking with the treasures they stole from a nearby village.
"Everyone, don't miss. Attack!" 
The dog bit the oni on the rear, the monkey scratched the oni on the back, and the pheasant pierced the oni's eyes with its beak. 
And, with Momotaro also brandishing his katana, there was a big turbulence.
And finally, the leader of the Oni said,  
"We give up, we give up. We surrender. Save us!"
, apologizes with his hands on the ground. 
Momotaro, the dog, the monkey, and the pheasant piled the treasures from the oni onto a rickshaw and cheerfully went home. 
The old man and woman were really joyful seeing Momotaro come home safe and sound. 
And the three lived happily ever after thanks to the treasure. 

Word Note: きび団子 is millet flour dumplings.  

Usage Note: There are rare times when ヶ or 〜ゖ may be seen to represent ~っけ in dialect transcription. As there is no standardization as to how to spell other dialects, it’s not surprising that this may be the case.

This is a small version of the Katakana カ, and its usage is extremely restricted. It’s mainly used in counter phrases, as we are about to see. This character happens to be so rare that its usage is sometimes unnatural to natives.

ヵ came about from the use of ヶ as an abbreviation of 箇・个. Nevertheless, it is not incorrect to spell the following as such. It happens to actually be used along with か as standard practice instead of ヶ in the news and newspapers.

 一ヵ所  (Rather uncommon) = 一ヶ所 一ヵ月 = 一ヶ月 一ヵ条 = 一ヶ条 

11. テーブルの上に3ヵ月分の新聞が積み重なっている。
      There is three months’ worth of newspapers stacked up on the table. 

12. 一カ国語しか話さない人のことはアメリカ人と呼ぶんだよ。
      You call someone who only speaks one language an American.

13. 体が何ヵ所か痛いです。
    Several places hurt.  

14. 「二ヵ月にひとつくらいは納屋(なや)を焼くんです」と彼は言った。そしてまた指を鳴らした。「それくらいのペースがいちばん良いような気がするんです。もちろん僕にとっては、ということですが」
”I burn down around one barn in two months", he said. And, with a pop of his fingers he said, "I feel that's really the best pace that way. As for me, of course".
I vaguely nodded, but pace?
From 納屋を焼く by 村上春樹.

However, there are some situations that using it is incorrect although ヶ may be fine. Consider the following instances.

関ヶ原 is the name of a very famous place in Japan, and it is well known in Japanese history because of the 1600 Battle of Sekigahara. It also happens to have other correct spelling: 関ケ原 and 関が原. Because of the latter spelling, the ga is rarely spelled with a small-sized ガ.             

七ヶ宿 is another interesting place name read as しちかしゅく. Now, this reading is fixed, so it can’t be spelled any other way, and there isn't any other spelling of the place name. So, you shouldn't replace ヶ with ヵ or anything else, though it may have been interchangeable with the other options in the past. 

一個, read as いっこ, may sometimes be spelled as 一ヶ. Though this is not a common spelling, it would be wrong to spell it as 一ヵ. Lastly, there are also cases in which neither ヵ or ヶ are appropriate because 個 or 箇 is expected such as in 個所・箇所 (when not used in counter expressions) and 箇条書(き) (itemized form). 

Due to its affinity to ケ yet being read as “ka”, it was only natural for ヵ to exist. Since Katakana and Hiragana are deemed to be interchangeable to some degree, as the full-sized か and カ can be used instead of the small-sized versions, a small ゕ seems only natural to exist, and it does.

Although it exists, it is not deemed to be correct by most speakers. When it was used along with ヵ in the past, they weren't be used as abbreviations of 箇・个. Instead, they were used as merely small-sized versions for the heck of it, and if you want to narrow down exactly how they were used, they were often used as a particle.

Consistency Note: Whichever spelling you choose to use, whenever you are writing something, be consistent in what you chose. You shouldn't go back and forth. Some natives do this, but it is typically deemed a mistake to randomly choose between spellings in the same document.