The Japanese counter 発 (はつ) is the counter for shots, hits, punches, and many, many more. So many, that we’ve dedicated most of this article to showing you just how many loud, smacking thwacks 発 can be.
Before we get into usage, take a look at the table below to learn how to pronounce numbers + 発. (And if this is your first time learning about counters, check out our beginner’s guide.)
Pronunciation of the Japanese Counter 発
This one is tricky, but the more you use it, the easier it will be to remember いっぱつ (1発), じゅっぱつ (10発), and ひゃっぱつ (100発).
Alert! This is an irregular counter.
発 (はつ) starts with an h- sound, so based on our normal rules of pronunciation changes, it should become a b- sound. But it doesn’t!
The h- sound in はつ either stays as h- or becomes a p- sound instead. If you’ve read our guide on rendaku, you’ll see this pattern is similar to the B or P rule there.
Either way, this one is tricky, but the more you use it, the easier it will be to remember いっぱつ (1発), じゅっぱつ (10発), and ひゃっぱつ (100発).
How to Use the Counter 発
発 is used to count a wide range of things, from gunshots to baseball hits to soccer shots to boxing punches to sneezes to farts to lovemaking. Phew. And it’s time to start learning each of them. Bang bang!
Gun and Cannon Shots
Shots fired from a gun or a cannon are counted with 発, regardless of whether they hit their target.
- I shot the gun three times.
- Only one of the three cannon shots hit the target.
You can count the sound of gun and cannon shots with 発 too. And when the sound comes from a blank cartridge (no bullet, just sound and light), you can use the Japanese counter 回 as well.
- Suddenly, we heard two gunshots.
- A loud cannon shot reverberated around there.
- If somebody went before the starter’s gun, you’d hear two shots.
Physical bullets and the marks and holes made by bullets are counted with 発 as well.
- I’ve only got one bullet left.
- There are four bullet holes on Viet’s desk.
Additionally, shots in succession are called 連発 (れんぱつ). So if it’s three shots in succession, then it’s counted as 三連発 (さんれんぱつ). Because of that, a repeater (repeating rifle) is called 連発銃 (れんぱつじゅう), and a six-shooter (revolver) is called 六連発銃 (ろくれんぱつじゅう).
Missiles and Bombs
We did guns and cannons, but what about missiles and bombs? Just like before, the physical (not-yet-fired) missiles and bombs can be counted with 発, but they can also be counted with the general counter 個 (こ), or 本 (ほん) if they’re long and cylinder-shaped, like sticks of dynamite.
- Five time bombs have been planted in this building.
- Four missiles have been fired.
- Two nuclear bombs were dropped in that town.
- That country owns at least fifty nuclear weapons.
- We laid a hundred landmines here.
- One of the five sticks of dynamite misfired.
Fireworks—not small sparklers, but the big ones you shoot into the sky—are a sort of bomb, right? At the very least they explode like them. Either way, they are definitely considered a type of explosion that can be counted with 発.
- At the festival, ten thousand fireworks are set off every year.
- We bought thirty ten-shot-rocket fireworks.
Motors and Engines
Motors and engines can be counted with 発 as well, especially the ones used for planes. What’s interesting here is that instead of using the numerals one and two, here we use the kanji 単 (たん) and 双 (そう), respectively. For three and up, we use numerals with their kango readings, like you’d expect.
- This is a single-engine light plane, that is a double-engine midsize plane, and that one over there is a triple-engine large plane.
Although this usage isn’t very common, the term 単発 (たんぱつ) is. It’s used in sports or during games in which there is a single hit, or for one-time jobs or individual tasks, and other things of that nature.
- The accumulation of small, single hits led to a big hit.
- This will just be a one-time job—are you interested?
Arrows and Darts
Arrows fired from bows and darts thrown by hand or shot out of a gun are counted with 発.
- I shot twelve arrows.
- The second shot hit the target.
- I threw a hundred darts but only one of them reached the dartboard.
What about slingshots? They are also counted with 発!
- I shot a slingshot from behind.
If you have supernatural powers, say the ability to shoot laser beams from your eyes, or you have a special laser gun from the future—maybe a beam sword where your right arm should be—those are all counted with 発.
- My laser beams are limited to ten shots per hour.
- I shot nine kamehameha in a row today, so I’m tired.
“Shots” don’t always have to mean the kind that are fired out of something or thrown. Sword strokes, tackles, fist punches, elbows, knees, kicks, headbutts, karate chops, and any other physical direct attack can be counted with 発.
- I ate one very heavy shot to the head during my kendo match.
- I got hit with three tackles.
- I got two fist punches from my dad this morning.
- One elbow and two knees hit him.
- As he ranted, Koichi banged his head against the wall thirty-three times.
- Viet broke ten tiles at once with one karate chop.
- The champion’s three left hooks got him the win.
Shots, hits, strokes, or kicks of balls in sports like basketball, tennis, golf or billiards are counted with 発. That said, this counter is not used for players’ cumulative records.
- Thanks to that pinch hitter’s hit, the team won a come-from-behind victory.
- That was the third home run from Koichi this season.
- He put the ball on the green in one shot, huh?
- I made three shots, but all of them missed the goal.
- He sank the eight ball with a brilliant shot.
Bodily and Other Emissions
Normally, you use the counter 回 (かい) for these, but emissions such as sneezes, burps, or farts can be counted with 発 too, especially when you want to emphasize their force and/or momentum. If you think your yawns are really good, big ones, for example, you could use 発 for them.
- The video of Koichi yawning three times in a row got uploaded to YouTube.
- I sneezed five times in a row.
- A skunk shot a stinky fart at me.
Along with expelling air from your body, ejaculations were counted with 発 too. This usage has slowly expanded, and now 発 can be used for counting the number of times someone’s had sex. This use case is pretty vulgar, though, so if you’d rather go neutral with it, use 回 instead.
- I’d like to sleep with her.
- I had sex with my wife three times, for the first time in a while.
Jokes and puns (that shoot out of your mouth) can count as 発 too. Especially if you think they’re really good.
- Koichi is currently working on an article called, “An Old Man’s 100 Puns.”
- That comedian made three pointed jokes.
What about ideas, thoughts, or guesses? They’re shooting out of your brain, in a sense, so they can be counted with 発. It’s really common to use it when counting guesses in gambling, but for the most part, the general Japanese counters つ or 個 (こ) are used more often.
- I got two of my three horse-race guesses correct today.
- I’ve got one big idea!
Other Types of “Shots”
In English, what else do you use “shot” for? Photographs are counted with 枚 (まい), and small alcoholic drinks or single servings of espresso are counted with 杯 (はい). They are not counted with 発.
- Viet took a shot of me holding a crispy strip of bacon.
- I ordered one shot of espresso.
- On the bar, there were five margarita shots aligned nicely.
What about the launch of a rocket into space? They could be counted with 発, but if you use 発 for a rocket launch, it kind of sounds like a missile launch instead. Rockets by themselves are usually counted with 機 (き) or 台 (だい), and they are used when one is launched too.
- Let’s fire a rocket into the moon!
- One rocket was launched.
Injections of drugs or vaccines are also called shots, so they could be counted with 発, but it’s more common to use 本 (ほん). Using 発 for injections counts as slang, so if you hear it in that context, whatever is in that shot probably isn’t prescription.
- I got three vaccines today.
- Alright then, we each get one shot of heroin.
There are quite a few common idioms that use 発, so here’s a handy list you can use to study them:
to hit the mark ten times out of ten
never miss the mark/target
- His forecasts are always dead on.
to hit the jackpot
- He won big in the lottery.
- This game is make-or-break, alright?
a dramatic come-from-behind victory
turn things around with one move
hit it big
- It’d be difficult to turn things around in one go at this point.
one-hit wonder (in Japan, this is often used for comedians)
- That comedian was a one-hit wonder, just like we thought, huh?
to hit the target with one’s first shot
to pass an exam in one shot
(The two phrases above are usually used as a motto or prayer by themselves.)
to do 〜 with one shot
- Koichi passed the exam for Tokyo University in one try.
- Michael slammed the ball into the goal with one shot.
- Mami figured out which piece of bacon was real with one guess.
Blam! That’s All, Folks
You did it! You’ve completed another counters in our big counter series! We should shoot ten thousand 発 of fireworks to celebrate this moment. Wooosh!!! Bang!!! Hiss!!! Whistle!!! Swirl!!! Flash!!! Burst!!! Sputter!!! Hiss!!! Fizz!!! Whizz!!!