particle has two primary functions. The first is to mark the topic of a sentence, as learned very early in our Japanese language journey. However, the second common usage of は
is to highlight contrast (making a comparison). When は
is used after a number/counter, it regularly has this comparison meaning. This can be translated as ‘or so’, or ‘at least’.
I go to Disneyland at least 5 times a year.
Every day, I watch TV for 5 hours or so.
, the counter is regularly followed by くらい
). This just softens the statement, and further highlights the ‘or so’ meaning.
I think it is at least 2 kilograms.
You should go to Kurashiki at least once.
Despite being translated as ‘at least’, the comparative meaning of は
itself is what creates the nuance of this grammar structure. The thing before は
is being highlighted as an amount, while also implying that there are other amounts. This implication of another amount makes は
sound as if it could mean ‘as opposed to (B)’. So in essence, this grammar structure sounds like ‘As for (A), as opposed to (B)’, where (B) is not usually mentioned.