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TYJ The months and the days in Japanese

This article is in the series Teach Yourself Japanese

5.5. The months and days

5.5.1. The months

Japanese lost the names of months hundreds of years ago, and now months are called with sequential numbers. After a number, say the word がつ "gatu", which means month.

i ti ga tu
The first month
ni ga tu
The second month
sa n ga tu
The third month
si ga tu
The fourth month
go ga tu
The fifth month
ro ku ga tu
The sixth month
si ti ga tu
The seventh month
ha ti ga tu
The eighth month
ku ga tu
The ninth month
zyû ga tu
The tenth month
zyû i ti ga tu
The eleventh month
zyû ni ga tu
The twelfth month

For the names of the months, the common digit names of 4, 7, and 9 are not used. (よんがつ "yongatu", なながつ "nanagatu", and きゅうがつ "kyûgatu" are not used.)

5.5.2. The ancient names of the months

Here is a list of the ancient names of the months. Just skip this paragraph if you are not interested.

mu tu ki
The month of friendship
ki sa ra gi
The month of the rebirth of plants
ya yo i
The month of growing plants
u zu ki
The month of the rabbit, which is the fourth animal of the Chinese zodiac.
sa tu ki
The month of rice sprouts
mi na zu ki
The month of water
hu mi zu ki
The month of letters
ha zu ki
The month of leaves
na ga zu ki
The month of long nights
ka n na zu ki
The month of gods
si mo tu ki
The month of frost
si wa su
The month of busy people

5.5.3. The days of the week

The days of the week are named after the sun, the moon, and planets. They are translations of the days of the week in European languages such as Latin. Sunday is the first day of the week in Japan.

ni ti bi
The day of the sun (たいやう "taiyô")
ge tu bi
The day of the moon (つき "tuki")
ka bi
The day of Mars (かせい "kasei")
su i bi
The day of Mercury (すいせい "suisei")
mo ku bi
The day of Jupiter (ほくせい "mokusei")
ki n' bi
The day of Venus (きんせい "kinsei")
do bi
The day of Saturn (どせい "dosei")

The suffix ようび "yôbi" in the days of the week means shine + day. The suffix せい "sei" in the planets' names means star. The prefixes にち "niti" and つき "getu" of Sunday and Monday come from different words that mean the sun and the moon respectively.

5.5.4. The seasons

The Japanese word for a season is きせつ "kisetu". There are four season names in Japan.

ha ru
March, April, May
na tu
June, July, August
a ki
September, October, November
hu yu
December, January, February

Actually Japan also has the following season from the mid of June to the mid of July, in which season there is much more rain than any other season:

tu yu

It is called the rainy season or just tsuyu in English.

5.5.5. The days of the month

To my regret, the names of the days of the month in Japanese are not as easy as the names of the months, because they preserve ancient names.

The days 11th through 31st except for the 14th, 20th, and 24th have straightforward names. Their names are the combination of the number and word にち "niti", which means a day. For example, the 15th day is called じゅごにち "zyûgoniti". The word にち sometimes becomes んち "nti" in colloquial Japanese.

For other days, please look at the table below. Notice that they are similar to the traditional number names. The suffix か "ka" (or possibly うか "uka") was a counter for days in ancient Japanese. Using にち for the days listed below is understandable, so don't hesitate to use にち when you can't remember their real names.

tu i ta ti
The beginning of the month.
It came from つき) "tuki" (month, moon) + たつ "tatu" (to stand up)
hu tu ka
The second day
mi k ka
The third day
yo k ka
The fourth day
i tu ka
The fifth day
mu i ka
The sixth day
na no ka
The seventh day
yô ka
The eighth day
ko ko no ka
The ninth day
tô ka
The tenth day
zyû yo k ka
The fourteenth day
10 + 4 day
じゅう + よっか
ha tu ka
The twentieth day
20 + 4 day
ni zyû yo k ka
The twenty-fourth day
20 + 4 day
にかじゅう + よっか
OthersA day number + にち (ni ti)
ha tu ka
This is a suffix added to a number.

5.5.6. How to read the date and time

In Japanese, it is necessary to say the biggest part first, then go down to smaller parts. This is because of the head-last rule of Japanese. This rule is applied not only for a date but also for time and addresses.

Dates are read in the following order: a year, a month, a day of the month, a day of the week. To read a year, add ねん "nen", which means a year, after the number.

Example: Monday, June 16th, 1997 is 1997 ねん 6 づき 16 にち げつうび "sen kyûhyaku kyûzyû nananen rokugatu zyûrokuniti getubi". The Japanese style of abbreviation of the date is 1997/6/16 (year/month/day).

Please remember the American style and the European style are also different from each other.

American: day-of-week, month/day/year
European: day-of-week, day/month/year
Asian: year/month/day, day-of-week

To read time, add じ "zi" after hours, ふん "hun" after minutes, and びょう "byô" after seconds. For instance, 11:29:07 is 11 じ 29 ふん 7 びょう "zyûitizi nizyû kyûhun nanabyô".

When you say both date and time, say date first. Please remember the most significant part comes first in Japanese.
Next article in the series 'Teach Yourself Japanese': Greetings in Japanese
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About author
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

I work as a display engineer.

One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.


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