Learn Japanese Days of the Week & Months of the Year: Words & Characters for the Japanese Calendar

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Japanese Days of the Week

Like the American calender, the Japanese week is made up of seven days, and they correspond to the same days we use. In Ancient Japanese, they did not have this system, but after ending their period of isolation, the language took many changes, including the days of the week. They are as follows, romaji first, with hiragana and kanji in parenthesis.

getsuyoubi (げつようび or 月曜日) - Monday, the day of the moon.

kayoubi (かようび or 火曜日) - Tuesday, the day of fire. Also represents Mars

suiyoubi (すいようび or 水曜日) - Wednesday, the day of water. Also represents Mercury

mokuyoubi (もくようび or 木曜日) - Thursday, the day of wood. Also represents Jupiter

kinyoubi (きんようび or 金曜日) - Friday, the day of metal/gold. Also represents Venus

doyoubi (どようび or 土曜日) - Saturday, the day of the earth. Also represents Saturn

nichiyoubi (にちようび or 日曜日) - Sunday, the day of the sun.

You can see the Western influence on the Japanese weekday system due to the planetary representations, often attributed to Greek influence. All of the days are made up of an element first, then the prefix -youbi, meaning quite simply, “day of the week.” The kanji representations, not associated with the planets directly, are mostly of Chinese origin, as many kanji are. However, the Chinese have since dropped the same weekday associations, making the Japanese names for the weekdays unique.

Months of the Year

One stereotype of the Japanese people, true or not, is that they are overly efficient. Looking at the months of the year used in modern Japanese, it is quite easy to see where stereotypes of this sort have originated. The months are as follows, romaji first, hiragana and kanji in parenthesis.

ichigatsu (いちがつ or 一月) - January, the first month

nigatsu (にがつ or 二月) - February, the second month

sangatsu (さんがつ or 三月) - March, the third month

shigatsu (しがつ or 四月) - April, the fourth month

gogatsu (ごがつ or 五月) - May, the fifth month

rokugatsu (ろくがつ or 六月) - June, the sixth month

shichigatsu (しちがつ or 七月) - July, the seventh month

hachigatsu (はちがつ or 八月) - August, the eighth month

kugatsu (くがつ or 九月) - September, the ninth month

juugatsu (じゅうがつ or 十月) - October, the tenth month

juuichigatsu (じゅういちがつ or 十一月) - November, the eleventh month

juunigatsu (じゅうにがつ or 十二月) - December, the twelfth month

If you know your numbers, you may have recognized a pattern. The Japanese words for the months are created simply by combining the number of the month with the word “gatsu,” meaning month. This makes learning the months very easy, as all you have to do is remember the order of the months, something you have likely mastered in your native language. Often, you will see the months written, for example, as 3月 instead of 三月, as Arabic numbers have become very prevalent in Japan.

The Ancient Japanese calender is not the same as the modern calender, and is actually lunar based, like many other cultures once had. As such, the words for the months in Ancient Japanese do not correspond to the same months, as the lunar year is separate from the modern Gregorian calender.