Days of the Week in Japanese: A Simple Guide
On today’s Japanese language agenda, we’re learning how to talk about the days of the week in Japanese. They are:
- Sunday: 日曜日, nichiyoubi
- Monday: 月曜日, getsuyoubi
- Tuesday: 火曜日, kayoubi
- Wednesday: 水曜日, suiyoubi
- Thursday: 木曜日, mokuyoubi
- Friday: 金曜日, kinyoubi
- Saturday: 土曜日, doyoubi
In this simple guide, you’ll learn how to write the days of the week in Japanese and easy ways to remember them. I’ll also share the origin of the words and their kanji meaning.
But the week is only one part of the calendar and talking about time, right? So I’ll share other related words you need to know so you can start planning your schedule in Japanese.
Table of contents
- Days of the Week in Japanese
- Other Ways to Remember the Days of the Week in Japanese: Elements, Anime, Avatar!
- Days of the Week Song in Japanese: 一週間の歌
- Other Vocab Related to the Week in Japanese
- Bonus: Telling Time in Japanese
- Plan Tomorrow’s Agenda in Japanese!
Let’s stop wasting time and get right to it.
Days of the Week in Japanese
First, here’s a nice image you can save to help you remember and review the days of the week in Japanese kanji:
If you only know how to read kana, here are the days of the week in Japanese hiragana:
- Sunday: にちようび, nichiyoubi
- Monday: げつようび, getsuyoubi
- Tuesday: かようび, kayoubi
- Wednesday: すいようび, suiyoubi
- Thursday: もくようび, mokuyoubi
- Friday: きんようび, kinyoubi
- Saturday: どようび, doyoubi
But, the kanji are your friends here.
See, once you know how the kanji’s meaning ties into our English words for days of the week, it becomes a lot simpler.
But also, the days of the week are often abbreviated (like in English) to just 日, 月, 火, 水, 木, 金, and 土. That’s because the kanji 曜日 (youbi) means “day of the week” and it’s the same ending for every day.
So I’ll share with you how mythology and astronomy origins help tie the Japanese and English words together. But, if that’s not your thing, don’t worry — I’ll share some other (fun!) mnemonic tips at the end.
“Sunday” in Japanese: 日曜日
Look at the kanji breakdown of 日曜日 (nichiyoubi):
日: ni, “sun” 曜: you, “day of the week” 日: bi, “day”
The kanji 日 means both “sun” and “day”, and it has different readings depending on its use. But what’s important here is that these kanji literally mean: Sun Day. Sunday.
In many languages, the words for the days of the week come from mythology and astronomy. So if you remember 日 means “sun”, then you can remember 日曜日 means “Sunday” like English.
“Monday” in Japanese: 月曜日
月曜日 (getsuyoubi) starts with the character 月 (getsu, tsuki, among other readings). It means “moon”.
So 月曜日 means “Moon Day”, the same as English: Monday is also derived from “moon”.
“Tuesday” in Japanese: 火曜日
The 火 in 火曜日 (kayoubi) means “fire”. But it’s also associated with the planet Mars, 火星 (kasei).
In English, “Tuesday” stems from the Norse god, Tyr, who was the god of war. He’s the Nordic version of the Roman god of war, Mars.
This one is a bit harder to connect because you have to think Tuesday → Tyr → Mars → 火星 (kasei) → 火曜日 (kayoubi).
But you can create a mnemonic to remember it, like: “Mars, the god of war, reigned fire 火 on Tuesday.”
“Wednesday” in Japanese: 水曜日
水曜日 (suiyoubi) uses the character 水 (sui, mizu) which means “water”. It’s tied to the planet Mercury, 水星 (suisei).
In English, Wednesday comes from the Nordic god Odin (also called Woden). He’s like the Roman god Mercury.
“Thursday” in Japanese: 木曜日
木 in 木曜日 (mokuyoubi) means “wood” and is connected to the planet Jupiter, 木星 (mokusei).
The Roman god Jupiter is the god of thunder. “Thursday” in English is named after Thor — whom I’m sure you know, from Marvel movies, is also the god of thunder.
“Friday” in Japanese: 金曜日
金曜日 uses 金 (kin), which means “gold” and also “money.” This is convenient on its own — Friday is payday, after all!
This one should be easy enough to remember. But if you want to know the origins like with the other days, then here it is:
金星 (kinsei) is the planet Venus. Of course, the Roman god, Venus, is best known for being the god of love and beauty. But she’s also known as the god of prosperity.
Her Nordic counterpart is Odin’s wife, Frigg, from which Friday stems.
“Saturday” in Japanese: 土曜日
Last up is 土曜日 (doyoubi). 土 (do, tsuchi) means “soil” or “ground”. It’s tied to the planet Saturn, 土星 (dosei).
This is exactly the same as English, because Saturday also stems from Saturn, the god of harvest and abundance.
Other Ways to Remember the Days of the Week in Japanese: Elements, Anime, Avatar!
Okay, look. I know not everyone cares about the etymology of words or has any interest or knowledge of Roman or Nordic mythology.
So maybe those ways to remember the days of the week in Japanese don't work for you.
One thing you may have noticed is that each day of the week is an element in nature.
- 日: sun
- 月: moon
- 火: fire
- 水: water
- 木: wood
- 金: gold/metal
- 土: earth
Maybe you create a visual connection and that’s all you need. Like this:
But honestly? How do I remember them? I connect the plants and elements aspect to my love of Sailor Moon.
- Monday is Sailor Moon (obvious).
- Tuesday is Sailor Mars, who wields fire 火.
- Sailor Mercury controls water 水 for Wednesday.
- Sailor Jupiter uses thunder (Thor), and also really loved flowers and cherry blossom trees 木.
- Venus wields love and beauty, and uses her golden 金 love-me chain.
- Saturday is for Sailor Saturn, 土星, who was reborn on earth 土.
- Sunday doesn’t really need one, but I think of it as Tuxedo Mask who (deep cut reference) was protector of the golden (sun) crystal.
You could associate them with the elemental Clow Cards from CardCaptor Sakura.
- 日: sun, Sozin’s Comet
- 月: moon, Yue
- 火: fire, Fire Benders
- 水: water, Water Benders
- 木: wood, Aang (see the arrow?)
- 金: gold/metal, Metal Benders
- 土: earth, Earth Benders
Seriously. It’s fun to play around with these and make connections to things you love. Obviously, I got nerdy about it. But find what works for you!
Days of the Week Song in Japanese: 一週間の歌
Here’s another tool you can use to memorize the days of the week in Japanese: music!
Music is a great way to help your brain create new neural pathways and remember new things.
This song on YouTube, called 一週間の歌 (isshukan no uta, “One Week Song”) will help you keep it straight.
Other Vocab Related to the Week in Japanese
Now that the days are out of the way, let’s learn some other important words when talking about days, dates, and spans of time.
Months in Japanese
The months in Japanese are:
- January: 一月 (ichigatsu)
- February: 二月 (nigatsu)
- March: 三月 (sangatsu)
- April: 四月 (shigatsu)
- May: 五月 (gogatsu)
- June: 六月 (rokugatsu)
- July: 七月 (shichigatsu)
- August: 八月 (hachigatsu)
- September: 九月 (kugatsu)
- October: 十月 (juugatsu)
- November: 十一月 (juuichigatsu)
- December: 十二月 (juunigatsu)
If you know your Japanese numbers then this is super simple to remember! It’s just the number of the month + the kanji for month: 月 (gatsu).
Also, I’ve written the months in kanji, which is usually saved for formal situations. You can use 1-12 plus the kanji 月 in everyday situations, such as 12月 for December.
Days of the Month in Japanese
As for the days of the month in Japanese, there are some inconsistencies. Although many follow the same pattern as months, where it’s the number + 日 (nichi) for “day”.
Keep an eye out for the first 10 days of the month, which sound closer to the Native Japanese numbers than the Sino-Japanese numbers. Plus, the 14th, the 20th, and the 24th change as well.
Like with months, I’ve used kanji here, but you’ll find it’s more common to write the days like 21日 for the 21st.
Next Week, Last Week, and This Week in Japanese
There will be times when you’ll need to know how to say “last week” or “next month” or “two years ago.” So here’s the vocab you need to know:
- Day: 日 (hi)
- Days: 日々 (hibi)
- Week: 週間 (shuukan)
- Weekend: 週末 (shuumatsu)
- Month: 月 (getsu)
- Year: 年 (toshi, nen)
- Today: 今日 (kyou)
- Tomorrow: 明日 (ashita)
- Yesterday: 昨日 (kinou)
- The day before yesterday: 一昨日 (ototoi)
- The day after tomorrow: 明後日 (asatte)
- Everyday: 毎日 (mainichi)
- Three days ago: 三日前 (mikkamae)
- The other day: 先の日 (saki no hi) or 先日 (senjitsu)
- This week: 今週 (konshuu)
- Last week: 先週 (senshuu)
- Next week: 来週 (raishuu)
- The week after next: 再来週 (saraishuu)
- Every week: 毎週 (maishuu)
- Every weekend: 毎週末 (maishuumatsu)
- A week ago: 一週間前 (isshuukan mae)
- 3 weeks later: 三週間後 (sanshuukan go)
- This month: 今月 (kongetsu)
- Last month: 先月 (sengetsu)
- Next month: 来月 (raigetsu)
- Every month: 毎月 (maitsuki)
- A couple of months: 数ヶ月 (suukagetsu)
- End of the month: 月末 (getsumatsu)
- Two months ago: 二ヶ月前 (nikagetsu mae)
- A few months later: 数ヶ月後 (suukagetsu go)
- This year: 今年 (kotoshi)
- Last year: 去年 (kyonen)
- Next year: 来年 (rainen)
- The year before last: 一昨年 (ototoshi)
- The year after next: 再来年 (sarainen)
- Every year: 毎年 (maitoshi)
- A few years before / years ago: 数年前 (suunen mae)
- A few years later: 数年後 (suunen go)
As you can tell, there are some patterns here! For example:
- 先 (sen or saki) means “previous”
- 今 (ima or kon) means “now” or “current”
- 来 (rai) means “coming”
- 後 (ato or go) means “after”
- 前 (mae) means “before”
So knowing these kanji can help you make various measurements of current, past, and future time.
By the way, “days” in Japanese, 日々, is more poetic and has a nuance of “day after day” rather than “days”. Otherwise, you would usually only use “day” in Japanese, 日, and mark it with the number of days as needed.
Bonus: Telling Time in Japanese
You can’t plan your schedule in Japanese without knowing how to tell time! Thankfully, it’s pretty simple if you already know your Japanese numbers.
- 1 o’clock: 1時 (ichiji)
- 2 o’clock: 2時 (niji)
- 3 o’clock: 3時 (sanji)
- 4 o’clock: 4時 (yoji)
- 5 o’clock: 5時 (goji)
- 6 o’clock: 6時 (rokuji)
- 7 o’clock: 7時 (shichiji)
- 8 o’clock: 8時 (hachiji)
- 9 o’clock: 9時 (kuji)
- 10 o’clock: 10時 (juuji)
- 11 o’clock: 11時 (juuichiji)
- 12 o’clock: 12時 (juuniji)
For minutes, you use the number + 分 (fun, bun, or pun), such as 12:15 is じゅうにじじゅうごふん (juuniji juugofun). Or for “half past 12” it’s じゅうにじはん (juuniji han). 半 (han) means “half.”
Plan Tomorrow’s Agenda in Japanese!
Now you’ve got the essentials for planning out your schedule or calendar. And in fact — that’s a great way to practice what you’ve learned today!
Try writing out your weekly schedule using the days of the week in Japanese. Practice reading the time and calendar using the Japanese words. Date your journal entries with Japanese. And if you’ve got an online tutor, you can schedule your next meeting with them using the vocabulary you’ve learned in the post!
The more you practice, the easier it gets. So don’t waste anymore time — go use your new Japanese skills!