How to write the date in Japanese

Telling the date in Japanese is not awfully complicated. Here is a short summary of how to express the date in Japanese and how to refer to and pronounce the names of the days, months and years. 

In order to say the date in Japanese, you can for example say 今日は2016年2月17日です。 Here are the elements of this sentence presented separately:

  •  今日は kyô wa : today...
  • 2016年 ni-sen jû-roku-nen : year 2016
  • 2月 ni-gatsu : February
  • 17日 jûshichi-nichi : the 17th 
  • です desu : to keep things simple, the verb « to be »

The order is reversed compared to Europe: the year comes first, then the month and finally the day; this is the “big endian” format, which is widely used in Asia. 

What follows is a detailed account of each element in the sentence above. 

The years in Japanese

Just mention the year concerned and then add the kanji 年 nen for year.

The Japanese will typically use the Gregorian calendar although they will also often use the Japanese one based on the reigns of Japanese emperors. Thus 2016 is year 28 of the current era,  平成 heisei, i.e. 平成28年. You will see this printed on tickets for example when you travel to Japan. 

There is actually an application called « Gengou Free » to easily convert any year of the Gregorian calendar into its traditional Japanese counterpart. 

The months in Japanese

It works in the same way for Japanese months:  First write the number corresponding to the month concerned, then the kanji 月 gatsu. Thus:

  • 1月 ichi-gatsu : January
  • 2月 ni-gatsu : February
  • 3月 san-gatsu : March
  • 4月 shi-gatsu : April
  • 5月 go-gatsu : May
  • 6月 roku-gatsu : June
  • 7月 shichi-gatsu : July
  • 8月 hachi-gatsu : August
  • 9月 ku-gatsu : September
  • 10月 jû-gatsu : October
  • 11月 jûichi-gatsu : November
  • 12月 jûni-gatsu : December 

The days of the week and of the month in Japanese

The days of the week

It should be mentioned that the week officially begins on Sunday rather than Monday.

  • 日曜日 nichi-yôbi : Sunday (“Day of the Sun”)
  • 月曜日 getsu-yôbi : Monday ("Day of the Moon")
  • 火曜日 ka-yôbi : Tuesday ("Day of Fire")
  • 水曜日 sui-yôbi : Wednesday ("Day of Water")
  • 木曜日 moku-yôbi : Thursday ("Day of Wood")
  • 金曜日 kin-yôbi : Friday ("Day of Gold")
  • 土曜日 do-yôbi : Saturday ("Day of the Earth")

The days of the month

They follow a simple rule (number + 日 nichi) but almost half of them are irregular! See the complete list below, with an asterisk after each irregular word:

  • 1日 tsuitachi*
  • 2日 futsuka*
  • 3日 mikka*
  • 4日 yokka*
  • 5日 itsuka*
  • 6日 muika*
  • 7日 nanoka*
  • 8日 yôka*
  • 9日 kokonoka*
  • 10日 tôka*
  • 11日 jûichi-nichi
  • 12日 jûni-nichi
  • 13日 jûsan-nichi
  • 14日 jûyokka*
  • 15日 jûgo-nichi
  • 16日 jûroku-nichi
  • 17日 jûshichi-nichi
  • 18日 jûhachi-nichi
  • 19日 jûku-nichi
  • 20日 hatsuka*
  • 21日 nijûichi-nichi
  • 22日 nijûni-nichi
  • 23日 nijûsan'-nichi
  • 24日 nijûyokka*
  • 25日 nijûgo-nichi
  • 26日 nijûroku-nichi
  • 27日 nijûshichi-nichi
  • 28日 nijûhichi-nichi
  • 29日 nijûku-nichi
  • 30日 sanjû-nichi
  • 31日 sanjûichi-nichi


Don’t forget to look at the calendar of events in Japan

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Posted by Gael
Editor in chief
Gael is founder and responsible for Kanpai's publication. In love with Japanese culture, he travels to Japan regularly since 2003 and shares his information and tips.
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