How to tell time in Japanese

After learning how to write the current date in Japanese, it is also interesting to know how to ask and give the time, or 時間 djikan', in Musashi’s language.

What time is it?

To ask the time in Japanese, we say:

今 (は) 何時 ですか。
ima (wa) nan'ji dèss'ka ?

This means, literally, “What time is it right now?”

In detail, the sentence breaks down as follows:

  1. 今は (は) ima (wa): now
  2. nan': what
  3. dji: hour
  4. ですか dèss'ka : This indicates a question (Japanese does not typically use a question mark)

Do not forget to check for jet lag in Japan.

Saying the time in Japanese

To give the time in Japanese, we say, for example (今は) (午後) 2時35分 です。 (ima wa) (gogo) ni-dji sanjûgo-fun dèss', or "(Currently), it is 2:35 (in the afternoon)."

The Japanese language uses terms similar to a.m. and p.m. in English. In Japanese, we say the following:

  • 午前 gozèn': "in the morning"
  • 午後 gogo: "in the afternoon"

Some stores also use funny hours, such as 25時まで (25h), or "Until 1 in the morning"!



Hours

We simply say a number and add the kanji 時 dji for "hour".

Most of the time, you will see Arabic numbers, but you may also encounter kanji. Here is a detailed table:

In Japanese Pronunciation Meaning
1時 or 一時 itchi-dji 1 a.m./1 p.m.
2時 or 二時 ni-dji 2 a.m./2 p.m.
3時 or 三時 san'-dji 3 a.m./3 p.m.

4時 or 四時 yo-dji 4 a.m./4 p.m.
5時 or 五時 go-dji 5 a.m./5 p.m.
6時 or 六時 loku-dji 6 a.m./6 p.m.
7時 or 七時 shitchi-dji 7 a.m./7 p.m.
8時 or 八時 hatchi-dji 8 a.m./8 p.m.
9時 or 九時 ku-dji 9 a.m./9 p.m.

10時 or 十時 jû-dji 10 a.m./10 p.m.
11時 or 十一時 djûitchi-dji 11 a.m./11 p.m.
12時 or 十二時 djûni-ji 12 a.m./12 p.m.

Minutes

We use a similar system for minutes, but the pronunciation can create some problems, as several "diphthongs" are linked to the kanji for minutes, 分. Here are the pronunciations to know:

In Japanese Pronunciation Meaning
1分 or 一分 ippun' 1 minute
2分 or 二分 nifun' 2 minutes
3分 or 三分 sanpun' 3 minutes
4分 or 四分 yonpun' 4 minutes
5分 or 五分 gofun' 5 minutes
6分 or 六分 loppun' 6 minutes
7分 or 七分 nanafun' 7 minutes
8分 ou 八分 happun' 8 minutes
9分 or 九分 kyûfun' 9 minutes
10分 or 十分 juppun' 10 minutes

For the first 9, add the desired tens prefix to obtain the exact minute up to 59.


Finally, "half" is translated as 半 han', so for "It is 7:30 a.m.," we say, (午前) 七時半 です。 (gozèn') shitchi-ji han' dèss'.

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