Tactics

A Trick to Learn the Japanese Days of the Week

To learn the Japanese days of the week you will have to know a total of eight different words.

But if you already know the seven days of the week in English, then learning them in Japanese will be super easy!

First lets take a look at the days of the week in English

Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

What do all of these words have in common?

That’s right! They all end in the word DAY!

The Japanese days of the week have the exact same pattern. See for yourself:

Nichiyōbi     日曜日
Getsuyōbi    月曜日
Kayōbi          火曜日
Suiyōbi         水曜日
Mokuyōbi    木曜日
Kin’yōbi       金曜日
Doyōbi         土曜日

All of them end in the word yōbi. The kanji for yōbi is:  曜日. The word yōbi means “day of the week.” This is the first word that you will have to learn as it is used in conjunction with the other seven words that you need to know.

Cultural Tip: In America the week starts with Sunday, but in Japan the week actually starts with Monday or Getsuyōbi 月曜日. I started the above Japanese list with Sunday so that it is easy to compare.

 

These three are the same in both languages!

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: Three out of the seven weekdays match the English meanings perfectly. Can you guess which ones they are?

Sunday >>> Sun’s Day >>>  (sun) 曜日 (day of the week)
Monday >>> Moon’s Day >>>  (moon) 曜日 (day of the week)
Saturday >>> Saturn’s Day >>>  (Saturn) 曜日 (day of the week)

The Japanese word for the planet Saturn is actually comprised of two kanji, but the first kanji of the word is the same >>> dosei 土星 (Saturn).

So the next three words you will have to learn are the Japanese words for sun, moon, and the first half of the word for the planet Saturn.

Sun = nichi
Moon = getsu
Saturn = do(sei)

You may be noticing a theme here. Basically, each day of the week has to do with a heavenly body in our solar system. Interestingly enough the English names for the days of the week mimic this pattern as well. Check it out sometime.

But I think for the remaining four days, Tuesday through Friday, they will be easier to remember if we use their elemental names rather than their planetary names.

Battle of the elements!

Do you know what any of the following mean?

火 or 水 or 木 or 金 ?

 means FIRE and is pronounced “ka” when used as a day of the week.

 means WATER and is pronounced “sui” when used as a day of the week.

 means TREE and is pronounced “moku” when used as a day of the week.

 means METAL and in pronounced “kin” when used as a day of the week.

A great way to remember them is to start with FIRE (ka) and ask yourself “what beats fire?”

The answer of course is WATER (sui). Now what beats water?

TREEs (moku) beat water as they drink it up to live. What beats trees?

A METAL (kin) ax that chops them down!

 

So, in order to remember the days of the week in Japanese, do this:

For Sunday, Monday, and Saturday think of a literal translation:

Sunday becomes Sun’s Day of the Week which is nichiyōbi 日曜日
Monday becomes Moon’s Day of the Week which is getsuyōbi 月曜日
Saturday becomes Saturn’s Day of the Week which is doyōbi 土曜日

For Tuesday through Friday, think of an elemental wheel where each new element beats the one that preceded it.

Fire  loses to water  which loses to TREES  which loses to a METAL ax .

Kayōbi 火曜日
Suiyōbi 水曜日
Mokuyōbi 木曜日
Kin’yōbi 金曜日


Story Time

Back in ancient times people would pass on knowledge to the next generation though the use of stories. For whatever reason, it is easier for us to remember something when we hear it within that kind of context.

So here’s a story for you to use that will help you to remember the Japanese names for the weekdays. The bold words in the story are ones that sound like the days of the week.

When you read them, think of the Japanese word so that you link the two together in your mind. Then later, when you say the story to yourself to remember, it will trigger the linked word.

(This time, the week starts the Japanese way: with Monday.)

~~~~~~~~~~

Please get Sue a coffee. She likes it sweet. If you’re not sure, ask Moe Cool; he know’s how to make it. The coffee shop is on King Street. Meet her at seven and don’t be late. She will be reading a philosophy book by Nietzsche. If you mess it up, you’ll be sorry!

~~~~~~~~~~

Getsu   (moon)
Ka         (fire)
Sui       (water)
Moku   (tree)
Kin       (metal)
Do       (Saturn)
Nichi    (sun)
Yōbi    曜日(day of the week)

Now read the above story two more times, focusing on linking the similar sounding words with the Japanese days of the week. Then turn around and try to recite them to yourself without looking!


Did you get it? If so, well done!

If not, good job for trying it out! Go at it a few more times and I’m sure you’ll get it soon (^_^)b

Now I want to hear from you! Was this an easy way to learn the Japanese days of the week? What did you like about it? What do you think could have been better? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Comments

  • Sadie

    I didn’t really think about it I guess but it’s interesting that the Japanese week doesn’t start until Monday. I’ve always thought Monday should be the beginning of the week instead of Sunday anyway. It’s tough for me to pronounce Japanese words. The only ones I’ve mastered so far are the numbers 1 through 10.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I also thought it made more sense for the week to start on a Monday since most school and work starts then. Makes you wonder who made the decision on that one.

      Yeah, learning to pronounce any new language can be tough when your not used to the new sounds and combinations of sounds. It easier the more you work at it! Ganbatte!

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