Today we will go over the days of the week in Japanese and learn each one. I wanted to include a lot of information on them such as how they are spelled in kanji, the way to pronounce them, and some other miscellaneous information.
After we get through the basic names and a couple of ways that you can easily remember them, I’ll talk about counting them in Japanese (like one week, two weeks, etc) since you have to use a specific counter for them, and the way you say each one can change.
I also thought that some additional vocabulary would be handy in this article, things like “week days” and “weekends” and a few others that you might find yourself needing to know when talking about this subject.
All Seven Days Of The Week
Alright, so that first thing that I want to do is provide a list of all the days of the week that you can see and save as a reference in case you ever need to double check one or more of them.
After that, I’ll talk a little bit about each one of them in greater detail.
So the first thing that you will notice is that all of these words are composed of three kanji, and it is only ever the first one that changes.
The second two kanji, 曜日 (yōbi), mean “day of the week” in Japanese and they work the same way that “day” does in English for our names (Monday, Tuesday, etc.)
This means that all you have to do is memorize this one word, and then combine it with any of the other seven.
The first one is 月 which means “moon” in Japanese. This kanji can have several different readings depending on how it’s used, but within the context of the weekdays, it is always pronounced as げつ (getsu).
So 月曜日 literally means “moon day” which is actually the same word as our English “Monday” when you think about it.
The second one is 火 which means “fire” in Japanese, and even though this word is usually said as ひ (hi) when it’s by itself, it gets changed into か (ka) for the word Tuesday.
Now you may be wondering why the Japanese word for Tuesday is “fire day” but the reading of the kanji actually hints to its origins. The fact that Monday is about the moon should also point you in the right direction.
You see, the word Tuesday comes from “Tīw’s Day” and Tiw was a Norse god of single combat. But here’s the kicker, Tiw was equated with the Greek god of war: Mars.
And if you look at the Japanese word for the planet Mars, you can see that it is 火星 (kasei) which uses that exact same fire kanji as Tuesday.
Knowing this, you can actually see how all the days of the week have a name that comes from a heavenly body in our night sky.
Wednesday is 水曜日 which has the kanji 水 from the word 水星 (suisei) for the planet Mercury.
Thursday uses 木 from the planet Jupiter 木星 (mokusei).
Friday has 金 which is a part of 金星 (kinsei) for Venus.
Now that I think about it, that saying “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” is starting to make more sense. Boys like to play with fire 火, and girls like cars and money 金 ♪♫ !
I’m just playing (don’t kill me!), let’s move on!
The Japanese word for Saturday is 土曜日 which uses 土. Now the kanji 土 can have several meanings, one of which is “Earth” but it really refers to dirt or soil and not the planet Earth.
Actually, the vocabulary for Earth is 地球 (chikyū)… go figure.
So 土 is really coming from 土星 (dosei) for Saturn, which was always my favorite planet when I was growing up because I thought those rings were so cool.
And finally, the word for Sunday is 日曜日 which is actually really cool since it uses the 日 kanji twice, and each time it not only used a different reading, but also a different meaning.
At first, it is read as にち (nichi) and then of course it ends on び (bi) like all the other days did. Seeing as how 日 can mean both “sun” and “day” in Japanese, it’s nice to see it used as both in this single word.
So now you know all the days of the week and where they get their names from!
Abbreviation For The Names
One thing that I thought would be useful to know is that even though all of these days have the above standard forms, there are actually shortened versions as well.
The most common way that you will see these words altered in spoken Japanese is with the final 日 dropped off completely.
This makes sense because there is pretty much no chance for confusion when a person is talking about a day of the week and they only say 土曜 instead of the full 土曜日.
Actually, a basic rule of thumb is that spoken Japanese is shorter and more casual than the written form, and also from what most beginners learn through books and courses.
The reason is simply because it’s easier to say the short form.
So that’s what a lot of people do when talking to friends or family members.
However, in a written letter (or email), or when a person is giving some sort of formal speech, they will use the longer version since it sounds better and more professional.
The flip side of the coin is that days of the week are shorted all the way down to just the first kanji when they are written on something like a calendar.
Again, it all comes down to context. When you open up your calendar app on your phone, you KNOW that it’s talking about the days of the week, so there is no need to add on the long 曜日 to each and every day.
I mean, we do the same thing in English, but we use the beginning letter of the day instead.
So there you go, when speaking you can drop the final び in the word, and when writing you only need to use the initial character.
Counting Weeks In Japanese
One thing that makes Japanese stand out from other languages is the use of counters.
If you’re not sure what that is, then the basic explanation is that it is a word that gets added into the mix when you are counting nouns. An example in English would be like “two sheets of paper.”
The word “sheets” in this sentence are kind of a descriptor for the noun “paper.”
Anyway, I will leave it up to you to check it out in depth if you’re new to it, but assuming that you are familiar with the concept, I’d like to move on to the counter for weeks.
The Japanese word 週 (shū) means “week” but when you want to talk about a number of weeks, like the phrase “I’m moving in two weeks” then you need to use the counter 週間 (shūkan) to let people know that you’re talking about a number of weeks.
How long have you been studying Japanese?
- 三週間前から始めました。(san shūkan mae kara hajimemashita.)
I started three weeks ago.
The thing to keep in mind about the word 週間 is that the reading of it will change depending on which number comes before it. Again, this is simply to make it easier to say when speaking Japanese.
For example, one week would be pronounced いっしゅうかん (issūkan) rather than いちしゅうかん (ichi sūkan) which is incorrect, and awkward to say when speaking at a moderate to fast pace.
The only numbers with irregular pronunciations are the numbers one, eight, and ten. Here’s a chart with weeks one through ten that you can use as a helpful reference.
Alright, let’s get to some related words and phrases when talking about weeks and weekdays.
Related Words And Phrases
This section won’t be too long. I just thought that you mind find some of these examples useful.
平日 (heijitsu) weekday
週末 (shūmatsu) weekend
- 週末に何をしていますか？ (shūmatsu ni nani o shite imasu ka?)
What do you do on weekends?
- 土曜日は仕事ですか？ (doyōbi wa shigoto desu ka?)
Do you have work on Saturday?
- 今日は月曜日か。 (kyō wa getsuyōbi ka?)
Is today Monday? (asking oneself)
今週 (konshū) this week
- 今週の火曜日は何日？ (konshū no kayōbi wa nan nichi?)
What day (of the month) is this Tuesday?
If you know of any additional words or phrases that you think would be helpful here, let me know with a comment and I will add them to the list!
My Advice On Learning These Words
When you’re a beginner, there is a tendency to want to learn blocks of information at a time.
So for example, one day you might want to learn all the days of the week in Japanese (this article, lol).
On another day, you might try to learn numbers or family members and such.
But what I’ve found in my own experience is that when you take in a lot of similar information like this at one time, there is a natural tendency to get them mixed up.
So what I would recommend is that you go over them in order to get familiar with them, but then don’t worry too much about remembering them.
If you forget, you can always refer back to this post via bookmark or something, and get a refresher. After enough exposure to the language through reading or listening, you will eventually remember them all without trouble.
That’s actually one of the reasons why I love using LingQ to learn Japanese, you get to spend your time reading and listening to interesting Japanese content, and you actually end up learning the language inadvertently.
Before you know it, you’ve mastered all seven days in Japanese without even trying that hard. Give it a shot if you’re struggling with it.
I’d love to hear from you now! How are your studies going? What are you having troubles with?
Let me know with a comment below!