How Do You Say What the Time is in Japanese?

There are so many things to do in Japan and so very little time to do them all in. From tasting all the great food, to visiting all the shrines and attending the Kabuki theater.

It’s easy to lose track of time while you’re having fun and seeing the sights. But you’d better make sure that you watch the clock and not miss out on anything!

Do you like to wear an 腕時計? This word (udedokei) is Japanese for a “watch.” Even if you do wear one, how do you say what the time is in Japanese? That’s exactly what we will go over today.

What time is it? Time to buy an udedokei!

何時ですか? (nan ji desu ka) = What time is it?
This is the basic phrase that you will hear over and over again – especially if you’re the only one wearing a watch!

The Japanese word for “time” is  (ji) and is used in a variety of ways. Let’s take a look at a few of them now:

何時に? (nan ji ni) = At what time?
Are you planning on going out to dinner? Or maybe you’d like to hit up the theater tonight. Either way it’s a good idea to confirm the time using this question.

いつ? (itsu) = When?
Here’s another way you might ask when something is at.

Answering time questions

What if you’re the one who’s being asked all these questions about time? Well, you’ll need to know your basic numbers and combine them with  (ji).

二時です。 (ni ji desu) = It’s 2  o’clock.
This is the basic way to say what time it is. You can replace  (ni) with any other number and it should work for you. And what if the time is not “on the hour” but somewhere in between? In that case, there are a couple of different things you can say.

八時半です。 (hachi ji han desu) = It’s half past 8.
The Japanese word for “half” is  (han)

八時十五分です。 (hachi ji juu go fun desu) = It’s 8:15.
The word for “minute” in Japanese is  (fun).

八時四十五分です。 (hachi ji yon juu go fun desu) = It’s 8:45.

Those last two examples are just straight up saying what the hour and minutes are. But you can also say “a quarter to” or “a quarter past” like we do in English. And it doesn’t HAVE to be kanji for the numbers. You can use Arabic number too. Here’s how:

8時15分前です。 (hachi ji juu go fun mae desu) = It’s a quarter to 8.

8時15分すぎです。 (hachi ji juu go fun sugi desu) = It’s a quarter past 8.

(mae) = To (before)
すぎ (sugi) = Past (exceeding)

Does the “quarter to/quarter past” thing seem like less work or more? Well either way, you will probably hear both ways of telling the time while you’re in Japan.

What about AM and PM?

You can do one of two things to tackle AM/PM problem. The first is to use 24-hour time like the military does. Rather than saying “it’s 3:00 pm” you would say “it’s 15:00.”

今、十五時です。(ima, juu go ji desu) = It’s 15:00 hours now.

Or you can use these adverbs:

午前 (gozen)      = Morning
(hiru)               = Noon
午後 (gogo)         = Afternoon
夕方 (yuu gata)  = Evening
(yoru)               = Night

Just be sure to use the の (no) particle after the adverb and before the time:

今、午前の8時です。(ima, gozen no hachi ji desu) = It’s 8 in the morning.

One last thing…

There are some words and phrases that you can use in order to sound more natural and convey a more precise meaning. Here are some of them that you should learn:

(ima) = Now
It’s more natural in Japanese to say “what time is it now”  rather than just “what time is it.” The same goes for when you are telling the time. It’s better to say “now, it is 10:00″, instead of just “it’s 10:00.”

今何時ですか? (ima nan ji desu ka) = What time is it now?

今、10時です。(ima, juu ji desu) = It is 10:00 now.

Here’s a tip: you will almost always put 今 (ima) at the beginning of the sentence.

Perhaps you are making plans and you need to know when something will start or finish? Maybe you’re planning on seeing a movie and need to know that info.

何時に始まりますか? (nan ji ni hajimarimasu ka) = What time does it start at?

何時まで? (nan ji made) = Until what time?

Or if you want to go shopping, then it might be a good idea to know when the stores open and close so that you don’t miss out on getting your favorite things.

お店は何時に開けますか? (o mise wa nan ji ni akemasu ka) = When does the store open?

お店は何時に閉めますか? (o mise wa nan ji ni shimemasu ka) = When does the store close?

And you can always substitute お店 (o mise) “store” with any other noun that you need in order to fit your situation.


So what time is it now? Can you say it in Japanese?

For me, 今、夕方の七時です!

I hope you enjoyed this post today and I really hope that it was useful for you. Leave me a comment below and let me know if this was helpful!


  • Joe

    I have a project for school that requires me to view Japanese products, including clocks and watches. At first glance, I had no idea how to read Japanese clocks, but after reading your article I am sure too ace this project! Thanks for all the valuable information you have provided to me. Keep up the good work!

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Joe, you are very welcome! That’s pretty cool that you get to review Japanese products for a school project. Unfortunately, I can’t remember ever taking a class that delved into other cultures when I was in college. But all the same, I’m glad I could help!

  • Nate

    And I thought Spanish was confusing, Japanese is off the charts. I’ve dreamed of visiting Japan, one of these days I would like to visit. You gave a lot of helpful translations that I can use when down there, I think I might bookmark this page and come back to it when I need it.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Lol, yeah it’s funny you say that because I just read a blog post about “which language should you learn” and it had Japanese listed as one of the hardest! Right up there with Chinese and Arabic.

      Hopefully I can help make it a little easier for ya! 🙂

  • Pitin


    I really loved your post! I love learning Japanese and your explanations on how to construct the sentences are a really great help!

    I hope you’ll have videos too or even audio recordings that you can share so that we’ll be able to speak the correct intonation.

    Keep it coming!


    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Pitin, I’m really glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      That’s a good idea. I think adding some videos or recordings would really help. Stay on the lookout for those!

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