The sun is pretty awesome. Not only does it heat our planet from (literally) more than 90 million miles away (149MM km), but it has also played an important role in many of the earth’s religions over the years.
Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal.
And it seems like no matter what language you study, the sun is one of those words that you MUST learn. This is even more true in Japanese as the kanji for sun gets used in hundreds of different ways – as its own kanji, as part of compound words, and as a radical in more complex kanji.
So just what is the Japanese word for sun? And what are the (many) different readings for the kanji?
Get ready to be learned, people!
The Two Words for Sun
The two ways that you can say sun in Japanese are 日「ひ」and 太陽 「たいよう」and the difference between them is:
- Their origin
- How you use them
The word 日「ひ」 comes from the Japanese language and is use more for “day to day life” kind of words. So if you’re talking about the sunrise it would be 日の出 「ひので」or if you are talking about the sunset it would be 日の入り 「ひのいり」.
On the other side of things, the word 太陽「たいよう」 actually comes from the Chinese language, and is used when talking about the sun in a “scientific or solar system” kind of way.
So if you are looking at a chart of all the planets, the sun will be marked with 太陽. There are also words such as sunspots 太陽の黒点「たいようのこくてん」 and diameter of the sun 太陽の直径「たいようのちょっけい」which both utilize 太陽.
So if you want to talk about the “heavenly body” known as “the sun” then you will probably want to use 太陽. But you will be using 日 a lot more often for words that are related to the sun, so its good to know both of them!
This “multiple ways of saying the same word” is similar how to the Japanese numbers 1-10 have both an on’yomi and a kun’yomi.
That is, a Chinese pronunciation, and a Japanese pronunciation for the same words (but for different usages).
This is a pretty common thing for the Japanese language. Get used to it ¯\_( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)_/¯
The Sun = A Day
It’s no surprise that many cultures, including Japanese, used the sun as a form a measurement. Since you see the sun rise in the morning, soar across the sky, and then set in the evenings, it is really convenient to use the sun to measure a single day.
The kanji for it is actually a pictograph of our sun. It was originally written as a circle with sun rays, but it took too long to write it out, so they removed the rays, but kept that dot in the middle.
Then when they squared-off all the kanji to make them fit better next to one another, the sun turned into its current version that we use now.
The word 日 brings the meaning of day a lot more often than it does the meaning of the sun to words that it’s a part of. And that’s where its six different readings come into play! ヽ(ಠ_ಠ)ノ (srsly?)
Kun’yomi: ひ、 -び、 -か
On’yomi: ニ、 ニチ、 ジツ、
For example, check out the Japanese word for Sunday: 日曜日「にちようび」
Not only does 日 appear at the beginning and the end of the word with a different pronunciation for each, but it also appears as a radical in the complicated middle kanji too!
Like I said, get used to the kanji 日 because you are going to see it A LOT!
Isn’t is cool though, how our English word Sunday (Sun’s day) is the same word in Japanese (日曜日 = the sun day of the week)?
This is just like Monday (moon’s day) for both languages too!
Take a look at some common words that use the kanji 日 and how you say each one:
日本 / にほん / Japan (Land of the Rising Sun)
日記 / にっき / Dairy
先日 / せんじつ / The other day
平日 / へいじつ / Weekday
日差し / ひざし / Sunlight
今日 / きょう / Today
本日 / ほんじつ / Today (more formal way to say it)
今日は / こんにちは / Hello (this one is usually written entirely in hiragana, though)
三日 / みっか / The third day
Actually, this last example brings me to another point concerning 日 – namely that it is used as a counter for days.
The Counter for Days
For those who don’t know what a counter is, check out this short article I wrote!
Otherwise, let’s keep going.
The following is a list showing how you say each day of the month, as well as when you use a number of days in a sentence such as “I’ll arrive in five days.”
You really have to pay attention to days 1-10 as they all have special pronunciations. Also, day 14, 20, and 24 are unique, but all the rest are pretty simple, lol!
Today’s Solar Eclipse
Did you guys get to see today’s (8/21/17) solar eclipse?
The Japanese word for solar eclipse is 日食「にっしょく」 which is a word that uses the kanji for sun and the kanji for food.
Does that mean that the solar eclipse is when “the sun eats”? Kind of an interesting choice of kanji to use, don’t you think?
So what do suns like to eat? Moons I guess!
Speaking of which, you can learn all about the Japanese word for moon by clicking here!
Otherwise, it’s your turn to do the talking!
Let me know what you guys think of this post!
Was it helpful? Did I make any mistakes (sorry!)? Let me know with a comment below! Thanks!
Further Resources for Learning Japanese: