In this article, we will learn how to say the days of the week in Japanese. You will see there is strange similarities between English and Japanese languages on this point.
The first thing to know before starting to broach the subject is that the week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday in Japan. It may be a detail but it is still good to specify it because most Japanese calendars follow this model.
Days of the week in Japanese
Here is how to say each day of the week in Japanese:
- Sunday: Nichiyôbi (にちようび – 日曜日)
- Monday: Getsuyôbi (げつようび – 月曜日)
- Tuesday: Kayôbi (かようび – 火曜日)
- Wednesday: Suiyôbi (すいようび – 水曜日)
- Thursday: Mokuyôbi (もくようび – 木曜日)
- Friday: Kinyôbi (きんようび – 金曜日)
- Saturday: Doyôbi (どようび – 土曜日)
The meaning behind those words
The days of the week names have their origin in the seven celestial bodies of our solar system known in Antiquity. The Sun, the Moon, and the planets Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.
I hope you do not learn it, but this model is also used in English. Every day of the week is related to the same celestial body in English and Japanese. Which is pretty funny because the origins of those two languages are distant. Thereby:
- Sunday and Nichiyôbi mean day of the Sun.
- Monday and Getsuyôbi, day of the Moon.
- Saturday and Doyôbi, day of Saturn.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are part of the same model but use Germanic gods names instead of Roman ones :
- Tuesday refers to Tyr, a Nordic god of war, a Mars’ counterpart. While Kayôbi means day of Mars.
- Wednesday refers to Odin (or Wodan), a prominent Germanic god. The link between this Nordic god and Mercury is not clear, even if those two gods are considered as guides of souls in their respective mythology. Anyway, Suiyôbi is the day of Mercury.
- Thursday refers to Thor, the Nordic god of thunder, a Jupiter’s counterpart. Mokuyôbi means day of Jupiter.
- Friday refers to Frige, a Nordic goddess of fertility, a Venus‘ counterpart. Kinyôbi means day of Venus.
Composition of Japanese words for the days of the week
You may have notices, all day of the week names are composed of three kanji in Japanese. The last two are always the same:
- 曜: This kanji is used only to specify days of the week. It is pronounced “yô”.
- 日: This kanji refers to the Sun, and by extension to a day. In our case, it is pronounced “bi”, but it can have many other pronunciations depending on the context.
Of the three kanji that compose the days of the week names, only the first one changes every time:
- We just have seen that 日 means “Sun”. It is used a second time in the Japanese word for Sunday. And as I said previously, this Chinese character is pronounced in many ways. Here it is “nichi” and not “bi”.
- 月 means “Moon”, as you can imagine by reading the transcript in Chinese characters of “Getsuyôbi”.
- The first kanji of the other days of the week correspond to the five elements in Chinese mythology: fire, water, wood, metal and earth. We find them here because these elements make up the Japanese names of the planets that we mentioned earlier:
- Mars: Kasei (火星)
- Mercury: Suisei (水星)
- Jupiter: Mokusei (木星)
- Venus: Kinsei (金星)
- Saturn: Dosei (土星)
That’s all for the days of the week. In future articles, we will cover the months, days of the month and hours.