Japanese Weekdays – Everything You Need to Know

Introduction

If you decide to come to Japan or work in Japan, you may be concerned about when weekdays and business hours are and how to say weekdays in Japanese. In this article, you’ll learn how the Japanese weekday system works and how to pronounce the days of the week in Japanese. You’ll see that there are strange similarities between the English and Japanese languages on this point. The first thing you should know before you broach the subject is that the week in Japan starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday. This is just a detail, but it’s still good to know because most Japanese calendars follow this model. In this simple guide, you’ll also learn how to remember it easily. Let’s go!

1. When are the weekdays in Japan?

Weekdays are ordinary weekdays, excluding holidays (Sundays, national holidays, transfer holidays, national holidays, long holidays, etc., in general companies). They may exclude Saturday and include holidays and other weekdays. In the case of Japan, most schools, businesses, government agencies, etc., include “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, which don’t fall under national holidays/holidays, transfer holidays, year-end holidays and New Year, Golden Week, Obon Time, etc.” together. In most cases, the term “weekdays” is used. So if you go to work on Saturdays, Sundays, and national holidays, and one of the days from Monday to Friday is a vacation, it can be called a “weekday“.

Originally, “Saturday” was also a weekday, but with the introduction of the two-day week system, schools, businesses, government agencies, etc., that have Saturdays and Sundays as holidays have become the majority, and the number of schools, businesses, government agencies, etc., that are closed on Saturdays has increased.

2. Weekdays in company

The days of the week in Japan depend on the particular company, but usually, Monday through Friday are considered “weekdays”.

WeekdaysRemarks
Public Institution“Monday-Friday” excluding public holidaysBasically, excluding holidays
Transportation“Monday-Friday” excluding public holidaysIn the schedule of transportation means such as railroads and busses, “Monday-Friday” is set as the weekday schedule.
Office“Monday-Friday” excluding Public holidaysIt depends on each company
HotelMainly “Monday-Thursday” is a weekdayPrices tend to be higher on Saturdays, Sundays, and the day before holidays. Sometimes, Friday isn’t a “weekday”
DictionaryBasically, “Monday-Saturday” is a weekday stand.Often called “days other than Sundays and holidays” it means “Saturday can be excluded.”

3. Business hours & holidays

The opening hours of banks, post offices, department stores, as well as museums, parks and other public facilities in Japan may differ from those in your home country. These hours also vary throughout the country. Below is a rough overview of some of the more common businesses and services. However, be sure to check the websites for the opening hours of the places or facilities you plan to visit.

Weekdays SaturdaySunday & National Holiday
Bank 09:00-15:00    ClosedClosed
Post Office   09:00-17:00ClosedClosed
Department Store10:00-20:00 10:00-20:00 10:00-19:30
Shop10:00-20:0010:00-20:0010:00-20:00
Museum 10:00-17:00  10:00-17:00  10:00-17:00  
Office 09:00-17:00ClosedClosed

         

4. Holidays in Japan

In addition to regular national vacations, there are also extended vacation periods when almost the entire nation takes time off from the office to go to the beaches, and mountains or visit family. The last week of December through the first week of January, “Golden Week” [a few days in late April through May], and the “Obon Vacation” in mid-August are three of the major vacation periods. Many businesses are closed during the days around New Year’s Day.

During the Golden Week, there are many domestic and foreign travelers, while during the “Obon” vacation, much Japanese travel to their families in more rural areas of the country. Traffic and resorts are particularly busy at these times. Please look at the following list of the Japanese Public Holidays.

DateName of the Day
January 1stNew Year’s Holiday
2nd Monday of JanuaryComing-of-Age Day
February 11thNational Foundation Day
February 23rdThe Emperor’s Birthday
March 20th or March 21stVernal Equinox Day
April 29thShowa Day
May 3rdConstitution Memorial Day
May 4thGreenery Day
May 5thChildren Day
3rd Monday of July Marine Day
3rd Monday of SeptemberRespect for the Aged Day
September 22nd or September 23rdAutumnal Equinox Day
2nd Monday of OctoberHealth and Sports Day
November 3rdCulture Day
November 23rdLabor Thanksgiving Day

5. How to say the days of the week in Japanese?

Please look at the following table to know how to say the days of the week in Japanese.

EnglishKanjiHiraganaRomaji
Monday月曜日げつようびGetsuyoubi
Tuesday火曜日かようびKayoubi
Wednesday水曜日すいようびSuiyoubi
Thursday木曜日もくようびMokuyoubi
Friday金曜日きんようびKinyoubi
Saturday土曜日どようびDoyoubi
Sunday日曜日にちようびNichiyoubi

You may have noticed that all the names of the days of the week in Japanese consist of three kanji. The last two are always the same: just like in English, the word for each day of the week with day ようび [曜日]. Japanese word ようび [曜日] (youbi/ yōbi means “day” in English. It comes from the Chinese character 曜日. The word ようび [曜日] (youbi/ yōbi) is always appended to words denoting the days of the week.

6. The meaning behind words

The names of the days of the week have their origin in the seven celestial bodies of our solar system, which were known in ancient times. The sun, the moon and the planets Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. This model is also used in English. Each day of the week is associated with the same celestial body in English and Japanese. Please look at the following table to know the meaning of each day.

EnglishKanjiRomajiMeaningPlanet
Monday月曜日GetsuyoubiMoonMoon
Tuesday火曜日KayoubiFireMars
Wednesday水曜日SuiyoubiWaterMercury
Thursday木曜日MokuyoubiWoodJupiter
Friday金曜日KinyoubiGoldVenus
Saturday土曜日DoyoubiSoilSaturn
Sunday日曜日NichiyoubiSunSun

7. How to remember the days of the week in Japanese

Even the most talented language learner would have a hard time learning new vocabulary from just looking at a list of words. But we’ve broken it down for you with a short explanation behind the meaning of each day to help you remember the days of the week. Each day of the week is named after a combination of Chinese philosophies of yin-yang and the 5 Taoist elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water).

① Monday 月曜日 (Getsuyoubi)

In Japanese, Monday is written as 月曜日, which translates to “Moon Day” in English. Chinese character 月 (げつ/ Getsu) means “moon” as it represents the picture of a crescent moon. This is also the same character you’ll see with months in Japanese. You can also remember this word by thinking of Monday as the day that “gets” you up and ready for the week!

② Tuesday 火曜日 (Kayoubi)

Tuesday is 火曜日, which means “Fire Day” in English. To remember this day, think of Monday as your “warm-up day”. Once you’re all warmed up, you’re ready and fired up to go by Tuesday! The Chinese character 火 (か / ka) represents a picture of the flames of a burning fire with sparks. This philosophy gives the meaning “Fire Day” to 火曜日 (かようび / Kayoubi).

③ Wednesday 水曜日 (Suiyoubi)

In Japanese, Wednesday is written as 水曜日, which means “Water Day”. You can remember this day by imagining you’re putting out Tuesday’s fire with water on Wednesday. Chinese character 水 (すい / Sui) looks like a picture of flowing water. This gives 水曜日 (すいようび / Suiyoubi) the meaning “water day”.

④ Thursday 木曜日 (Mokuyoubi)

Thursday is written as 木曜日, which means “Wood Day”. You can remember this day as it “mocks” you with the weekend being so close! Chinese character 木 (もく / Moku) in 木曜日 (もくようび / Mokuyoubi) is like a picture of a tree and they give us wood.

⑤ Friday 金曜日 (Kinyoubi)

Friday is written as 金曜日, which means “Gold Day”. This day is easy to remember since Friday is the golden day, we all wait for every week! The philosophy behind the Chinese character 金 (きん / Kin) in金曜日 (きんようび / Kinyoubi) is that there’s a metal hidden in the earth that shines upon discovery. This means gold or metal.

⑥ Saturday 土曜日 (Doyoubi)

In Japanese, Saturday is 土曜日, which means “Ground Day”. For the Japanese word for Saturday, the Chinese character 土 (ど / Do) in 土曜日 (どようび / Doyoubi) signifies a picture of a mound of earth which was worshipped as the source of life in ancient times.

⑦ Sunday 日曜日 (Nichiyoubi)

In Japanese, Sunday is 日曜日, which translates to “Sun Day”. You’ll have no trouble memorizing this day since it’s identical to Sunday in English. Chinese character 日(にち / Nichi) in 日曜日 (にちようび / Nichiyoubi) means sun.

8. History of the day in Japan

The seven-day week system is said to have originated in ancient Babylonia, but each day of the week was created by ancient Rome. In Japan, also with the introduction of the Western calendar, names for the seven days of the week were adopted as well. They were partly derived from the Latin system. The Romans used the names of the seven planets of classical astronomy and numbered the days, beginning with Sunday. The East Asian naming system of weekdays is quite similar to the Latin system and is based on the “Seven Luminaries” (七曜 shichiyō), which consists of the Sun, Moon, and the five planets visible to the naked eye.

The five planets are named after the five elements in traditional East Asian philosophy: Fire (Mars), Water (Mercury), Wood (Jupiter), Metal (Venus), and Earth (Saturn). The Chinese transliteration of the planetary system was soon brought to Japan by the Japanese monk “Kobo Daishi” (弘法大師). Diaries of the Japanese statesman “Fujiwara no Michinaga” (藤原道長) show the seven-day system in use during the Heian Period. It was kept in use for astrological purposes until its promotion to a Western-style calendar during the Meiji era.

9. Other useful vocabularies you need to know

There will be times when you’ll need to know how to say, “Last week” or “Next month”. So here’s the vocabulary you need to know. The following is the basic vocabularies.

EnglishKanjiHiraganaRomaji
Today今日きょうKyou
Tomorrow明日あしたAshita
Yesterday昨日きのうKinou
The day after tomorrow明後日あさってAsatte
The day before yesterday一昨日おとといOtotoi
Everyday 毎日まいにちMainichi
This week今週こんしゅうKonshuu
Next week  来週らいしゅうRaishuu
Last week先週せんしゅうSenshuu
The weekend週末しゅうまつShuumatsu
Every week毎週まいしゅうMaishuu
A week ago1週間前いっしゅうかんまえIsshuukan-mae
3 weeks later3週間後さんしゅうかんごSanshuukan-go
This month今月こんげつKongetsu
Last month先月せんげつSengetsu
Next month来月らいげつRaigetsu
Every month毎月まいつきMaitsuki
Two months ago2か月前にかげつまえNikagetsu-mae
Three months later3か月後さんかげつごSankagetsu-go
This year今年ことしKotoshi
Last year去年きょねんKyonen
Next year来年らいねんRainen
The year before last一昨年おととしOtotoshi
The year after next再来年さらいねんSarainen
Every year毎年まいとしMaitoshi

There are some patterns here! Please look at the following example:

  • 先 (Sen or Saki) means “Previous”
  • 今 (Ima or Kon) means “Now” or “Current”
  • 来 (Rai) means “Coming”
  • 後 (Ato or Go) means “After”
  • 前 (Mae) means “Before”

Summarize

  • In Japan, most organization regards “Monday to Friday” as “Weekdays”, and Saturdays and Sundays as holidays.
  • Five planets are named after the five elements in the traditional East Asian philosophical system: Fire (Mars), Water (Mercury), Wood (Jupiter), Metal (Venus), and Earth (Saturn) were brought to Japan in the Heian period.
  • Every day of the week is related to the same celestial body in English and Japanese. Also, Each day of the week is named after a combination of Chinese philosophies of yin-yang, and the 5 Taoist elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water).
  • It is better to know how to learn not only “days of the week” but also other phrases such as “This week” and “Next month” to expand your conversation vocabulary more.

For further understanding about learning Japanese, please click the following link to get the other insightful article!

About Yuri Sensei 25 Articles
I am Yuri. I have worked for several companies, involved in assisting foreigners and teaching Japanese. I have also worked in Vietnam, teaching Japanese. I would like to help students abroad and teach Japanese culture. My hobbies are traveling abroad and sports, like tennis. Following excitement and discovering new things inspires me a lot. My joy in life is to help people overseas so that I can pass on the charm of Japanese culture.