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Time Squares: Speaking About Duration

Time Squares: Speaking About Duration

Submitted by Richard Manjiro


Japanese does not have an entirely consistent pattern for speaking about units of calendar time: days, weeks, months, and the like. For example, “last week” is sen-shu ; “last year” is kyo-nen . However, when written, many concepts are represented by the same kanji . For this reason, this article has been organized into conceptual units so that these basic connections between the spoken and written language can be understood. For simplicity, formal or uncommon expressions have been omitted.

Each kanji usually has at least two readings ( yomi ). For example, the kanji for year is 年 : (on) nen , (kun) toshi . When we say “this year” its ko-toshi ( 今年 ), but when we say “last year” its kyo-nen ( 去年 ). Notice how different readings are used for the same kanji in these two expressions. This helps to promote the difficulty of the language, and this article has been put together because of these discrepancies. However, the careful reader will notice many general patterns, and this useful vocabulary will help to skill up your Japanese.



Morning ” 朝 : (kun) あさ (on) ちょう


morning – asa
this morning – kesa
tomorrow morning – ashita no asa, asu no asa
every morning – mai-asa
breakfast – ch ô shoku, asa-gohan

Noon ” 昼 : (kun) ひる (on) ちゅう
Noon ” 午 : ご (on only)

noon (midday) – hiru ni
noon (12:00) – shogo ( 正午 )
daytime – hiruma
afternoon – gogo
this afternoon – kyo no gogo
lunch – ch û shoku, hiru-gohan

Night ” 夜 : (kun) よる (on) や
Evening ” 晩 : ばん (on only)

night – yoru
evening – ban
tonight – konya
tomorrow night – asu no yoru
last night – sakuya
every night – mai-ban (lit. “every evening”)
dinner – yushoku , ban-gohan



“Day” 日 : (kun) にち , じつ (on) び , ひ , か , etc.

sun – hi
today – ky ô
tomorrow – ashita
yesterday – kin ô
all day – ichi-nichi-jyu
every day – mai-nichi
weekday – hei-jitsu ( 平日 )
birthday – tanjobi ( 誕生日 )
day before yesterday – ototoi, ototsui
day after tomorrow – asatte
several days – su-jitsu , nan-nichi mo

“Week” 週 : しゅう

week– sh û
this week – kon-sh û
last week – sen-sh û
next week – rai-sh û
all week – ishukanzuto
every week – mai-sh û

for < # > weeks (duration) – < # > shu-kan no
several weeks – su-shu-kan , nan-shu-kan mo
weekend – sh û matsu

(Note: --sh û matsu is understood; however, Japanese usually refer to the “weekend” as yasumi –rest, break, day-off– which English-speaking Japanese often translate as “holiday,” occasionally creating some confusion.)

“Month” 月 : (kun) つき (on) げつ , がつ , etc.

moon – tsuki
month – gatsu, getsu
this month – kongetsu
last month – sengetsu
next month – raigetsu
all month – hitotsu-ki-zuto
every month – mai-tsuki

for < # > months (duration) – < # > ka getsu kan

several months – nan-ka-getsu mo
< # > months ago – < # > ka getsu mae

“Year” 年 : (kun) ねん (on) とし

this year – kotoshi
last year – kyonen
next year – rainen
every year – mainen , maitoshi
all year – ichi-nen-jyu

for < # > years (duration) – < # > nen kan

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My Japanese partner and I were just discussing some of these in the car last night.

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