May 27, 2021

How to Tell Time in Japanese

Do you know what time it is? It’s Howdy Doody Japanese time!

Telling the time in Japanese isn’t too difficult, but it takes some practice. Before you continue with this lesson, you will need to know the basics of counting in Japanese. Don't know numbers or how to count? No problem, learn how to count in Japanese here.

Very simply, the formula is:

Hour number + 時 ji + Minutes number + 分 fun (minute):



時間 jikan time

午後 gogo afternoon; P.M.

午前 gozen morning; A.M.

mae before

半 han half

But... there are two slight hang-ups:

  1. The 分 (minute) sound changes with some numbers, and
  2. Some numbers also have sound changes

I highly recommend spending a few minutes studying the chart below. Repetition spaced over time leads to stronger memorization. Come back to this chart tomorrow and repeat from one minute to eleven again.

1 minute
ni fun
2 minutes
san pun
3 minutes
yon pun
4 minutes
go fun
5 minutes
6 minutes
nana fun
7 minutes
happun or hachifun
8 minutes
kyuu fun
9 minutes
10 minutes
juu ippun
11 minutes

* irregular pronunciations

What changes?

Two things:

  1. Number sounds
  2. 分 (minute) sounds

If you look at the lines above with a *, you'll see the number sound is changed in 1, 6, 8 (sometimes) and 10. Otherwise, you just say the number as you would normally. Observe:

Normal Number Sound:
Changed Number Sound:
一 ichi (1)
六 roku (6)
八 hachi (8) 
十 juu (10)
一分 ippun (1 minute)
六分 roppun (6 minutes)
八分 happun (8 minutes) [or often はちふん hachifun]
十分 juppun (10 minutes) [or じっぷん jippun (this is mostly heard in news broadcasts]

Next, notice how the 分 "fun" (the minute marker) changes. This may vary by region or dialect, but in standard Japanese, these numbers are affected: 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10

Affected Numbers: 

#1) 一分 ippun (1 minute)
#3) 三分 san pun  (3 minutes)
#4) 四分 yon pun  (4 minutes)
#6) 六分 roppun (6 minutes)
#8) 八分 happun (or often はちふん) (8 minutes)
#10) 十分 juppun (10 minutes)

Again, please spend time reviewing and repeating the numbers in the blue box. Eventually, you'll have these memorized and you won't think twice about which sound to use.

How to say Minutes in Japanese:

Here are a few time examples. Can you understand how they are constructed?

Refer to the charts above and to the right to understand how these are constructed.


六時 三十ぷん
rokuji sanjuupun

六時 半
rokuji han

六時 三十一分
rokuji sanjuu ippun

6:45 P.M.
午後 六時 四十五分
gogo rokuji yonjuugo fun

7 A.M.
午前 七時
gozen shichiji

15 ’til 7
七時 十五分 前
shichiji juugo fun mae

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Unlike in English, the AM and PM (gozen and gogo) are said before the number.
  • Numbers after ten follow the same pattern as 1-10. For example 21 minutes is "ni juu ippun" [That's, nijuuichi for 21, but the "ichi" changes sounds before the "pun": nijuuippun]
  • 前 mae (before) is used to mean, "(some number of minutes) before (the hour)"; it comes after the time
  • 半 han (half) is used for the half hour; it comes after the hour

Did you get how those examples were constructed? If not, leave us a comment with any questions. 

Sharing is caring!

  • What are the rules when saying numbers like 15 minutes would it be “ふん” or “ぷん” since 5 is “ふん” and 10 is “ぶん”

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