Let’s Learn: Numbers, Months, Weekdays, and Days!

I’ve been taking Japanese notes for a couple hours now. I’m a bit behind and I’m sure I’ll be up for most of the night copying down lesson 5’s notes into my small notebook, waking up tomorrow and doing the same thing again. You’ll know if I’m all caught up by next week since I’ll be making a post.

I was talking with one of my good friends, Tom, who said he needed some help for learning the days of the week. It took me a bit to remember them as well, so I thought, hey, why not do a post to help him (and others), with it? Not to mention, it’s an excuse for me to use Japanese and to teach people things! I LOVE teaching people things.

I’m breaking this up into four sections:
1.) Numbers
2.) Months
3.) Weekdays
4.) Days

After the numbers, they’re going from easiest to hardest.

Just as a heads up, I’m using kana and kanji in the next couple of sections. If you don’t know how to read kanji, that’s fine, as I’m putting the kana as well. If you don’t know how to read kana, however, go and find a chart and transcribe it yourself. You’ll learn something.

Section 1.) Numbers

Oh man, I LOVE numbers (すうじ) in Japanese! They’re probably a bit easier than English once you realize the pattern and, to me at least, are easier than numbers in Spanish or French. If you know basic math, Japanese numbers are pretty straight forward. Until you get to the hundreds. Then it gets a slightly bit more complicated, but not by much.

For numbers 1 through 10:

(Number – kanji – readings)

0 – ゼロ/れい

1 – 一 – いち

2 -二 – に

3 -三 – さん

4 -四 – よん・し

5 -五 – ご

6 – 六 – ろく

7 – 七 – なな・しち

8 – 八 – はち

9 -九 – きゅう・く

10 – 十 – じゅう

You might have noticed that a few of these words have two readings (4, 7, and 9, for instance). Depending on what they’re paired with, they read a different way. Such as if you wanted to say “9 o’clock”, you would write くじ (九時). If you wanted to say “9 years old”, you would write きゅうさい (九歳). When counting though, you usually go with the second readings I listed, so it seems, until you get to the double digits and up.

Then we get to the teens. It follows a VERY basic pattern. Basically, just take 10 plus another number (1 through 9) to get the teens.

So:

11 – 十一 – じゅういち

12 – 十二 – じゅうに

13 – 十三 – じゅうさん

etc. Yes, you’re right if you end on 十九 (じゅうきゅう). Use じゅうよん for 14, じゅうなな for 17, and I already gave you 19 for the ending example.

Very straight forward. I hope you’re getting this.

Anyway, then we get to 20. Do you remember those blue block rods of ten or those worksheets in school that showed a row of 10 block rods? When you put two of those block rods together, it equaled 20. When you put three of those block rods together, it equaled thirty. Basically, it’s the same concept in Japanese.

Twenty would be:
二十 – にじゅう (it’s like saying “two tens”)

Thirty would be:
三十 – さんじゅう (it’s like saying “three tens”)

Forty would be:
四十 – よんじゅう (it’s like saying “four tens”)

And so forth up until 90.

What if you wanted to say “21”? Simple!

二十一 – にじゅういち

Breaking that down, it’s a 2, a 10, and a 1. Think of it like 2 block rods of 10 plus 1 block (rather than a block rod).

二十二 – にじゅうに would be 22.

二十三 – にじゅうさん would be 23 and so on.

Very easy, right? If not, tell me. I’ll have you understanding it rather quickly!

Then we get into the higher digits, which is where things go slightly whacky. They are, for the most part, pretty straight forward. However, there’s a few sound changes based off what the counters (hundred, thousand, etc.).

If the counter starts with an “h” sound, then it usually changes “shape” after 3, 6, and 8.

If the counter starts with an “s” sound, then it sometimes changes “shape” after 3 and 8.

The first example of this is with 百 (ひゃく). Read carefully:

100 -百 – ひゃく

200 – 二百 – にひゃく

300 – 三百 – さんびゃく

400 – 四百 – よんひゃく

500 – 五百 – ごひゃく

600 -六百 – ろっぴゃく

700 – 七百 – ななひゃく

800 -八百 – はっぴゃく

900 – 九百 – きゅうひゃく

Did you see what happened? With 300, the ひゃ became びゃ. With 600 and 800, not only did ひゃ become ぴゃ, it also changed the shape for the “6” and the “8”, making them read as “ろ” and “は” respectively. (If you aren’t aware of what a small つ means, in this case, it’s indicating that the consonants is doubled: basically, ろっぴゃく is read as “roppyaku”.)

Thousand (千 – せん) is pretty much like above, except that 3000 and 8000 change in sound. I’ll be skipping numbers, assuming that you got the pattern down by now.

1000 -千 – せん

2000 – 二千 – にせん

3000 -三千 – さんぜん

6000 -六千 – ろくせん

8000 – 八千 – はっせん

Hopefully the difference is clear and that you got the pattern down.

Now, in English, the next numerical counter would be “million”. However, in Japanese, they have a counter for tens of thousands (万 – まん). What’s really nice about this counter is that nothing changes shape. There’s no oddities in the pattern.

10,000 – 一万 – いちまん

20,000 – 二万 – にまん

30,000 – 三万 – さんまん

100,000 – 十万 – じゅうまん

200,000 – 二十万 – にじゅうまん

1,000,000 – 百万 – ひゃくまん

Got it? Hopefully.

So, now you’re probably wondering how in the world you would say a large number like, let’s say, 123,456. Basically, break down the numbers into a math problem, like those block rods.

120,000 – 十二万 – じゅうにまん

+

3,000 – 三千 – さんぜん

+

400 – 四百 – よんひゃく

+

50 – 五十 – ごじゅう

+

6 – 六 – ろく

=

123,450 – 十二万三千四百五十六 – じゅうにまんさんぜんよんひゃくごじゅうろく

If your heads hurting now because of the math, I’m sorry. If not, YAY! It can be a bit confusing, but I’m sure you’ll be able to get it with practice!

Section 2.) Months

The months in Japanese are so straight forward, I wish that the Japanese names were the English ones. Am I the only one who ends up stopping about mid-way writing out the months in English because they’re annoyingly long and my mind doesn’t feel like remembering the spellings half the time?

Anyway, the Japanese words for months are a number + 月(がつ – meaning “month”; the kanji also means “moon”, but in this case, all we want to know is that it means month).

January – 一月- いちがつ

February – 二月 – にがつ

March – 三月 – さんがつ

April – 四月 – しがつ

May – 五月 – ごがつ

June – 六月 – ろくがつ

July – 七月 – しちがつ

August – 八月 – はちがつ

September – 九月 – くがつ

October – 十月 – じゅうがつ

November – 十一月 – じゅういちがつ

December – 十二月 – じゅうにがつ

That’s laughably easy to remember, isn’t it? You can basically read 一月 as “the first month” and so on. I bolded the three that you might have to work your mind a bit to remember. The sound of がつ does not change, but the number is pronounced a bit differently than some of the other counters.

By the way, you can write out these words as 1月, 2月, etc.. Makes life just that much easier! I recommend fully writing it out for practice though!

Section 3.) Weekdays

The weekdays in Japanese are a bit harder to remember, but once you get them, they stick. Especially if you write them over and over again in kanji.

The weekdays in Japanese are:

Sunday – 日曜日 – にちようび

Monday – 月曜日 – げつようび

Tuesday – 火曜日 – かようび

Wednesday – 水曜日 – すいようび

Thursday – 木曜日 – もくようび

Friday – 金曜日 – きんようび

Saturday – 土曜日 – どようび

You’re probably looking at them like “WTF” and want to back away. Especially looking at the kanji, oh boy. But do you know what? It’s really not that bad.

Let me break it down for you:
The VERY FIRST kanji for all the weekdays is some sort of element, for the most part. The second kanji, 曜, means “weekday”, while the third, 日, means “day” (it means “sun” as well). So you can essentially think of the word being read as “the day of [element/etc. here]”.

Of course, that doesn’t help you too much in remembering which Japanese word goes to which weekday. Well, here’s how to remember them in a rather easyish manner:

1.) Sunday – 日曜日 – にちようび
Kanji breakdown –
日 “sun/day”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – The sun (日) of the weekday (曜日)
Explanation/Other – This one, as well as “Monday”, is pretty easy to remember, as it sort of contains the same words as English does. The English word for “Sunday” contains the words “sun” and “day” in it. The Japanese word does as well (not to mention, the word for “sun” and “day” in Japanese is the same thing!)

2.) Monday – 月曜日 – げつようび
Kanji breakdown –
月 “moon”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – Monday is the day (曜日) of the moon (月).
Explanation/Other – Monday is basically “Moonday” without a second “o”. The word origin of the word “Monday” comes from a word involving the moon.

Make sure you pay attention to the reading! The reading for 月 is VERY similar to the one for month, with a slight sound change. Make sure you’re not getting it confused!

3.) Tuesday – 火曜日 – かようび
Kanji breakdown –
火 “fire”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – The god of war, Teiwaz, set the day of Tuesday on fire (火).
Explanation/Other – Unfortunately, etymology reasons couldn’t really even come up with a mnemonic for this. The weekday in English, Tuesday, is named after a god of war. There’s no fire associated with them. However, fires can start during warfare, so let’s just go with that for remembering, shall we?

4.) Wednesday – 水曜 日 – すいようび
Kanji breakdown –
水 “water”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – Water (水) Wednesday.
Explanation/Other – I could have done a Sailor Moon reference here, but I don’t think mentioning “Mercury” would do any good when talking about the word “Wednesday”, unless we were talking about etymology for other language’s Wednesday. The best I could come up with for the mnemonic was how both “Wednesday” and “Water” start with “w”. Hence, Water Wednesday!

5.) Thursday – 木曜日 – もくようび
Kanji breakdown –
木 “tree”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – Thunor (Thor) planted a tree (木) on his day.
Explanation/Other – Etymology became useful in this one! You see, Thunor is a Norse god that just happened to be associated with trees. Thursday is named after him. Therefore, we get that he planted a tree on his day (Thursday).

6.) Friday – 金曜日 – きんようび
Kanji breakdown –
金 “gold; money”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – Friday is the day we get paid in gold (金).
Explanation/Other – A lot of workplaces pay people on Friday, which is the last day of the week before the weekend. 金 is the kanji for money and for gold. Hence we put the two together!

7.) Saturday – 土曜日 – どようび
Kanji breakdown –
土 “soil”
曜日 “weekday”
Mnemonic – Saturn’s soil (土) made the crops grow.
Explanation/Other – Saturday is named after the Roman God, Saturn, who was the god of agriculture. In order to grow crops, you need soil. The Japanese word for “Saturday” contains the kanji/word for “soil” in it. Hence the mnemonic.

Not so scary, now is it, when it’s broken down? Just keep practicing them and you’ll get them rather quickly. Once you get these down, you can drop the 曜日 (ようび) portion and just leave the first kanji there! It’s how I notice a lot of things display them, like my phone.

Section 4.) Days

I’m tired and I’m sure you are too, especially after reading this entire post, if you did that is. You’re probably even more tired if you had to go back and forth between a kana chart just to read what I wrote. I would say I’m mean for not putting romaji, but it’s for your own good!

This last section is basically about the days of the month – you know, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. of the month?

To be honest, I haven’t really caught onto these myself. I’m hoping by typing them here, I’ll have a better grasp on them.

In Japanese, nearly every kanji has multiple readings.

For instance, 一 isn’t just read as いち, but as いっ and ひと as well. 二 isn’t read as just に, but ふた as well. The list goes on and on. That’s why when you see what I’m going to show you, don’t be surprised by the drastic changes in the way the words look!

So, for the first ten days of the month, you say:

一日 – ついたち – the first
二日 – ふつか – the second
三日 – みっか – the third
四日 – よっか – the fourth
五日 – いつか – the fifth
六日 – むいか – the sixth
七日 – なのか – the seventh
八日 – ようか – the eighth
九日 – ここのか – the ninth
十日 – とおか – the tenth

Headache inducing to remember, isn’t it? If it doesn’t seem like that now, just wait.

So, after the first 10 days, you use the number + 日(にち) to say what day it is. For instance:

十一日 – じゅういちにち – the eleventh
十二日 – じゅうににち – the twelfth
十三日 – じゅうさんにち – the thirteenth

and so on…

The only exception is “the twentith”, which would be:

二十日 – はつか – the twentith

If you’re like me, you look at the first ten days and have to ask “JAPANESE, Y U NO STRAIGHT FORWARD FOR THE FIRST TEN DAYS?!”. I really hate the way those days are said. Especially 一日. I learned the other readings of the kanji a while back, so I could sort of easily play around with the combinations until I got it, but the reading ついたち feels like it’s out of no where for me.

Ah well.

I need to learn it anyway.

The twentith isn’t that bad, considering 20 seems to be a special number in Japanese. Even saying “20 years old”, as in referring to one’s age, has a special pronunciation.

Anyway, I hope this long post was super helpful. Feel free to comment!