Knowing how to tell time or ask about time is an important everyday life skill to have, no matter where you are in the world. You've got places to be, meetings to go to, trains, planes, or buses to catch, or you simply just want to know, what time is it?!
When you're visiting or living in Japan, it's a vital skill to tell time in Japanese. The Japanese are sticklers for time, and everything in Japan runs like clockwork, and people are also expected to. It is considered rude and unprofessional to be late for anything, and no forms of transportation will wait for you, so you'd best be on time!
This article will cover all the different ways to tell the time in Japanese and give you useful basic vocabulary and Japanese time phrases to communicate about time in general. Let's go learn Japanese!
Japan uses both the 12-hour clock system and the 24-hour clock system. The 24-hour clock is used mainly for transportation purposes such as train, plane, or bus schedules, so it's important to learn both. In Japan, they use Arabic numerals for time, making reading much easier.
|11 o’clock||十一時||じゅういちじ||jū ichi-ji|
|12 o’clock||十二時||じゅうにじ||jū ni-ji|
*Hiragana is a more widely used form of Japanese writing.
When speaking to others about time in general circumstances, you'll use the 12-hour clock. When discussing or asking about transportation, you'll need to use the 24-hour clock system.
Thankfully Arabic numbers are used to tell the time in Japan, which will make telling 24-hour times much easier. However, sometimes they may be presented in a slightly different way.
To read a 24-hour clock in Japan could be as simple as 15:40. See, easy! It's just like it is in English. However, sometimes it may be presented as 15時40分.
If you refer to the symbols from important time vocabulary at the start of this article, you'll notice that 時 (ju) means hour and 分 (pun) means minutes. Therefore 15時40分 means 15 hours 40 minutes.
To say 15時40分 in Japanese, you'd say じゅうごじ よんじゅっぷん (ju-go-gee-yon-jup-pun). You would state the hour first, followed by the hour value, the number of minutes, and end by stating minutes.
Presented in this table is how to read numbers in kanji. Kanji is a system of Japanese writing that uses Chinese characters. Also presented is Sino-Japanese. It also comes from Chinese origins. Sino-Japanese is used for numbers because native-Japanese numbers only exist up to 10.
|4||し、よん||四||shi / yon|
|7||しち、なな||七||shichi / nana|
|9||く、きゅう||九||ku / kyuu|
Once you get beyond 10, the Japanese use a different counting system where the tens and ones are added together to form a new number. For example:
11 is 十 plus 一 which makes 十 一 (10 + 1 = 11)
12 is 十 plus 二 which makes 十 二 (10 + 2 = 12)
Numbers such as 20, 30, 40, etc..., are formed similarly:
20 is 二 plus 十 which means two tens, hence 20.
30 is 三 plus 十 which means three tens, hence 30.
When combined to form a number such as 41, the numbers look like this:
41 is 四 plus 十 plus 一 which makes 四十一 (four tens + 1 = 41)
AM - 午前 - go-zen (morning)
PM - 午後 - go-go (afternoon)
Seconds - 秒 - be-yo
Minute - 分 - pun
Hour - 時 - toe-key
Half - 半 - han
Time - 時間 - gee-gun
If you are expecting the arrival of a person or a package, you may be asked, How long until _ gets here? In this example, you may be asked to respond in 2 hours or 5 hours. Here's how you can respond appropriately and to the point.
|1 hour||一時間||いちじかん||ichi jikan|
|2 hours||二時間||にじかん||ni jikan|
|3 hours||三時間||さんじかん||san jikan|
|4 hours||四時間||よじかん||yo jikan|
|5 hours||五時間||ごじかん||go jikan|
|6 hours||六時間||ろくじかん||roku jikan|
|7 hours||七時間||しちじかん/ななじかん||shichi jikan /nana jikan|
|8 hours||八時間||はちじかん||hachi jikan|
|10 hours||十時間||じゅうじかん||juu jikan|
You may find yourself answering questions such as when will the movie start? Or when will the next train arrive? To answer these questions in Japanese, you'll need to know how to say the numbers and terms for hours and minutes.
Well, half an hour isn't a phrase used in Japan. Instead, they use the symbol 半 to indicate half past or thirty minutes past the hour.
For example, if you wanted to express 1:30 in Japanese, simply add 半 after the hour.
1:30 = 1 時半 / Ichi Ji han (one hour half)
3:30 = 3 時半 / San Ji han (3 hour half)
Like with half past, there's no expression for quarter past or quarter to in Japanese. You would simply state the actual time. For example, 7:15 would be 7時15分 (shichi-ju-go-pun) or seven hours and fifteen minutes.
Although it's likely a rare scenario where you would need to know how to refer to time in seconds, this information may come in handy.
|1 second||一秒||いちびょう||ichi be yo|
|2 seconds||二秒||にびょう||ni be yo|
|3 seconds||三秒||さんびょう||san be yo|
|4 seconds||四秒||よんびょう||yon be yo|
|5 seconds||五秒||ごびょう||go be yo|
|6 seconds||六秒||ろくびょう||roku be yo|
|7 seconds||七秒||ななびょう||nana be yo|
|8 seconds||八秒||はちびょう||hachi be yo|
|9 seconds||九秒||きゅうびょう||kyuu be yo|
|10 seconds||十秒||じゅうびょう||juu be yo|
These nouns and phrases relating to times of day may help explain or understand when certain events are happening throughout any given day.
|evening / night||夜||よる||yoru|
What time is it? 今何時です/ Imananjidesuka?
How long until the train arrives? / 電車が到着するまでの時間 / Densha ga tōchaku suru made dore kurai kakarimasu ka?
When will the movie start? / 映画はいつ始まりますか / Eiga wa itsu hajimarimasu ka?
What time are we meeting? / 何時に会いますか/ Nan ji ni aimasu ka?
What time is lunch? / 昼食は何時ですか/ Chūshoku wa itsudesuka?
When will I see you? / いつお会いしましょうか/ Itsu o ai shimashou ka?
The current time is… / 現在の時刻は / Genzai no jikoku wa
The train will arrive at… / 電車は到着します / Densha wa tōchaku shimasu
The movie will start in… / 映画はで始まります / Eiga wa de hajimarimasu
We will meet at… / で会います / De aimasu
Lunch is at… / 昼食は / Chūshoku wa
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We hope we've given you enough examples to tell the time in Japanese. When you visit Japan, you will be able to communicate and not miss any appointments!