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Tell Time In Japanese: #1 Easy Guide

May 10, 2022

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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!

 

Which Clock System Is Used In Japan?

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.

The 12 Hour Clock System In Japan

Tell Time in Japanese
English KanjiHiraganaPronunciation
1 o’clock一時いちじichi-ji
2 o’clock二時にじni-ji
3 o’clock三時さんじsan-ji
4 o’clock四時よじyo-ji
5 o’clock五時ごじgo-ji
6 o’clock六時ろくじroku-ji
7 o’clock七時しちじshichi-ji
8 o’clock八時はちじhachi-ji
9 o’clock九時くじku-ji
10 o’clock十時じゅうじjū-ji
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.

The 24 Hour Clock System In Japan

Tell Time in Japanese

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.

 

Learning Numbers 1-10 In Japanese

Tell Time in Japanese

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.

English Sino-JapaneseKanjiPronunciation
1いちichi
2ni
3さんsan
4し、よんshi / yon
5go
6ろくroku
7しち、ななshichi / nana
8はちhachi
9く、きゅうku / kyuu
10じゅうjuu

How To Count Beyond 10 In Japanese

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)

 

Important Time Vocabulary In Japanese

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

How To Say Hours In Japanese

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.

English KanjiHiraganaPronunciation
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
9 hours九時間くじかんku-jikan
10 hours十時間じゅうじかんjuu jikan

How To Say Minutes In Japanese

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.

English KanjiHiraganaPronunciation
1 minute一分いっぷんippun
2 minutes二分にふんni-fun
3 minutes三分さんぷんsan-pun
4 minutes四分よんふんyon-fun
5 minutes五分ごふんgo-fun
6 minutes六分ろっぷんroppun
7 minutes七分ななふんnana-fun
8 minutes八分はっぷんhappun
9 minutes九分きゅうふんkyū-fun
10 minutes十分じゅっぷんjuppun
20 minutes二十分にじゅっぷんni-juppun
30 minutes三十分さんじゅっぷんsan-juppun
40 minutes四十分よんじゅっぷんyon-juppun
50 minutes五十分ごじゅっぷんgo-juppun

How To Say Half An Hour In Japanese

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)

How To Say Quarter Past Or Quarter To In Japanese

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.

How To Say Seconds In Japanese

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.

EnglishKanjiHiraganaPronunciation
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

 

Useful References To Time Of Day In Japanese

These nouns and phrases relating to times of day may help explain or understand when certain events are happening throughout any given day.

Tell Time in Japanese
EnglishKanjiHiraganaPronunciation
morningあさasa
early morning早朝そうちょうsōchō
sunrise日の出ひのでhinode
noon正午しょうごshōgo
midday日中にっちゅうnicchū
early evening夕方ゆうがたyūgata
sunset日没にちぼつnichibotsu
evening / nightよるyoru
midnight深夜しんやshin’ya

 

Some Important Questions To Help You With The Time In Japanese

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?

 

Some Important Japanese Phrases To Help You Answer Questions About Time

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

 

Turns Out, Telling Time In Japanese Isn't That Difficult!

Tell Time in Japanese

It makes you wonder if learning Japanese as a language is just as easy. Well, it certainly can be! If you learn the Japanese language with Ling, you'll find it simple and fun. 

With Ling, you'll learn everything from telling time in Japanese in real-life contexts, holding entire conversations, writing in Japanese, and learning proper pronunciation so you can sound just like a native speaker.

With only up to 15 minutes a day, you can be speaking Japanese (or any of the 60 plus other languages our app offers. Check it out now!

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!

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