How to Write Dates in the Japanese Calendar

  • HOW TO
  • Do you know how to write the date in Japanese? It is not that easy, considering that there are various ways to state the date. Though standards are being introduced, some countries have different orders. In Europe, i.e. the date starts with the day, then the month and last the year. June 20th, 2015 would be 20.06.2015, while in the US it would be 06.20.2015. For the case of Japanese, they use two calendars: the modern Gregorian calendar and the Japanese traditional calendar, called the nengo (年号) system.

    Japanese Calendar

    Most of the times, dates are written similar to the European approach, ordering the components according to their “size”, but in reverse order, starting with the biggest component: year/month/day. The tricky part is the use of Kanji characters for the day, month and year. June 20th, 2015 would be 2015年6月20日.
    年 (nen) means “year”, 月 (gatsu) “month” and 日(nichi) means “day”, though the reading (“nichi”) depends on the day and might vary.

    Special readings are for the following days:
    1日 tsuitachi – first
    2日 futsuka – second
    3日 mikka – third
    4日 yokka – forth
    5日 itsuka – fifth
    6日 muika – sixth
    7日 nanoka – seventh
    8日 youka – eighth
    9日 kokonoka – nineth
    10日 tooka – tenth
    from 11日 (juichi nichi) “nichi” is used. Exceptions for 20日 which is read “hatsuka”.

    The Japanese traditional calendar, in English, referred to the “imperial calendar”, is connected to the Japanese era name. Each era starts with the reign of an emperor. The current era is “heisei” (平成) which started in 1989. Mostly used in formal situations (like wedding invitations, celebrations, postal stamps etc.) and by the government for official papers. The date on money is also using the nengo system.

    These 500 yen coins have the date “平成二十六年,” which is heisei 26 or the year 2014. In casual writing, people write the month first, then a long slash and the day.