The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Japanese calendar

Since January 1, 1873, Japan has used the Gregorian Calendar, with local names for the months and mostly fixed holidays. Before 1873 a lunisolar calendar was in use, which was adapted from the Chinese calendar.



Since the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, three different systems for counting years have been used in Japan:

  • The Western Christian Era (西暦) designation
  • The Japanese era name (元号) based on the reign of the current emperor, the year 2004 being Heisei 16
  • The imperial year (皇紀) based on the mythical founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu in 660BC

Of the these three, the first two are still in current use; the imperial calendar was used until the end of World War II, though still maintained in some official contexts.


The modern Japanese names for the months literally translate to "first month," "second month," and so on. The corresponding number is combined with the suffix -gatsu (month):

  • January - ichigatsu
  • February - nigatsu
  • March - sangatsu
  • April - shigatsu
  • May - gogatsu
  • June - rokugatsu
  • July - shichigatsu
  • August - hachigatsu
  • September - kugatsu
  • October - jūgatsu
  • November - jūichigatsu
  • December - jūnigatsu

In addition, every month has a traditional name, still used by some in fields such as poetry; of the twelve, shiwasu is still widely used today. The opening paragraph of a letter or the greeting in a speech might borrow one of these names to convey a sense of the season. Some, such as yayoi and satsuki, do double duty as given names (for women). These month names also appear from time to time on jidaigeki, which are contemporary television shows and movies set in the Edo period or earlier.

Here is a list of the traditional names.

The name of month: (pronunciation, literal meaning)

  • January - 睦月 (mu tsuki)
  • February - 如月 or 衣更着 (kisaragi or kinusaragi )
  • March - 弥生 (yayoi)
  • April - 卯月 (uzuki)
  • May - 皐月 or 早月 or 五月(satsuki)
  • June - 水無月 (mina tsuki or mina zuki, no water month)
  • July - 文月 (fumi zuki, book month)
  • August - 葉月 (ha zuki, leaf month)
  • September - 長月 (naga tsuki, long month)
  • October - 神無月 (kan'na zuki or kamina zuki, no god month), 神有月 or 神在月; (kamiari zuki, god month) only in Izumo province, where all the gods are believed to gather in October for an annual meeting at the Izumo Shrine.
  • November - 霜月 (shimo tsuki, frost month)
  • December - 師走 (shiwasu, teachers run; it is named so because even teachers are busy at the end of a year.)

Days of the month

Each day of the month has a semi-systematic but irregularly formed name:

1 一日 tsuitachi 2 二日 futsuka
3 三日 mikka 4 四日 yokka
5 五日 itsuka 6 六日 muika
7 七日 nanoka 8 八日 yōka
9 九日 kokonoka 10 十日 tōka
11 十一日 jūichinichi 12 十二日 jūninichi
13 十三日 jūsannichi 14 十四日 jūyokka
15 十五日 jūgonichi 16 十六日 jūrokunichi
17 十七日 jūshichinichi 18 十八日 jūhachinichi
19 十九日 jūkunichi 20 二十日 hatsuka (occasionally, nijūnichi)
21 二十一日 nijūichinichi 22 二十二日 nijūninichi
23 二十三日 nijūsannichi 24 二十四日 nijūyokka
25 二十五日 nijūgonichi 26 二十六日 nijūrokunichi
27 二十七日 nijūshichinichi 28 二十八日 nijūhachinichi
29 二十九日 nijūkunichi 30 三十日 sanjūnichi
31 三十一日 sanjūichinichi

In the traditional calendar, the thirtieth was the last day of the month, and its traditional name, misoka, survives (although sanjunichi is far more common, and is the usual term). The last day of the year is ōmisoka (the big thirtieth day), and that term is still in use.

Days of the week

月曜日 getsuyōbi Moon Monday
火曜日 kayōbi Fire Tuesday
水曜日 suiyōbi Water Wednesday
木曜日 mokuyōbi Wood Thursday
金曜日 kinyōbi Metal/Gold Friday
土曜日 doyōbi Earth Saturday
日曜日 nichiyōbi Sun Sunday


Notes: Single days between two national holidays are taken as a bank holiday. This applies to May 4, which is a holiday each year. When a national holiday falls on a Sunday the following Monday is being taken as a holiday.

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day 元日  
Moveable Monday Coming-of-age Day 成人の日 2nd Monday of January
February 11 National Foundation Day 建国記念日  
March 20 or 21 Vernal Equinox Day 春分の日  
April 29 Greenery Day みどりの日 Golden Week
May 3 Constitution Memorial Day 憲法記念日
May 4 National Holiday  
May 5 Children's Day 子供の日
Moveable Monday Maritime Day 海の日 3rd Monday of July
Moveable Monday Respect for the Aged Day 敬老の日 3rd Monday of September
September 23 or 24 Autumnal Equinox Day 秋分の日  
Moveable Monday Health-Sports Day 体育の日 2nd Monday of October
November 3 Culture Day 文化の日  
November 23 Labor Thanksgiving Day 勤労感謝の日  
December 23 The Emperor's Birthday 天皇誕生日  

The list and the table are to be merged.

The list of national holidays:

This table includes 雑節 (Zassetsu), 二十四節気 (24 Sekki) and some others.

(Except 中元 (chūgen) and お盆 (obon), days vary according to the year.)

Some of these names are still used quite frequently in everyday life in Japan. It is common that daily weather reports use 冬至 (Tōji).

Seasonal festivals

The following are known as the five seasonal festivals (sekku 節句)


The rokuyō (六曜) are a series of six days that predict whether there will be good or bad fortune during that day. The rokuyō are still commonly found on Japanese calendars today, and are often used to plan weddings and funerals. The rokuyō are also known as the rokki (六輝). In order, they are:

  • 先勝 (senshō) - Good luck before noon, bad luck after noon
  • 友引 (tomobiki) - Bad things will happen to your friends. Funerals avoided on this day.
  • 先負 (senbu) - Bad luck before noon, good luck after noon
  • 仏滅 (butsumetsu) - Most unlucky day. Weddings best avoided.
  • 大安 (taian) - Most lucky day. Good day for weddings.
  • 赤口 (shakkō) - The hour of the horse (11 am - 1 pm) is lucky. The rest is bad luck.

See also

External links

  • Japanese calendar history by the National Diet Library
  • The Lunar Calendar in Japan
  • Koyomi no page in Japanese
  • Koyomi no hanashi in Japanese

Last updated: 02-09-2005 10:06:22
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55