Time in Japanese

Your guide to hours and minutes in Japanese

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Wondering how to tell the time in Japanese? You’ve come to the right place.

When you’re learning a new language, it’s so important to learn to tell time. How else will you keep appointments? Whether you’re seeing a movie or interviewing for a job, getting the hours and minutes right is a big deal.

The Japanese, like Germans, are famously punctual – so you’ll want to make extra sure you’re saying and understanding the time correctly. Fortunately, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you learn how to talk about time down to the minute.

The basics of telling time in Japanese

How we talk about time in Japanese

The first thing you need to know is the counters or units of measurement used in Japanese to talk about time. In Japanese, like in English, you can use military time (the 24-hour clock) or am and pm to discuss what time you’d like to meet up.

The first words you need to know are jikan – 時間 (じかん), ji – 時 (じ) and fun/pun – 分 (ふん or ぷん).

Talking about time in Japanese

Kanji Hiragana Romaji Meaning
時間 じかん jikan number of hours, time (noun)
ji hours (o’clock)
ふん / ぷん fun / pun minutes

Worth noting

Fun frequently changes to pun because of something called rendaku, which is where a sound sometimes becomes voiced when it is repeated or just because it… sounds right. It’s complicated, this isn’t the time or place to get too far into it, but trust us when we say you’ll want to learn when it’s fun and when it’s pun to be understood, and that eventually you’ll need to tackle the nitty-gritty of rendaku if you want to become fluent in Japanese.

Hours and minutes

The next thing you’ll need to know to competently chat about hours and minutes is how to count to 60 in Japanese! But, assuming you have a little knowledge of Japanese numbers and counting, you’ll be well set up to start telling time.

Here are all of the hours on the 12-hour clock in Japanese and a quick chart showing the basics of how hours work – plus a little refresher on the numbers, just in case. That said, it’s not uncommon to use roman numerals when writing hours and minutes in Japanese.

Japanese hours chart

Number Pronounced Kanji Time Pronounced Hiragana Kanji
1 ichi 1 o’clock ichiji いちじ 一時
2 ni 2 o'clock niji にじ 二時
3 san 3 o’clock sanji さんじ 三時
4 yon/shi 4 o’clock yoji よじ 四時
5 go 5 o’clock goji ごじ 五時
6 roku 6 o’clock rokuji ろくじ 六時
7 shichi/nana 7 o’clock shichiji しちじ 七時
8 hachi 8 o’clock hachiji はちじ 八時
9 kyu/ku 9 o’clock kuji くじ 九時
10 juu 10 o’clock juuji じゅうじ 十時
11 juu ichi 十一 11 o’clock juu ichi ji じゅういちじ 十一時
12 juu ni 十二 12 o’clock juu ni ji じゅうにじ 十二時

Take note: 4 o’clock breaks the convention, and 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock require a specific reading of 7 and 9.

Japanese minutes chart

MInutes Pronounced Hiragana Kanji
1 minute ippun いっぷん 一分
2 minutes ni-fun にふん 二分
3 minutes san-pun さんぷん 三分
4 minutes yon-pun よんふん 四分
5 minutes go-fun ごふん 五分
6 minutes roppun ろっぷん 六分
7 minutes nana-fun ななふん 七分
8 minutes happun はっぷん 八分
9 minutes kyu-fun きゅうふん 九分
10 minutes juppun じゅっぷん 十分
15 minutes juu go-fun じゅうごふん 十五分
20 minutes ni-juppun にじゅっぷん 二十分
30 minutes san-juppun さんじゅっぷん 三十分
40 minutes yon-juppun よんじゅっぷん 四十分
45 minutes yon-ju go-fun よんじゅうごふん 四十五分
50 minutes go-juppun ごじゅっぷん 五十分

Putting it all together

1:01 一時一分 いちじいっぷん ichiji ippun
12:35 十二時三十五分 じゅうにじさんじゅうごふん juu ni ji san-juu go-fun
7:23 七時二十三分 しちじにじゅうさんぷん shichiji ni-juu san-pun
5:10 五時十分 ごじじゅっぷん goji juppun
8:50 八時五十分 はちじごじゅっぷん hachiji go-juppun

You’ll notice that, when talking about time in Japanese, there’s no word for quarter, like we might say “quarter after” or “quarter to” (or “quarter of”, depending on where you’re from). Instead, it’s simply fifteen and forty five. Similarly, there’s no phrase for 5 after.

You can, however, say that it’s X number of minutes before an hour by saying fun mae (分前), mae (前) meaning “before.”

For example:

To say “5 minutes to 8” you’d say…

八時五分前

Hachiji go-fun mae

Breaking that down:

Kanji:
Hiragana: はち ふん まえ
Romaji: Hachi ji go -fun mae
English: Eight o'clock five minutes before

Still confused? Don’t worry, we’ll put more times into sentences shortly so you can see them in action.

But wait! What time is it right now?

First, take a second to figure it out (really). Then, consider the possibility that it’s time… to learn Japanese with award-winning online course content and help from native Japanese speakers on Busuu! What do you think?

Other time words

While there’s no quarter after, there is a way to say half past in Japanese! Instead of saying 30 minutes, we simply say han (半), meaning half. So 1:30 would be ichiji han, 一時半, no need to add the minutes with fun (分).

But what about all the other words we have that help us talk about time? Those exist in Japanese too. Here are several of the most common ones.

Words to express time in Japanese

English Pronounced Hiragana Kanji
am gozen ごぜん 午前
pm gogo ごご 午後
noon shougo しょうご 正午
midnight (also used to imply late night) shinya しんや 深夜
morning asa あさ
evening yuugata ゆうがた 夕方
daytime hiru ひる
nighttime yoru よる
sunrise hinode ひので 日の出
sunset nichibotsu にちぼつ 日没

The difference between ji and jikan

Wondering when you should use jikan instead of ji? While ji tells you the time, jikan is the word time itself (as in, “I have time tomorrow”), or can refer to a duration. That is, you’d say ji to say “I woke up at 8 o’clock” and jikan to say “I slept for 8 hours.”

How to ask “what time is it?” in Japanese

Now you know just about all the essentials of telling time! Let’s start pulling it all together. First, here’s how you can ask the time (if you happen to be in Japan without a watch).

What time is it?

今何時ですか。

いま なんじ ですか。

_Ima nanji desu ka.

_ And you could answer:

It is 3:15 pm.

午後三時十五分です。

ごごさんじじゅうごふんです。

Gogo sanji juu go-fun desu.

Yes, in this case we say ji instead of jikan. You can think of it as asking for the specific time on the clock rather than the concept of time – or you can just accept that’s how it’s said. Your choice.

Putting it in a sentence

Alright, last but certainly not least, it would probably be helpful to see how time – now that we know how to tell it – fits into a sentence. Let’s take a look at some examples.

I sleep until noon.

私は正午まで寝ます。

Watashi wa shougo made nemasu.

Yuji sleeps for 7 hours.

ゆうじは七時間寝ます。

Yuuji wa nana-jikan nemasu.

Dan wakes up at 7 o’clock in the morning.

ダンは 朝七時 に目を覚ます。

Dan wa asa shichiji ni meosamasu.

School starts at 8:30 am.

学校 は午前八時三十分に始まります。

Gakkou wa gozen hachiji san juppun ni hajimarimasu.

He calls at exactly 2:32 in the afternoon.

彼は午後二時三十二分に電話をかけます。

Kare wa gogo niji san-juu ni-fun choudo ni denwa o kakemasu.

Now, you’re ready to start telling the time in Japanese.

Whew! That was a lot, but look at you – you got through it all. Now that we’ve covered all the basics, it’s time to get practicing. Quick, what time is it now?

Need a little more time to learn?

We’ve got you covered. Learn Japanese counting, time, alphabet and so much more with Busuu’s award-winning online language learning course.