Japanese calendar

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The Japanese calendar is a system for dividing time , which largely emerged from the Chinese calendar , but had a number of peculiarities typical of the country. The system was changed to the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1873 in the course of the Meiji Restoration, with some special features.


Year counting

Counting methods

Four different ways of counting the year existed in Japan:

  • the Gengō system ( 元 号 ) originating from China , which was based on eras which were characterized by a motto ( 年号 , Nengō ),
  • the system of signs of the zodiac , also from China , which is repeated periodically every sixty years,
  • the western calendar ( 西 暦 , seireki , lit. "western calendar"), which begins with the birth of Jesus ( Anno Domini ) and
  • the derived kōki ( 皇 紀 , literally "imperial record; imperial age"), which the Japanese Empire was founded 660 BC. . AD as age increases.

Gengō (Nengō)

In ancient Japan, the Gengō system was adopted from China. In this, a new era was proclaimed by the Tennō on certain occasions such as his accession to the throne or other events, which was characterized by a certain motto ( nengō ).

Before 1868, nengō could be changed at any time. Many only lasted a few years, so the system is extremely confusing.

The first year ( 元年 , gannen ) of a new era begins since the alignment with the western calendar in 1873 with the assumption of office of a new emperor ( Tennō ), but ends on December 31, so that the calendar year in which the emperor changes belongs to two eras. From the Meiji Restoration until 2019 there were five eras / annual currencies:

The years are counted anew from 1 for each era. The year 2018 corresponds to Heisei 30 according to the Japanese calendar.

In official Japanese documents from the end of the war in 1945, by order of the Allied occupying powers, the western year count was used; since June 6, 1979, the Japanese have been legally valid again. Modern history also uses the western year counting in Japan, especially for years before 1868. In everyday life, however, the Japanese counting method is more common.

The order year - month - day is used for dates . The date 16/01/07, for example, denotes the seventh day in the first month of the year Heisei 16, i.e. January 7th, 2004. For better clarity, the first letters of the name of the archer are often prefixed, for example H16.01 denotes January 2004 or S62. 11 November 1987.

Many modern Japanese who are critical of the imperial court, especially its history, consider the use of the nengō to be backward. The use here also has a clear political message: The user of the nengō is assumed to have an affinity for the Tennō.

For the names of the individual Japanese eras with details of the year, see the list of Nengō .


In the course of the Meiji Restoration , the Meiji government took over the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1873 . However, one did not want to introduce the year counting after the birth of Christ , but as a Japanese variant the one after the Jimmu era. Its legendary beginning was February 11, 660 BC. BC , on which, based on a report in Nihonshoki , the first Tennō Jimmu ascended the Japanese throne (and is said to have founded the Japanese Empire). With this counting method called Kōki ( 皇 紀 ) the calendar begins 660 BC. With Kōki 1, while Kōki 2600 denotes the year 1940 of the Christian counting method. The Kōki counting method was officially retained until the surrender of Japan and the subsequent reorganization of Japanese law under the Allied occupation of Japan .

With the “Law for the Amendment of the Holidays of the People” (passed on June 25, 1966 ), this day became a public holiday in Japan as the founding day of the Reich , but a date has not yet been set. A ten-person advisory committee set up to clarify this question finally decided on December 9, 1966 for February 11 , which was determined by ordinance on the same day as the date of the holiday.

Annual division

Before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1873 as a pure solar calendar , the system of the lunisolar calendar was used as in China . Lunisolar calendars were nationally binding from 1685 to 1873.

With these, the new moon denotes the first of the month. A year consisted of twelve months with 29 or 30 days. To compensate for the differences to the solar year, additional leap months were added. However, in Japan this was not done according to a regular system. There is therefore a difference of often more than 30 days when converting traditional Japanese month and day figures into a Western date. An exact conversion can only be made with the help of conversion tables .


The months originally had proper names in Japanese. B. used in poetry and related to the lunar months. In everyday Japanese, however, they are simply counted from the first month ( 一月 , ichigatsu , German “January”) to the twelfth month ( 十二月 , jūnigatsu , German “December”).

month Everyday Japanese Proper name meaning
01 ichigatsu ( 一月 ) mutsuki ( 睦 月 ) Month of affection
02 nigatsu ( 二月 ) kisaragi ( 如月 ) or kinusaragi ( 衣 更 着 ) Change clothes (winter to spring clothes)
03 sangatsu ( 三月 ) yayoi ( 弥 生 ) increasing growth (of plants) - by iyaoi
04th shigatsu ( 四月 ) uzuki ( 卯 月 ) Deutzien month
05 gogatsu ( 五月 ) satsuki ( 皐 月 / 早 月 ) Month of the Rice Seedlings - by sanaetsuki ( 早苗 月 )
06th rokugatsu ( 六月 ) minatsuki , minazuki ( 水 無 月 ) Month of water
07th shichigatsu ( 七月 ) fumizuki ( 文 月 ) Book month
08th hachigatsu ( 八月 ) hazuki ( 葉 月 ) Leaf month
09 kugatsu ( 九月 ) nagatsuki ( 長 月 ) long month
10 jūgatsu ( 十月 ) kaminazuki , kannazuki ( 神 無 月 ) Month without gods
in Izumo : kamiarizuki ( 神 在 月 ) Month of the gods present
11 jūichigatsu ( 十一月 ) shimotsuki ( 霜 月 ) Frost month
12 jūnigatsu ( 十二月 ) shiwasu ( 師 走 ) Priests run
  1. The character ( na ), which as 水 無 actually means waterless, is used here phonetically as the umlaut of the possessive particle no . Month of water marks the beginning of the six-week rainy season.
  2. In Shinto belief, all gods gather in the Izumo shrine in the 10th month , which is why this was called the “month without gods” ( kaminazuki / kannazuki ), but only in Izumo as the “month of the gods present” ( kamiarizuki ).
  3. The priests are busy preparing for the New Year celebrations.

Monthly division

The months are now divided into weeks ( , -shū ) with seven days each. In addition, there is also a division into decades called jun ( ): jōjun ( 上旬 , dt. "Upper decade") or shojun ( 初旬 , dt. "First decade") for the first ten days, chūjun ( 中旬 , dt . "Middle decade") for the next ten days and gejun ( 下旬 , Eng . "Lower decade") for the days from and including the 21st


Days of the week

Today's Japanese week has seven days, which are named after the sun , moon and the five Chinese elements of Chinese natural philosophy or the planets assigned to them (which are themselves named after these elements). These planets are the same, which are assigned to the respective western weekdays . This concept, which probably originated in Babylonia , was later known in China at least in the 4th century, but was forgotten again by the general population or the knowledge is only available from specialists such as Chinese astrologers , Fengshui masters or Daoist scholars such as natural philosophers of the yin-yang teaching ( 陰陽家  /  阴阳家 , yīnyángjiā ). However, it was still used in Japan for astrological purposes. (cf. Onmyōdō )

When the western calendar was introduced in the Meiji period , the old Japanese names of the days of the week were used.

German Japanese meaning
Sunday nichi-yōbi ( 日 曜 日 ) Day of the sun
Monday getsu-yōbi ( 月曜日 ) Day of the moon
Tuesday ka-yōbi ( 火曜日 ) Day of Fire / Mars
Wednesday sui-yōbi ( 水 曜 日 ) Day of water / mercury
Thursday moku-yōbi ( 木 曜 日 ) Day of the tree / Jupiter
Friday kin-yōbi ( 金曜日 ) Day of the Metal / Venus
Saturday do-yōbi ( 土 曜 日 ) Earth / Saturn day

Often only the first kanji of the day of the week is given for appointments. For example, a concert taking place on Saturday, July 8th, may be made public with the indication 7/8 ( ) .

Days of the month

The days of a month have a systematic but irregular designation, whereby the day of the month is usually written as an Arabic number, occasionally also as a Chinese number, plus :

1 一日 tsuitachi (also ichijitsu ) 17 十七 日 jūshichinichi
2 二 日 futsuka 18 十八 日 jūhachinichi
3 三 日 mikka 19 十九 日 jūkunichi
4 四日 yokka 20 二十 日 hatsuka
5 五日 itsuka 21 二十 一日 nijūichinichi
6 六日 muika 22 二 十二 日 nijūninichi
7 七日 nanoka 23 二十 三 日 nijūsannichi
8 八日 yōka 24 二十 四日 nijūyokka
9 九日 kokonoka 25 二十 五日 nijūgonichi
10 十 日 toka 26 二十 六日 nijūrokunichi
11 十一 日 jūichinichi 27 二十 七日 nijūshichinichi
12 十二 日 jūninichi 28 二十 八日 nijūhachinichi
13 十三 日 jūsannichi 29 二十 九日 nijūkunichi
14 十四 日 jūyokka 30 三十 日 sanjūnichi
15 十五 日 jūgonichi 31 三十 一日 sanjūichinichi
16 十六 日 jūrokunichi

Tsuitachi (also: 朔日 ) is a slurring of tsukitachi , which literally means "moonrise" or "first day of the month of the lunar calendar", i.e. H. means the waxing moon from the new moon as the beginning of the month. Traditionally, the day of the end of the month was called misoka ( 晦 日 ), the reading of which is old Japanese for “30. Day ”, whereby the Chinese characters used mean“ dark day ”in reference to the waning moon until finally the new moon. The use of this term for the last day of the year as ōmisoka ( 大 晦 日 , dt. "The great last day") is more common.

Daily schedule

Traditionally there have been several systems for counting days. The most common was the division of the full day into six temporal double hours for the phase of the light day beginning at dawn and six temporal hours for the night phase beginning at dusk. The respective hour lengths therefore differed and were only two modern hours long during the equinox . The total of 12 double lessons , either toki ( ) or koku ( ) or, to distinguish it from other koku, also called shinkoku ( 辰 刻 ), were either named after the 12 branches of the earth , i.e. H. Animal names, named; counted numerically backwards from 9 to 4, presumably based on the number of times the bell strikes; or using a proper name:

hour modern time
Earth branches count Proper name numerical count
Japanese meaning Japanese meaning Japanese meaning
01 23: 00- 01:00 ne no toki ( 子時 ) Hour of the rat yahan ( 夜半 ) Middle of the night 夜 九 つ Night, 9th hour
02 01:00 - 03:00 ushi no toki ( 丑時 ) Hour of the buffalo germ egg ( 鶏 鳴 ) Cock crow 夜 八 つ Night, 8th hour
03 03:00 - 05:00 tora no toki ( 寅時 ) Hour of the tiger heitan ( 平旦 ) Dawn 暁 七 つ Dawn, 7th hour
04th 05:00 am - 07:00 am u no toki ( 卯時 ) Hour of the hare nisshutsu ( 日出 ) sunrise 明 六 つ Light, 6th hour
05 07:00 0am - 9:00 am tatsu no toki ( 辰時 ) Hour of the dragon shokuji ( 食 時 ) Mealtime 朝 五 つ Tomorrow, 5th hour
06th 09: 00-11: 00 mi no toki ( 巳時 ) Hour of the queue gūchū ( 隅 中 ) morning 昼 四 つ Noon, 4th hour
07th 11: 00-13: 00 uma no toki ( 午時 ) Hour of the horse nitchū ( 日中 ) Noon 昼 九 つ Noon, 9th hour
08th 13: 00-15: 00 hitsuji no toki ( 未 時 ) Hour of the sheep nittetsu ( 日 昳 ) afternoon 昼 八 つ Noon, 8th hour
09 15: 00-17: 00 saru no toki ( 申時 ) Hour of the monkey hoji ( 晡 時 ) early evening hour 夕 七 つ Evening, 7th hour
10 17: 00-19: 00 tori no toki ( 酉時 ) Hour of the rooster nichinyū ( 日 入 ) sunset 暮 六 つ Dusk, 6th hour
11 19: 00-21: 00 inu no toki ( 戌時 ) Hour of the dog kōkon ( 黄昏 ) yellow evening, dusk 宵 五 つ Early night, 5th hour
12 21: 00-23: 00 i no toki ( 亥時 ) Hour of the pig ninjō ( 人定 ) resting people 夜 四 つ Night, 4th hour

The modern time information in the table is only a simplification where it is assumed that the date corresponds to one of the two equinoxes and that the sun rises at 6:00 and sets at 6:00 pm. In practice, of course, this depended on the place and date.

The double lessons could be divided into two, three or four pieces. In the two-part division, a han ( , German "half") was placed in the back for the second half of the double period . In the three-part division, the double lessons were called toki and consisted of jōkoku ( 上 刻 , dt. "Upper koku"), chūkoku ( 中 刻 , dt. "Middle koku") and koku ( 下 刻 , dt. "Lower koku"); in the case of the subdivision of four, again in an average of 30-minute ikkoku ( 一刻 , German "1st koku"), nikoku ( 二 刻 , German "2nd koku"), sankoku ( 三 刻 , German "3rd koku") ) and yonkoku ( 四 刻 , German "4th koku").

For astronomical calculations, the full day in 100 koku of fixed length, i.e. H. equinox hours , divided. For the equinox, the light day and night consisted of 50 koku each , at the winter solstice the light day consisted of 40 koku and the night of 60 koku , and vice versa at the summer solstice.

In summary, depending on the system, a full day was divided into 12, 36, 48 or 100 koku of different or the same length.

The modern day division is the 24-hour counting with hours ( , -ji ), minutes ( , -fun / pun ) and seconds ( , -byō ).

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerhard Leinss: Japanese lunisolar calendar of the years Jôkyô 2 (1685) to Meiji 6th (1873). Structure and content-related inventory. In: Japonica Humboldtiana , 10, 2006, pp. 5-89
  2. ^ Yasuhiro Yokota: A Historical Overview of Japanese Clocks and Karakuri . In: Hong-Sen Yan, Marco Ceccarelli (Eds.): International Symposium on History of Machines and Mechanisms . Springer Netherlands, 2009, ISBN 978-1-4020-9484-2 , pp. 186 , doi : 10.1007 / 978-1-4020-9485-9_13 .
  3. a b c . In: デ ジ タ ル 大 辞 泉 at kotobank.jp. Retrieved February 24, 2015 (Japanese).