The days of the week in Japanese can be tricky to learn. One simple way around this problem is to use a mnemonic device. A mnemonic device can really be anything that helps you to remember. However, one of the most effective ways is to create a crazy and funny story involving the words so that they will definitely stick in your mind and you will never forget them.
In this article, I will explain the meaning of all the words that make up the Japanese days of the week, so that you can better understand them. Then, I will present you with a fun and useful mnemonic story that is guaranteed to help you easily recall the days of the week, while surely making you smile!
Explanation of the Words
The first useful thing to know about the days of the week in Japanese is that all seven words contain the suffix 曜日 youbi. Therefore, you only need to remember the first part of each word. Once you have learned them all, you are good to go!
Now, before we get to the useful mnemonic story for these words, let me take a moment to explain to meaning of each one.
- Monday: 月曜日 getsu-youbi
月 / つき means the Moon.
However, one thing that can be confusing to Japanese learners is that 月 also has two more readings. Readings are the different possible pronunciations of kanji. One of these other readings for 月 is げつ (getsu).
The word getsu can be used in two different contexts. First of all, it can be used in the word Monday, as seen above. However, it can also be used for counting months. For example:
- 一ヶ月 i-kka-getsu: 1 month
- 二ヶ月 ni-ka-getsu: 2 months
- 三ヶ月 san-ka-getsu: 3 months
- 四ヶ月 yon-ka-getsu: 4 months
- 五ヶ月 go-ka-getsu: 5 months
- 六ヶ月 ro-kka-getsu: 6 months
- 七ヶ月 nana-ka-getsu: 7 months
- 八ヶ月 ha-kka-getsu: 8 months
- 九ヶ月 kyuu-ka-getsu: 9 months
- 十ヶ月 ju-kka-getsu: 10 months
For numbers of months greater than 十ヶ月 (10 months), you can simply add additional words to the base word 十 juu (10) as follows:
- 十 juu (10) + 一ヶ月 i-kka-getsu (1 month) = 十一ヶ月 juu-ikka-getsu (11 months).
- 10 + 2 months = 12 months = 十二ヶ月 juu-ni-ka-getsu, etc...
Finally, Getsu is also used for words such as:
- 先月 sen-getsu: last month
- 今月 kon-getsu: this month
- 来月 rai-GEtsu: next month
The second additional reading of this character is がつ. You use gatsu for the names of months. For example:
- 一月 ichi-gatsu: January (literally, first month)
- 二月 ni-gatsu: February (literally, second month)
- 三月 san-gatsu: March
- 四月 shi-gatsu: April (be careful, it's not yon-gatsu, but shi-gatsu)
- 五月 go-gatsu: May
- 六月 roku-gatsu: June
- 七月 shichi-gatsu: July (be careful, it's not nana-gatsu, but schichi-gatsu)
- 八月 hachi-gatsu: August
- 九月 ku-gatsu: September (be careful, it's not kyuu-gatsu, but ku-gatsu)
- 十月 juu-gatsu: October
- 十一月 juu-ichi-gatsu: November
- 十二月 juu-ni-gatsu: December
A lot of students get confused between getsu and gatsu. So, just remember these rules and you will always be able to use 月 correctly!
Now, let’s have a look at the rest of the days of the week.
- 火曜日 KA-youbi: Tuesday
火 ひ means fire. KA is the Chinese reading and it doesn’t make sense on its own. Therefore, it is used as part of a word. However, outside of this context you should use the reading HI for the word/noun meaning "fire."
- 水曜日 SUI-youbi: Wednesday
水 みず means water. Again, sui is the Chinese reading. Outside of this context, use MIZU for the noun "water."
- 木曜日 MOKU-youbi: Thursday
木 き means tree/wood.
- 金曜日 KIN-youbi: Friday
金 かね means money. Normally, the honorific prefix お must be placed before かね to make おかね o-kane, which also means money. Otherwise, it sounds rude. For example, the Yakuza crime syndicate would use the word kane.
- 土曜日 DO-youbi: Saturday
土 つち means ground/earth. Outside of this context, we say 地球 chikyuu for the word "earth."
- 日曜日 NICHI-youbi: Sunday
日 ひ means day/sun. The kanji 日 means sun (for example, 日本 ni-hon means “the origin of the sun”). Outside of this context, we say 太陽 taiyou for the word "sun."
You might be wondering how to use these in a sentence. If, for instance, you want to say "On Monday/Tuesday…," you can use the particle に or は. This can be seen in the following example:
- 月曜日に宿題を出してください。Getsu-youbi NI shukudai wo dashite-kudasai. Please submit your homework on Monday.
You use the particle に when putting emphasis on when an action takes place.
In other cases, such as in the sentence "What will you do on Sunday?", "on Sunday" isn't really the focus of your question, so it’s better to say:
- 日曜日は、何をしますか。Nichiyou-bi WA, nani wo shi-masu ka.
Now that we have learned all the meanings of these words, we are ready to start learning the mnemonic devices!!
Remember, this is just my own example. Feel free to make up your own crazy, funny story to help you remember the days of the week!
My Mnemonic Story
Imagine that there is a couple. The girlfriend has to leave her boyfriend for a job in another city. The boyfriend tries everything to get her to stay. On Monday 月曜日 GETSU-youbi, he even GETS the Moon for her!
However, she still says “no” and breaks up with him.
On Tuesday 火曜日 KA-youbi, he is so angry that he sets her CAR on fire.
On Wednesday 水曜日 SUI-youbi, she is ready to leave with her SUItcase.
However, she suddenly sees that there is a fire and tries to put it out by using a suitcase full of water.
On Thursday 木曜日 MOKU-youbi, the boyfriend goes crazy because the girl has left. He also has no money now because he bought her the Moon.
He starts MOCKing a tree.
On Friday 金曜日 KIN-youbi, people start giving him money because they really liked his tree-mocking performance. Now he has a lot of money and is rich like a KINg.
On Saturday 土曜日 DO-youbi, he starts a new business using the money he received: an underground DOnut shop.
On Sunday 日曜日 NICHI-youbi (a particularly sunny Sunday), a customer complains that she got aN ITCHY tongue from eating a donut. He takes her on a date in order to make it up to her.
On Monday 月曜日 GETSU-youbi, he finally forGETS about his ex and they live HAPPILY EVER AFTER!
がんばってね！Ganbatte ne! Good luck!
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