Telling Time in Japanese

How to say 'what time is it?' in Japanese

Learning numbers in Japanese is the first step toward learning to count, handling cash transactions and telling time. 

Here's a dialogue to help beginning Japanese students learn the language conventions of how to tell time in spoken Japanese:

Paul: Sumimasen. Ima nan-ji desu ka.
Otoko no hito: San-ji juugo fun desu.
Paul: Doumo arigatou.
Otoko no hito: Dou itashimashite.

Dialogue in Japanese

ポール: すみません。 今何時ですか。
男の人: 三時十五分です。
ポール: どうもありがとう。
男の人: どういたしまして。

Dialogue Translation: 

Paul: Excuse me. What time is it now?
Man: It is 3:15.
Paul: Thank you.
Man: You are welcome.

Do you remember the expression Sumimasen(すみません)? This is a very useful phrase which can be used in various situations. In this case it means "Excuse me."

Ima nan-ji desu ka(今何時ですか)means "What time is it now?" You may also say "tadaima," which means "I just came home."
Here's how to count to ten in Japanese:

1 ichi ( 2 ni (
3 san ( 4 yon/shi (
5 go ( 6 roku (
7 nana/shichi ( 8 hachi (
9 kyuu/ku ( 10 juu (

Once you've memorized one through 10, it's easy to figure out the rest of the numbers in Japanese. 

To form numbers from 11~19, start with "juu" (10) and then add the number you need.

Twenty is "ni-juu" (2X10) and for twenty one, just add one (nijuu ichi).

There is another numerical system in Japanese, which is the native Japanese numbers. The native Japanese numbers are limited to one through ten.

11 juuichi (10+1) 20 nijuu (2X10) 30 sanjuu (3X10)
12 juuni (10+2) 21 nijuuichi (2X10+1) 31 sanjuuichi (3X10+1)
13 juusan (10+3) 22 nijuuni (2X10+2) 32 sanjuuni (3X10+2)

Translations for Numbers to Japanese

Here are a few examples of how to translate a number from English/Arabic numerals into Japanese words.

(a) 45
(b) 78
(c) 93

(a) yonjuu-go
(b) nanajuu-hachi
(c) kyuujuu-san

Other Phrases Needed to Tell Time

Ji(時) means "o'clock." Fun/pun(分)means "minutes." To express the time, say the hours first, then the minutes, then add desu(です). There is no special word for quarter hours. Han(半) means half, as in half past the hour. The hours are quite simple, but you need to watch out for four, seven and nine.

4 o' clock yo-ji (not yon-ji)
7 o' clock shichi-ji (not nana-ji)
9 o'clock ku-ji (not kyuu-ji)

Here are some examples of "mixed" time numerals and how to pronounce them in Japanese:

(a) 1:15
(b) 4:30
(c) 8:42

(a) ichi-ji juu-go fun
(b) yo-ji han (yo-ji sanjuppun)
(c) hachi-ji yonjuu-ni fun

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Your Citation
Abe, Namiko. "Telling Time in Japanese." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Abe, Namiko. (2023, April 5). Telling Time in Japanese. Retrieved from Abe, Namiko. "Telling Time in Japanese." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).