Months in Japanese (Learn the Months of the Year)

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If you already know how to count from numbers 1-12 in Japanese, then learning the months of the year will be a breeze for you!

If you don’t, not to worry, as you sure will after getting familiar with the months of the year in Japanese. Talk about a great two-for-one lesson!

Essentially, the names given to each month of the year are a combination of the number of the month and the word gatsu (月 / がつ) which means ‘month’. 

We will also look at some of the things you can look forward to in each month of the Japanese calendar!

Here’s a quick guide to the months in Japanese:

EnglishKanjiHiraganaRomaji
January一月いちがつichigatsu
February二月にがつnigatsu
March三月さんがつsangatsu
April四月しがつshigatsu
May五月ごがつgogatsu
June六月ろくがつrokugatsu
July四月しがつshichigatsu
August八月はちがつhachigatsu
September九月くがつkugatsu
October十月じゅうがつjuugatsu
November十一月 じゅういちがつjuuichigatsu
December十二月じゅうにがつjuunigatsu

Alternatively, you can write the name of each month using the Western numeral plus the suffix 月 (gatsu). So, this looks like 1月, 2月, 3月, and so on. The pronunciation is the same as when you use a kanji numeral.

We’ll look at each month in more detail below!

Ichigatsu

一月

January

So, if ichi is the Japanese word for ‘one’, then ichigatsu (一月 / いちがつ) is of course- ‘January’! Pretty easy right? 

January in Japan definitely starts the year off with a bang. In the west, Christmas is probably considered the holiday of the year. This is in contrast to Japan, where New Years is really the time to celebrate, take time off and be with loved ones. 

Nigatsu

二月

February

Japanese sushi rolls and demon mask for setsubun, a Japanese festival celebrated in the month of February.

Nigatsu (二月 / にがつ) means ‘February’ in Japanese. 

An event called setsubun (節分 / せつぶん) takes place in February which marks the end of winter and beginning of spring. It is a lighthearted, fun event which involves throwing beans to scare away the evil spirits and welcome in the good fortune.

February is of course also the month of love! Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Japan, although perhaps a little differently than in the West. In Japan, it is more common for girls to express their love, by making homemade chocolates and giving them to loved ones. 

Sangatsu

三月

March

A Hina doll display (Japanese traditional doll for girl's day or hinamatsuri)
Hina dolls, displayed for hinamatsuri on the 3rd of March.

Sangatsu (三月 / さんがつ) is the month of ‘March’!

Exactly a month after Valentine’s Day, March 14th, is known as ‘white day’. This is when the man, or receiver of valentine’s chocolates, reciprocates by gifting the girl a token of love. 

Additionally, on the 3rd of March, there is a Japanese holiday called hinamatsuri (雛祭 / ひなまつり) or ‘girl’s day’, where families wish for good luck and prosperity for their daughters.

Shigatsu

四月

April

Shigatsu (四月 / しがつ) is ‘April’ in Japanese. 

Now, if you previously learned the number ‘4’ in Japanese as yon, then this may be a tad confusing. You see, there are two words for ‘4’ –yon and shi, which can generally be used interchangeably, although in the case of April, we refer to it as shigatsu.

April sees the peak of the cherry blossom season in Japan.

Gogatsu

五月

May

A string of colourful carp banners flying against a view of blue sky and green forested mountains
Carp streamers displayed to celebrate Children’s Day in May in Japan.

Gogatsu (五月 / ごがつ) is ‘May’ in Japanese.

 The end of April into the beginning of May is when another important holiday takes place in Japan known as ‘golden week’. Golden week is a week-long holiday which celebrates 4 national holidays that happen to fall in the same week. 

These are:

  • Showa no hi (昭和の日 / しょうわのひ) – ‘Showa day’ on April 29th 
  • Kenpou kinenbi (憲法記念日 / けんぽうきねんび) – ‘Constitution memorial day’ on May 3rd
  • Midori no hi (みどりの日 / みどりのひ) – ‘Greenery Day’ on May 4th 
  • Kodomo no hi (子供の日 / こどものひ) – ‘Children’s day’ on May 5th 

During golden week, Japanese people get a rare week of paid time off to celebrate these national holidays, so it is a really anticipated time of year!

Rokugatsu

六月

June

‘June’, the sixth month of the year, is rokugatsu (六月 / ろくがつ). 

June in Japan sees the end of spring and the beginning of a hot and humid summer! Just before the hot weather starts, tsuyu (梅雨 / つゆ), the rainy season takes place. 

Shichigatsu

七月

July

Wishes written on Tanzaku, small pieces of paper, and hung on a Japanese wishing tree, located in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles, California, photographed at an outdoor mall at night.
Wishes tied to a tree to mark the tanabata festival in July.

Shichigatsu (四月 / しがつ) is ‘July’. 

Note that the number 7 in Japanese is also sometimes pronounced as nana, although for ‘July’ we use the pronunciation –shichi.

On the seventh day of the seventh month, a festival called tanabata (七夕 / たなばた) takes place. On Tanabata, sometimes referred to as ‘star festival’ in English, it is tradition to write a wish and hang it on a bamboo trees!

Hachigatsu

八月

August

Dancers in traditional yukata dancing on the stage at the Bon Odori celebration in Shimokitazawa neighborhood at night.
A performance of a bon odori dance to celebrate the Obon festival held in the month of August in Japan.

Hachigatsu (八月 / はちがつ) is ‘August’ in Japanese!

August observes the obon (お盆 / おぼん) festival. Obon commemorates those who have passed and it is believed that their spirits come back to visit their loved ones at this time.

Kugatsu

九月

September

Kugatsu ( 九月 / くがつ) is ‘September’. 

Although the number 9 is usually pronounced as kyuu in Japanese, it is pronounced as kugatsu when speaking about the month of September.

The tsukimi, or ‘moon viewing’, festival is celebrated during September, as explained in our previous post about the moon in Japan!

Juugatsu

十月

October

A plate with round salmon sushi balls decorated to look like jack o'lanterns, to celebrate halloween in Japan.

Juugatsu (十月 / じゅうがつ) is ‘October’ in Japanese.

October in Japan welcomes the start of the leaves turning into gorgeous shades of amber for the autumn season

It is also, of course, the month of Halloween! On Halloween in Japan, young people like to dress up in costume and head out for a night on the town.

Juuichigatsu

十一月

November

Juuichigatsu (十一月 / じゅういちがつ) is ‘November’! 

If you have an interest in Japan’s national sport, November is when you can witness the sumo event of the year: the Fukuoka Sumo Tournament!

Juunigatsu

十二月

December

A red torii gate standing in the snow with a view of Mt. Fuji in the background.

Last but not least, ‘December’ in Japanese is… Juunigatsu! (十二月 / じゅうにがつ)

Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, you can still enjoy some beautiful Christmas twinkling lights and Christmas decor in stores. It is more so seen as a holiday to spend with friends or a partner, whereas New Years is the time to be at home with family. 

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Hannah Stafford

Hannah is a half Irish/half Japanese girl living in Ireland. Her love for Japan and the Japanese language led her to studying languages and translation in university where she specialised in Japanese. She spent a year studying abroad at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In her free time, Hannah enjoys using her sewing machine to upcycle clothes and create new pieces!

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