In the previous entry I gave the days of the week in Japanese but I didn’t say where the names come from.
Hopefully you had a guess or two from how the kanji look.
Let’s go through them!
This one is the same inspiration as in English.
[ニチ], [ジツ], (ひ), (か)
“nichi”, “jitsu”, “hi”, “ka”
day, sun, sunshine, Sunday, counting word for “days”
The meaning is perhaps rather unsurprising, as you will notice the symbol 日 at the end of each of these days of the week. Combined with the other symbol we get:
day of the week
The way I like to remember 日 as “sun” (and therefore “day”) is that the outer square is the circle shape of the sun, and the line across the middle is the horizon. I realise that is a bit abstract and forced, but when it comes to remembering symbols it’s good to use whatever you can and – sometimes – the weirder, the better (the more it sticks in the mind).
This one is also the same as in English!
[ゲツ], [ガツ], (つき)
“getsu”, “gatsu”, “tsuki”
This makes a lot of sense to mean “month”, in the same way that “sun” means “day” (the relative cycles of each, or at least the day/night cycle for sun and lunar cycles for moon).
In many cultures the moon has a special cultural significance, and in Japan it is no different. I remember that McDonald’s would do a seasonal “tsuki-mi burger” which had an extra egg inside the bun. My boss recommended it to me. She loved that time of year and always made sure to get a Tsuki-mi Burger or two! The burger was very tasty and the timing was to coincide with a local “moon festival”. I will talk in detail about the Moon Festival in a future entry!
I remember around the same time as these moon festivals, I went to the beach late one evening with two friends for a “full moon viewing”.
We are drinking Japanese whisky! The whole thing looks like some kind of arcane pagan ritual, but it was super chill and fun.
I put these two together because 火 and 水 are sort of opposites.
The header image today is a clue.
Do you have it?
[カ], (ひ), (ほ)
“ka”, “hi”, “ho”
fire, flame, blaze, Tuesday
water, (fresh, drinking water), Wednesday
For 火 I like to think of it as a little dancing flame elemental, something like this:
For 水 I think of it as a pump, pumping up fresh spring water, I suppose something like this:
I don’t expect these images to be very helpful to everyone, but they are useful to me.
To remember that fire is Tuesday I think of how in most European languages Tuesday is named after the God of War. To me that has always seemed to be a natural crossover with fire signifying the same day.
For water day being Wednesday I would use the rather cheap trick that water and Wednesday both begin with “W”.
Typically when trying to assimilate a new language I avoid tricks that use unrelated properties of my native language and prefer to keep things as conceptual as possible (like with Tuesday being a fiery war kind of an image) but in this case I used the cheap trick and it helped the meaning to stick.
木 looks like a little tree, doesn’t it?
[ボク], [モク], (き), (に)
“boku”, “moku”, “ki”, “ni”
tree, wood (material), timber, Thursday
“moku” means the material of wood, and “ki” means a tree.
I don’t have any tricks for remembering that this is Thursday, but when I think of the word “moku” I often think of the wooden training dummy from Tekken 3:
“Mokujin” literally means “Wood Person”.
To remember this one I use a slightly inaccurate or perhaps old-fashioned idea but it seems to work. I think of being paid at the end of the week.
[キン], [コン], (かね), (かな)
“kin”, “kon”, “kane”, “kana”
metal, gold, money, valuable, Friday
Friday = pay day = “gold” day.
To remember 土 I think of the top cross as a flower growing out of the bottom line being the ground or earth.
[ド], [ト], (つち)
“do”, “to”, “tsuchi”
earth, soil, ground, Saturday
How can you remember this is Saturday?
Perhaps think about taking your day off (Saturday) to do some gardening? I think I read that in a book once and although I am not much of a gardener it stuck with me!
I hope you enjoyed this entry digging a bit deeper into the symbols behind the days of the week and my peculiar ways to remember them. Tomorrow I am going to talk a little bit more about remembering kanji and give some more of the silly tricks I use for a few others.