How to write the year in Japanese

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How to write the year in Japanese

There are several ways to write the year in Japanese. You will usually find the Indo-Arabic numerals along with the kanji , but you can also find the year written entirely in kanji.

In today's article, let's use the year 2009 as an example.

Writing the year in Japanese with kanji

One of the ways to write the year in Japanese is using the numbers in japanese. The year 2008 and 2009 would look like this:

二千八年 – 2008

二千九年 – 2009

The year 1999 would be:

千九百九十九年 – 1999

In addition to this way of writing, the Japanese can also write the year by displaying only the digits instead of write the number completely. Watch:

一九九九年 – 1999

二00九年 – 2009

It sounds kind of weird, but it's common for the Japanese to use the Roman numeral "0" to write the digits of the year instead of using the kanji , which would be much more complicated to write.

Writing the year in Japanese with Indo-Arabic numerals

Another method the Japanese use to write the year is using our Hindu-Arabic numerals. They write the same way we do, but they include the kanji  after the digits. See the examples below:

1999年 or 99年

2009年 or 09年

Despite writing with the same numbers as us westerners, reading and pronunciation remains the same.

Writing the Years in Japanese Based on Ages

Unlike counting the years based on the birth of Christ, as we Westerners do, the Japanese count the years based on the period of validity of each emperor. Thus, when an emperor assumes the throne, the Japanese begin the count of a new period or era, and when the emperor leaves the throne or dies, the era of that emperor ends and the era of his successor begins.

For example, the year 2000 AD represents the twelfth year of the Heisei era. In other words, it had been twelve years since Emperor Akihito assumed the Japanese throne. This is how the Japanese officially count the years in Japan.

Good news, at least for us Westerners, is that the Japanese also use our decimal numbering (as described above) in their calendars. Furthermore, in counting the years, they are also using the same system as we are in their day-to-day. Thus, the Japanese calendar ends up becoming very similar to ours, although official documents continue to use the counting system based on the reign of each emperor.

Below is a list of the ages of Japan's most recent emperors:

Meiji Era (明治) – 1868 to 1912 – Emperor Mutsuhito

Taishou Era (大正) – 1912 to 1926 – Emperor Yoshihito

Shouwa Era (昭和) – 1926 to 1989 – Emperor Hirohito

Heisei Era (平成) - 1989 to present day - Emperor Akihito

In these cases we write the year indicating the era and then the number of years, then add the kanji for year in Japanese.

平成十一年(1999) – Eleven years of the Hesei era.

平成二十年(2009) – Year 20 of the Heisei era.

Kanji calligraphy exercise

Below are the Japanese ideographic symbols used in this article. Selecting the desired kanji, copy and paste them into Worksheet for Kana and Kanji Practice , a new window will open where you can view the printable file and practice Japanese calligraphy by covering the gray symbols and then trying to write yourself. Just print and practice.