Saturday, August 06, 2011

Japanese Days of the Week and Correspondences

Kobo Daishi
Japanese Days of the Week

In the 800’s, the Japanese adopted their “official” calendar system from the Chinese.  One of the major aspects of the Chinese calendar was the seven day week.  The Chinese, in turn, had adopted the seven day week from the West.  However, they changed the week day names to match the elements instead of the original names of various Roman Gods.

The Japanese copied the Chinese calendar including the “Seven Luminaries” which consists of the Sun, Moon, and the planets: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  In addition, the Japanese named their days of the week to reflect Chinese conventions.  In English, Japanese weekday names are “Sun day”, “Moon day”, “Fire day”, “Water day”, “Wood day”, “Gold day”, and “Earth day”.  This order actually reflects the traditional Babylonian system, which was transferred through China to Japan.  In their correspondences of elements, the Chinese and Japanese usually list “water” before “fire”.

The Japanese monk, Kobo Daishi is credited with introducing the Chinese calendar into Japan in 804 CE.  Traditional Japanese months were twenty-nine or thirty days, and were divided into five groups of six days.  The Rokuyo (six days) was a system of “good luck” and “bad luck” days.  Also in the old calendar, the first day of each month was assigned a Rokuyo “day” (such as the first and seventh months were Sensho.) Kobo Daishi decided that Mitsubi (secret day) which starts the Rokuyo was “Sun day”, the first day of the seven day week.  However, since Rokuyo are six days, they repeat every seventh day, starting on days other than “Sun day”.  Modern Japanese calendars still list the days of Rokuyo to aid Japanese in tracking these days.

Traditional Correspondences for Japanese Days of the Week
(Missing correspondences are added by me, and labeled “mine”.)

Sunday: Nichiyoubi: Sun day
Traditional elements: One listed
Direction: Top (Mine)
Color: Gold (Mine)
Season: Midsummer (Mine)
Time of day: Morning (Mine)
Planet: Sun

Monday: Getsuyoubi: Moon day
Traditional elements: One listed
Direction: Bottom (Mine)
Color: SIlver (Mine)
Season: Midwinter (Mine)
Time of day: Evening (Mine)
Planet: Moon

Tuesday: Kayoubi: Fire day
Traditional elements: All listed
Direction: South
Color: Red
Season: Summer
Time of day: Midday
Planet: Mars

Wednesday: Suiyoubi: Water day
Traditional elements: All listed
Direction: North
Color: Black
Season: Winter
Time of day: Midnight
Planet: Mercury

Thursday: Mokuyoubi: Wood day
Traditional elements: All listed
Direction: East
Color: Green
Season: Spring
Time of day: Dawn
Planet: Jupiter

Friday: Kinyoubi: Gold (metal) day
Traditional elements: All listed
Direction: West
Color: White
Season: Autumn
Time of day: Dusk
Planet: Venus

Saturday: Douyoubi: Earth day
Traditional elements: some listed
Direction: Center
Color: Yellow
Season: 18 days at the end of each season
Time of day: Afternoon (Mine)
Planet: Saturn

Rokuyo – Six Days of good and bad luck.

Sensho (Senkachi, Sakigachi):
Good luck in morning
Bad luck between 2 and 6 PM
Good day for urgent tasks and lawsuits

Good luck in morning
Bad luck in afternoon
Bad day for settling affairs

Senbu (Senpu):
Good luck in afternoon
Bad luck in morning
Bad day for urgent tasks and lawsuits

Bad luck all day

Good luck all day

Shakko (Shakku):
Good luck between 11 AM and 1 PM
Bad luck rest of day

Works Used:

“Bathrobe” (Greg Pringle), “Bathrobe’s Days of the Week in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese”, Bathrobe’s Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Language Site, 2007,
 Chamberlain, Basil, “Japanese Things”, Charles Tuttle: Tokyo 1905 (reprint 1971)
Kakuta Haruo, “Rokyo”, Kakkun’s Workshop, blog, 04, Feb 2010,
Renshaw, Steve and Saori Ihara, “The Lunar Calendar in Japan”, Astronomy in Japan, 2010,
---, “ROKUYO – Lucky and Unlucky Days in Japan”, Seiyaku, 2011,

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