“Today” in Japanese – How to talk about the present day

Today, we’ll be learning how to say “today” in Japanese. We know – it sounds simple enough – but don’t jump the gun on this one. Here, we break down not only the different ways to say “today” in the Japanese language, but also throw in some bonus material every Japanese student should know.

A calendar with circle and X marks

So strap in, perk up, and let’s get learning!

How to say “today” in Japanese

By and large, the most common word for “today” used in Japan is きょう (kyou|今日). 今日 is a noun that means “today”, but it can also be used as an adverb, just like in English (more on that later).

This is also a great word for studying 2 basic and frequently used kanji characters – 今 (ima/kon/ko) and 日 (nichi/hi/bi).

今 means “now” or “present” and can be used on its own to simply say “now.” Here’s an example:

いまはおすしをかっています(ima wa osushi wo katte imasu | 今はお寿司を買っています)

I am buying sushi right now.

When used standing alone, it always reads いま (ima).

The second character 日 can represent either “day” or “the sun” in Japanese. When used on its own, it never carries the reading bi.

そのひはにちようびだった (sono hi wa nichi youbi datta | その日は日曜日だった)

That day was a Sunday.

Notice how all 3 readings of the character were used in the sentence above!

Now let’s see 今日 in action!

きょうようこさんはよやくがありますね (kyou Youko san wa yoyaku ga arimasu ne | 今日洋子さんは予約がありますね)

Today is Youko’s appointment if I’m not mistaken.

きょうわたしのさいふがうばわれた!(kyou watashi no saifu ga ubawareta! | 今日私の財布が奪われた!)

I was robbed of my wallet today!

きょうのごきげんはどうなの?(kyou no gokigen wa dou na no? | 今日のご機嫌はどうなの?)

How is today’s feeling (for you)?

Notice that the sentence above uses “today” in Japanese in the adjective form.

きょう (kyou | 今日) vs ほんじつ (honjitsu | 本日)

Perhaps those of you at a more advanced level have come across another way to say “today” in Japanese, being ほんじつ (honjitsu|本日). 本日 is comprised of the kanji characters 本 (hon) and the same 日 we mentioned earlier.

The first character, 本, has a number of meanings in Japanese like book and main, but sometimes it can also mean this, as seen in this word. Thusly, 本日 translates rather literally as “this day.”

This expression is far less common for saying today in Japanese, but it’s not completely unheard of. In general, this word is explicitly polite when compared to きょう (kyou|今日) and even a little outdated as a comparison. You’re more likely to find it in written text, official statements, legal documents, etc.

Also, the character 本 carries with it a sign of respect or honor, so know that the words carrying this character also carry dignity!

Bonus – How to say “yesterday” in Japanese

Of course, there can be no today without yesterday! If you’re interested in history, this term can be very useful! “Yesterday” in Japanese is きのう (kinou | 昨日). The final kanji character used here is 日, while the first character 昨 (saku) represents “last” or “previous”. That’s straightforward enough if you ask us.

きのうともだちとあってひさしぶりなえいがをみた。ちょうたのしかった!(kinnou tomodachi to atte hisashiburina eiga wo mita. Chou tanoshikatta!|昨日友達と会って久しぶりな映画を見た。超楽しかった!)

Yesterday, I met with a friend and we watched a classic film. It was lots of fun!

Bonus – How to say “tomorrow” in Japanese

The term for “tomorrow” in Japanese is あした (ashita|明日). The derivation of this first character is a bit more complex than the other words. Some theories suggest that it comes from the outdated verb あかす(akasu|明かす), meaning, “to pass”. Others suggest a correlation to its original Chinese form.

Nowadays, this character (明) is associated with the term “bright”, as in the adjective for bright, あかるい (akarui|明るい). Perhaps you can remember its kanji by remembering that brighter days are sure to come starting tomorrow!

あしたはひまだ(ashita ha hima da|明日は暇だ)

Tomorrow is free (for me).

Last but not least, this word can also be pronounced へいじつ (heijitsu), but this older pronunciation is never used anymore!


Now that you know the Japanese translation for “today,” you can express sentences that use this word better!

To level it up, how about we learn the days of the week in Japanese next? Here’s an article dedicated to that!

がんばってください (Ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

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