The Japanese system of expressing times and durations is fairly simple. As far as specific times go (as opposed to relative times), Japanese once again resembles French more than English, as they write times kind of like "3h26m".

In simply referring to a time of day, the suffix ji is used after the hour, and the suffix fun is used after the minutes (if any). Counting the hours, the Chinese-origin numerals are used (except for 4). Note that kyuu (9) changes pronunciation when used with ji.

 1:00	ichi-ji
 2:00	ni-ji
 3:00	san-ji
 4:00	yon-ji
 5:00	go-ji
 6:00	roku-ji
 7:00	shichi-ji
 8:00	hachi-ji
 9:00	ku-ji
10:00 	juu-ji
11:00	juu-ichi-ji
12:00	juu-ni-ji
To express minutes, you suffix fun to the Chinese-origin number. Japanese minutes are more complicated, because they change pronunciation all over the place:

:01	ippun
:02	nifun
:03	sanpun
:04	yonpun
:05	gofun
:06	roppun
:07	nanafun
:08	happun
:09	kyuufun
:10	juppun

A time of day is expressed by combining these elements. For example:

3:15	san-ji juu-go-fun
8:42	hachi-ji yo-juu-ni-fun
6:33	roku-ji san-juu-sanpun

...and so forth. Adding the word gogo indicates pm, and adding gozen indicates am. Additionally, the half hour can be expressed with han (half), so...

Shichi-ji-han gozen desu.
It's 7:30 am.

An additional time-related word that is very important is goro, which means "about" when used after a numeric time. This is required because Japanese culture often considers it impolite to be too direct or exact about things. For example, when arranging to have lunch with a friend, you would probably want to say "juu-ni-ji-han goro", which would mean "about 4:30", rather than appearing to insist on a precise time.

To express a duration, such as "three hours" as opposed to "3 o'clock", you add kan after ji. When expressing a duration, it as again considered rude to be exact, so you should usually follow the expression with the word gurai, which again indicates approximation:

Watashi wa go-ji-kan gurai nemashita.
I slept for five hours.

Ni-ji-kan gurai benkyoo shimashoo, ne.
Let's study for (about) two hours, alright?

Sure, the modern system is simple enough, but if you want to be really l33t, you have to know the traditional system as well.

Before the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese day had twelve hours, which were assigned to the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. Where Europe used bells to mark the hours, Japan used taiko drums. So you had:

  • 11 PM - 1 AM: Hour of the Rat (ne) 9 drums
  • 1 AM - 3 AM: Hour of the Cow (ushi) 8 drums
  • 3 AM - 5 AM: Hour of the Tiger (tora) 7 drums
  • 5 AM - 7 AM: Hour of the Rabbit (u) 6 drums
  • 7 AM - 9 AM: Hour of the Dragon (tatsu) 5 drums
  • 9 AM - 11 AM: Hour of the Snake (mi) 4 drums
  • 11 AM - 1 PM: Hour of the Horse (uma) 9 drums
  • 1 PM - 3 PM: Hour of the Sheep (hitsuji) 8 drums
  • 3 PM - 5 PM: Hour of the Monkey (saru) 7 drums
  • 5 PM - 7 PM: Hour of the Chicken (tori) 6 drums
  • 7 PM - 9 PM: Hour of the Dog (inu) 5 drums
  • 9 PM - 11 PM: Hour of the Boar (i) 4 drums
Each hour was subdivided into four quarters (hitotsu, futatsu, mitsu, yotsu) with which you could express times down to the half hour. One expression from the period was Kusaki mo neru ushi mitsu no toki: "The third Hour of the Cow, when even the trees and grass sleep..." That would be 2-2:30 AM by our clock.

Yes, it's quite vague, but it was good enough for a pre-industrial society, and they did scrap it after they started to modernize.

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