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I'm not sure if I'm overcomplicating this. I'm talking about events in the past, and I want to use relative time markers within that time frame. For example, "the day after that", or "the day before that", or "a year later". I'm not sure if I can use 明日【あした】, 昨日【きのう】 and 来年【らいねん】, because as I see it, I would be referring to the present timeline, the next day/previous day/next year for me. Is this so, or am I overcomplicating it?

Is there a separate set of words for talking about relative time in the past, or is this something that is simply understood from context?

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There are a few ways to express this.

You can use 翌{よく} as in:

翌年{よくとし}(orよくねん)

翌月{よくげつ}

翌週{よくしゅう}

翌日{よくじつ}

These means year, month, week, day, following a particular point in time.

Other ways are to use 次の〇 or 前の〇 as in:

次{つぎ}の年{とし} or 前{まえ}の年{とし} (前年{ぜんねん} for more of a 熟語{じゅくご} feel)
  • Nice tips about 次【次】 and 前【まえ】, though I don't quite understand what 翌 is meant to mean in this context. – Lou Jan 6 '15 at 21:27
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    翌just means "following". So 翌日{よくじつ} is "the following day". Here is an example I pulled from alc: 過去最高気温となるカ氏65度を記録した月曜日に続き、翌日には気温が氷点下まで落ち込み大きな積雪となったことで、地域の2校が休校となりました。 After a record high of 65 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, temperatures plummeted [slipped] to sub-zero levels the following day, causing two local schools to close due to the large snow accumulation. – user224579 Jan 6 '15 at 21:44
  • (Sorry for the ugly entry..no formatting in comments..) – user224579 Jan 6 '15 at 21:45
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Past Perspective:

Formal

As usual, expect to hear lots of "on" sounds.

Preceding time: 「[前]{ぜん} + time word」 [前年]{ぜんねん}、[前月]{ぜんげつ}、[前週]{ぜんしゅう}、[前日]{ぜんじつ}

Succeeding time: 「[翌]{よく} + time word」  [翌年]{よくねん}、[翌月]{よくげつ}, etc.

Informal

That means lots of "kun" sounds.

Preceding time: 「(その)[前]{まえ}の + time word」 (その)[前]{まえ}の[年]{とし}、[前]{まえ}の[月]{つき}, etc.

Succeeding time: 「(その)[次]{つぎ}の + time word」 (その)[次]{つぎ}の[週]{しゅう}、次の[日]{ひ}, etc.

「その」 is optional but is used frequently.

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