I have a simple program that allows users to choose what date format they want to see.

In English I ask something like this:

Day/Month/Year   or   Month/Day/Year

Abbreviated would be this:


How would you present this question in Japanese? Is it acceptable to use the Roman letter abbreviation or is there a better way?

Similarly, 12 or 24 hour time preference. Should I say 十二 or 二十四 versus English numerals?

  • 2
    This greatly depends. (1) Do you understand the Japanese way of formatting dates in the first place? If the order of year/month/day is your only concern, it's useless to let users choose in the first place, because the only format used and understood in Japan is year/month/date (e.g., 2018/6/21). (2) What are your target users? Can we assume your target audience understand what Y means in this context? (3) Is the number of digits important? I mean, do you have to let users also choose 2018 vs 18, 06 vs 6, etc? – naruto Jun 20 '18 at 15:54
  • @naruto - Excellent questions. I had hoped to keep it simple but allow users to choose basic display so no, I did not intend to allow 06 vs 6 as a choice. I did not know that year/month/day was format used in Japan. Target audience knows little English. They are typically older factory workers/drivers so I'm not sure if they would understand YYYY means year. – Portland Runner Jun 20 '18 at 16:14

Practically speaking, the only format used and understood in Japan is "year/month/day" (e.g., 2018/6/21 or 18/06/21). So you don't have to let users choose. "British style" (21/6/2018) and "American style" (6/21/2018) are both out of the question, especially when you target only at older Japanese people who are unlikely to understand easy English words. But if you really want to make it configurable, a reasonable choice will look like 年/月/日 or 日/月/年, where the kanji 年 means "year", 月 means "month" and 日 means "day".

If you really want to allow users to choose between "15:00" and "3:00 PM", the word for "24-hour system" is 24時間制, and "12-hour system" is 12時間制. Rest assured that everyone understands AM and PM. Numbers themselves should be Arabic numerals, not kanji.

  • AM/PM are understood, but written differently: AM8:30, etc. (Anyway, much simpler to just use the normal 24h format; no options are required.) – Brian Chandler Jun 21 '18 at 5:33
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    @BrianChandler Placing AM/PM after the numbers will not confuse Japanese people. I see both styles very often. But Japanese people clearly prefer uppercase AM over a.m. (I agree that it's usually better to just stick to the 24h format, anyway) – naruto Jun 21 '18 at 7:23

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