In English, there are a few ways we could read out a year like 2012 - e.g. "two thousand and twelve", "twenty twelve". Does the same thing exist in Japanese, or is there only one way ever actually used by people?

Is there a way to shorten years? E.g. 2009 could be referred to as "oh nine" in English.

1 Answer 1


In Japanese, the year 2012 can be read as follows:

  1. せいれきにせんじゅうにねん
  2. にせんじゅうにねん
  3. へいせい にじゅうよねん
  4. にじゅうよねん

せいれき(西暦) being the Japanese term for the Western Calendar or Anno Domini and へいせい(平成) being the name of the current era. Note that it's not very common to say Option 4. The most common in my option would be Options 2 and 3. Option 1 is quite formal and not used in everyday conversation.

If the year in question happens to be the first year of an era, e.g. 1989 then there would be two additional ways and one is:


がんねん(元年)meaning the first year of an era, as 1989 was the first year of Heisei. Another way to call 1989 is:


As it was also the 64th year of Showa Era.

Next May a new era will be born, so for example if it's named "AB Era", then the year 2019 can be called,


But before that (until the end of April 2019), it will still be called


As it will be the 31st year of Heisei next year.

About shorter names...I don't know any other than the options above.

  • 1
    Would people actually read a year like 2012 as the Japanese era year instead? I get that the two are equivalent, but saying that someone might see 2012 and read that as にじゅうよねん seems quite strange to me.
    – Leebo
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 21:06

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