I am wondering about the history about the beginning of the week. Although some recent calendars start their week on Monday, "traditionally", the Japanese start their week on Sunday (so that 今週の日曜日 will always be in the past). But this is a fairly new tradition.

Why was Sunday made the beginning of the week when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar?

There is a lunar calendar (睦月, 如月, 弥生, etc.) and a solar calendar (七十二候). Furthermore, there is the concept of auspicious days, in which a week has 6 days and a bunch more of calendar-type conventions.

Do any of these contain a "Sunday" as beginning of their respective concepts of a week?

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    I have never come across 今週の日曜日 as being in the past before: 今週末 or 先週末 always seem to include the coming/next sunday respectively but I have come across this in the West where I have also seen calendars that begin on Sunday and even had discussions about it. – Tim Aug 30 '12 at 13:32


It seems that the first people in Japan to adopt "the week" (as something other than a divinatory tool) did so because they had no choice: they were dealing with European or American traders in Yokohama, or they were working alongside "hired foreigners" in government, education, or the military. It made no sense for them to turn up to work when your trading partners or co-workers were taking the day off, or vice versa.

Okada doesn't mention why the Meiji government didn't just write "must work on Sundays" into their contracts for hired help, but the religious component was probably a factor. Back then more Christians took the Sabbath seriously. In any case, if all of your external consultants say "a seven-day week with 1.5 days off is the only way to run a government/army/school," eventually you're going to start to believe it.

  • Although the linked page looks interesting, I fail to see its connection to the question. – Tsuyoshi Ito Aug 31 '12 at 1:27
  • I thought the question was "Why was Sunday made the beginning of the week when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar?" Sorry. – Avery Sep 3 '12 at 7:38
  • “I thought the question was ‘Why was Sunday made the beginning of the week when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar?’”: I understand the question in the same way, but where is that question addressed in your quotation or your link? – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 3 '12 at 12:17
  • The person asking the question doesn't seem to realize that Sunday is the first day of the European calendar and that Japan simply adopted the European calendar using the names of the days from their old astrological calendar. So I added that information. In fact nkjt gave the same answer in the comments to the other answer. If there's any other question waiting to be answered here I don't see it. – Avery Sep 5 '12 at 6:02
  • Sorry, I always thought that Sunday is the 7th day of week as described in the Old Testament, where God rests on the last day. This day of rest was made to be Sunday in order help sun worshipping pagans adopt Christianity more easily... In any case, I guess this is more a question about Sunday than a question about Japan. – Earthliŋ Sep 8 '12 at 8:29

I asked colleagues on the 2012/08/30 - so previous and next sundays are the 26th and the 3rd - about this because I did not have issue so far and I got curious.

14:56 (oldergod) 今週の日曜日ってゆうたら、3日の事になりますか?それか26日のことですか?週は日曜日から始まるからこうゆうたらどっちに当たるんでしょう?
14:59 (tanaka) 普通は26日だと思います。少なくとも、私はそう思っています。
15:00 (Yoshida) 本来は週の初めは日曜日なんですが、感覚的に月曜日が週の初めという人も多いので
15:01 (Yoshida) 日曜日に関しては、今週の~とか使わないのが良いなと思っています。
15:01 (tanaka) まあ、「この前の日曜」「次の日曜」と言った方が安全ですよね。

  • Interesting information, but without context, it will be impossible to really make anything of it (especially in a couple months when people cannot easily figure on what day this question was asked). – Dave Aug 31 '12 at 2:54
  • added info for this. – oldergod Aug 31 '12 at 4:02
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    For the record, the upcoming Sunday is Sept. 2nd - at least on my calendar today. – ento Aug 31 '12 at 16:54
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    @ento: That must be the biggest reason why 今週の日曜日 cannot refer to Sept. 3. :) – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 1 '12 at 0:10
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    @oldergod: “Do native speakers need to justify how they feel about their own language?”: Yoshida-san says “本来は週の初めは日曜日なんです.” It is not an expression of a personal feeling but an assertion about history. Obviously, being native speakers does not automatically justify their factual claims. – Tsuyoshi Ito Sep 3 '12 at 12:29

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