Japanese Dates

Once the page with the publication details has been located, the first question most collectors will want to be able to answer is, "When was the book published?" Again, it is not so difficult to find this information - it is basically a question of knowing what to look for.

The first thing to look for is the symbol for "year".

The second thing to look for is the symbol for "month".

The third thing to look for is the symbol for "day".




All these things together (separated, of course by numbers showing what the year, month and day actually were) make up a date. The date may run vertically or horizontally from left to right or (in books up to about 1930) horizontally from right to left.

Sometimes (especially in more recent books) the numbers indicating the day, month and year are given in Arabic numerals, so you will be able to read it immediately. Often, though, the numbers are given in Japanese. Here, then, are the basic numbers you need to know:

The trickiest bit is the fact that there is more than one way of writing the same thing. For example, December 20th, 1976 could be written in either of the following ways:

The first way shows 1976 as "thousand nine hundreds seven tens six year". Then it shows the twelfth month (i.e., December) as "ten two month", and finally it shows the twentieth day as "two tens day". The second way reads "one nine seven six year, one two month, two zero day". There are other, even more complicated ways of showing the date, but I want to keep this simple! I will come back to the Japanese dating system later on, though.

If all of this seems difficult, bear in mind that you don't need to go through the process of
deciphering each and every date. All you really need to be able to do is identify the date. From that you should be able to work out whether or not the book is a first printing. That's the next step.

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