I can feel the humidity and heat coming in quick! Summer is just around the corner. How confident are you with your summer vocabulary? If you’re familiar with kigo (季語), your summer seasonal words list should be a long one. Kigo refers to seasonal words used in Haiku to describe the seasons.
If you’re not all too happy with your list, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place to build that up. We’ve compiled a list of common and unique summer seasonal words for you to lock into memory!
Of course, the first on our list is “natsu” (夏). This translates to “summer”. The days leading up to summer are usually bright and warm. This phase of time is called “natsumeku” (夏めく). “Meku” is a suffix that loosely translates to “becoming like”. When you combine it with the Japanese word for summer, it means “beginning to look like summer”.
On the first day of summer (known as rikka, 立夏), everyone welcomes it with open arms. We’re past the cold and dry. Hello, heat and humidity. I don’t know about you, but I’m half-and-half when it comes to summer.
Anyway, after a few weeks into summer, we’ll feel natsubate (夏ばて). This is the fatigue and exhaustion you feel from the summer heat and humidity. “Bate” comes from the verb “bateru” (ばてる), which means “to be exhausted”. Combat natsubate with bottles of water and a sensu (扇子, folding fan).
Let’s not forget the natsumatsuri (夏祭り). The summer festivals are what keeps the spirits up during this humid season. You get everything from music and camping festivals to traditional street marches and food stalls.
For the students, you have natsuyasumi (夏休み) to look forward to! We all need that summer holiday, don’t we?
Come summer, you’ll hear chiming everywhere. That’s all because of the fuurin (風鈴). They are glass wind chimes that symbolises summer in Japan. Fuurins are made of glass bells with a string and a piece of paper hanging down underneath them. You’ll see these glass wind chimes on doors, windows and gates all throughout summer.
Sometimes, people write wishes on the piece of paper as well. When you hear the chimes of the glass bells, you’ll know there’s wind in the air to help with the humid heat!
Before we get the hot sun, we get tsuyu (梅雨). Tsuyu is the rainy season that comes at the start of summer in Japan. Usually, it’s around the start or middle of June and lasts till the middle of July. They’re not heavy rain and it’s usually mild showers in general. However, Japan does get heavy rainstorms as well as typhoons.
You won’t get the humidity as much during this time. Instead, you get tsuyuzamu (梅雨寒), which is the chill from the rain.
Japanese people combat the Japanese summer with kakigoori (かき氷). This is a type of Japanese dessert made from shaved ice and topped with syrup and condensed milk. It’s really sweet, so those of you who have a sweet tooth will absolutely love it!
When summer comes, pop up stalls selling kakigoori appear everywhere! You can have your pick from street kakigoori to ones from specialist shops. Get an ice-shaving machine yourself and try it at home!
Remember when we said there are summer festivals? What’s a festival without fireworks. Hanabi (花火) is one of the highlights of Japanese summer. Every town in the country throws some sort of event for a firework show. Couples, friends and family would bring their mats and find a spot to watch the show.
We’ve been mentioning “humid” a couple of times. What is it in Japanese? It’s “mushiatsui” (蒸し暑い). When the air is moist and damp (or shimetta, 湿った) during the hot weather, that’s when you know it’s peak Japanese summer. I don’t think I’ve experienced a hotter and more humid summer than in Japan. So brace yourselves!
According to the old calendar, there’s another way to refer to the month of June. It’s called “minazuki” (水無月). If you look at the kanji’s used, it combines the word for “water” (水) and “month” (月). The “mu” (無) character doesn’t hold any meaning. If you combine the other two, it translates to “the month of water”.
June is the start of the rainy season, after all. Minazuki is an appropriate name for the month.
There’s a type of soda that comes in glass bottles. They’re called “ramune” (ラムネ). These bottled sodas have curved necks and a glass ball in the middle, referred to as bidama (ビー玉). This type of soda is so popular during the season of summer that it has now become a symbol of the season.
Shochu mimai (暑中見舞い)
Japanese people love sending greeting cards to friends and family during occasions. In summer, they send shochu mimai (暑中見舞い) to check in on their loved ones’ health and wellbeing. They can also send gifts, too!
If you send a greeting card at the end of summer, it’s then referred to as zansho mimai (残暑見舞い).
Summer calls for the sun, sand and sea! If you love going to the beach, you’ve got to brace yourself for the hiyake (日焼け). Hiyake translates to sunburn. Make sure you put on a lot of sunscreen with high SPF content! The sunlight in Japan is no joke!
Has your summer season vocabulary expanded? Prepare for summer with not only bikini bodies and new swimsuits but also a load of new Japanese vocabulary!