The Ultimate Japanese Words for Summer

The Ultimate Japanese Words for Summer

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! 

Natsu (夏)

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?

Fuurin (風鈴)

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!

Tsuyu (梅雨)

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.

Kakigoori (かき氷)

shaved ice / イチゴミルク

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!

Hanabi (花火)

Epcot - All of Illuminations

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.

Mushiatsui (蒸し暑い)

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!

Minazuki (水無月)

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.

Ramune (ラムネ)

Vendor selling Ramune in bottles

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).

Hiyake (日焼け)

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! 

Japanese Summer — How Long, How Hot & How to Survive!

Japanese Summer — How Long, How Hot & How to Survive!

We’re almost in the middle of the year, which means that the weather’s going to warm up. Whether it’s to have a dip in the ocean or lie on the soft sand, summer’s greatly anticipated. Japan’s summer, though, is no joke. Not only is it packed with events and festivals like neighbourhood matsuri (祭り) and music shows, but it’s the peak of heat and humidity.

You hear a lot of people talk about Japanese summer and how hot it can get here. How hot are we talking about? I’m telling you, it really is, coming from a girl who grew up on a tropical island.

So before you get packing for your next Japanese summer trip, here are some things you need to know.

People at a summer street festival in Japan.

Image Credit: Kentaro Toma
Natsu (夏) in Japan is something everyone should be talking about. I personally have never experienced humidity like this. And like I said, I grew up in tropical Singapore, so I didn’t think anything could be worse than that.
 

Japanese summer starts around June and lasts all the way till August. It’s roughly three months, but it can vary depending on exactly which part of Japan you’re in. There’s also global warming, so summer can start as early as late May and last as long as mid-September.

If you find yourself in the southernmost part of Japan, like the Kansai region and Okinawa, you’re going to get a longer summer. Don’t forget the humidity as well. The Kanto region, where the capital city Tokyo is, is not too far off the heat and humidity levels, too. However, if you’re up north in Hokkaido, you not only get a shorter summer but also the cool and not-so-humid weather. That’s why lots of locals travel up north during this time!
If you’re wondering where you should spend the summer in Japan, Tokyo’s your best bet. Here is where you get all the great festivities and events.
Don’t worry if you’re early for Japanese summer. Late May and early June are the best times for flower viewing. Hydrangeas bloom everywhere, along with some other summer florals. Kamakura’s Meigetsuin Temple is famous for its blue hydrangea garden.
Be prepared with umbrellas, though. The start of summer in Japan is also the start of the rainy season (tsuyu, 梅雨). You might even get a typhoon (taifu, 台風) or two. The rainy season can be a week of non-stop rain and strong winds, usually at the end of June to the start of July. You might want to avoid these dates if you’re not a fan of the rain.

Summer Temperature in Japan

Large crowd at a summer festival at a shrine in Japan.

Image Credit: Julie Fader

The temperature in Japan during the summer can fluctuate. One day it can be a great summer’s day, and the next it can be as unbearable as it can get. Some of my Japanese friends have noted that summer temperature in recent years has been particularly high. We’re advised to take precautions so as to not get heatstroke.

June’s weather is comfortable. You’ll get a cooling 22ºC in the afternoons and it drops to about 18ºC in the evening. Since it’s also approaching the rainy season, you can expect a few rainy days. Pack an umbrella!
It warms up in July after the rainy season. You get 22ºC evenings and warm and humid 28ºC afternoons.

Nothing beats August. It’s the hottest month of the year. 31ºC afternoons are conservative. It can go as hot as 35ºC for a whole week or two. Sunscreen and a bottle of cold water are going to be your best friends.

Summer Humidity in Japan 

Japanese Lanterns

Image Credit: Atul Vinayak

Sure, you can gauge the heat in Japan from the temperature, but it’s the humidity that gets you. You see everyone’s dressing going from chic to casual in a matter of days.

Some say it gets humid in June, but I say it’s already slightly humid in late May. June’s humidity level is at an average of 75%. The previous month’s humidity levels are 60%-65% on average. That’s quite a big jump from spring to summer.
July is looking at 79% humidity. It’s especially humid after the rainy season. August’s humidity level drops to 73% as it gets closer to autumn, but combine that with the hot temperature and you get the hottest month of the year. Don’t avoid August, though. It’s the month of festivities and events. Just pack a few caps and sunglasses.

Now you know. Japanese summer can get not only pretty hot but humid as well. What do you think, will you still be visiting the country during the summer? The Japanese festivities are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it’s a lose-some-win-some situation, I might say. Don’t get scared off by the Japanese heat!