Talking about the seasons in Japanese

By | June 13, 2023

Weather is part of our day-to-day lives, whether it is a rainstorm, a heatwave, or extra strong winds. And the seasons are one of the fundamental ways we categorize weather in terms of certain weather patterns.

In Japan the seasons are especially important, partially because the types of foods that are available fresh differ significantly by weather. Also you will generally see weather or seasons referred to in formal letters, and even in emails sent from companies to customers. So in this post I wanted to briefly talk about the seasons and go over some related vocabulary words.

In Japanese we express a seasion with the word 季節 [kisetsu], and sometimes the loanword シーズン [shiizun] is used (though less commonly). When talking about the season when a certain food (like a fruit) is available, you can use the word 旬 [shun], for example:

  • りんごの旬は今から始まる [ringo no shun wa ima kara hajimaru]
  • The apple season starts now.

The four seasons are:

春 [haru]: spring

夏 [natsu]: summer

秋 [aki]: autumn, fall

冬 [fuyu]: winter

In fact there is a word that uses the same characters to specify the four seasons: 春夏秋冬 [shunka shuutou]. Also you can say 四季 (shiki) to express the four seasons more simply.

There are many words that have one of the seasons part of them. For example:

  • 冬眠 [toumin]: hibernation (literally “winter sleep”)
  • 秋分 [shuubun]: the autumnal equinox
  • 春風 [haru kaze]: spring breeze
  • 夏休み [natsu yasumi]: summer break (from school)

As you can see, sometimes the on (Chinese) reason is used, like the first two examples, and sometimes the kun (Japanese) reading.

Here are some other interesting words involving seasons in general:

  • 季節外れ [kisetsu hazure]: off season
  • 季節感 [kisetsukan]: the sense or feeling of a season
  • 季節割引[kisetsu waribiki]: seasonal discount
  • 季節商品 [kisetsu shouhin]: seasonal product

There are a wide variety of expressions used in letters related to weather and seasons, and this page has them listed by month. Let’s look at two of them here:

寒さもあと一息です、元気な春を迎えましょう [samusa mo ato hitoiki desu, genki na haru wo mukaemashou]

This phrase can be translated as “The cold is almost gone, let’s welcome a cheerful spring”.

さわやかな季節です、いつにも増して活動的に過ごしてください [sawayaka na kisetsu desu, itsu ni mo mashite katsudouteki ni sugoshite kudasai]

This one can be translated as, “It’s a refreshing season; I hope your days are spent with a little extra zest.”

In fact, Japan also has the idea of “micro seasons”, which are seasons that last around 5 days each, making a total of 72 for the year. Annotranslate has a few articles that showcase these.

(Visited 174 times, 1 visits today)

One thought on “Talking about the seasons in Japanese

  1. Jim Miles

    >> In fact, Japan also has the idea of “micro seasons”, which are seasons that last around 5 days each, making a total of 72 for the year. Annotranslate has a few articles that showcase these.

    Thanks for the mention! I’ve been meaning to go back to writing about those but in a way that doesn’t dominate the blog (as it had a tendency to do back when whole strings of entries were just about the microseasons). Annotranslate has been dormant a while now, but every mention like this spurs me closer to getting back in the saddle XD

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.