When I first moved to Japan, I would always laugh whenever any of my Japanese friends would ask me this question. Of course my home country has four seasons! Doesn’t everybody’s?
As it turns out, many of Japan’s neighbors such as Taiwan, Indonesia, parts of Australia, and The Philippines don’t have four distinct seasons which has led many to believe that this is a trait special to Japan.
Japanese Koi fish under the rain
Some like it hot. And some like it cold. Each season in Japan is punctuated with its own unique attributes and characteristics and so it’s only natural that you would have a favorite.
Let’s learn how to talk about and describe our favorite seasons with some helpful Japanese weather vocabulary so that you can tell your friends which season you like best.
The severity of the Japanese winter is largely dependent on where you live in Japan. The Japanese archipelago is very long vertically, which means that the range in seasonal temperature from the northmost tip of Hokkaido to the southmost point of Okinawa can be pretty far apart.
Northern parts of Japan like the Tohoku region will often see temperatures far below zero and will experience snowfall well over two meters. On the other hand, Okinawa won’t go much further than 18℃/65°F which is a pretty big difference compared to the north.
Sound like a native: Are you cold? Like really really really really cold? To really sell just how cold you are, you can use the Japanese word « めっちゃ » (meccha) in rapid succession to really drive your point in.
For example:いやーめっちゃめっちゃめっちゃ寒いよ！ (Iya, meccha meccha meccha samui yo!) “I’m really really really cold!”
While it may sound a bit funny, Japanese people will often complain about extreme weather this way. So give it a try to sound just like a native!
In Japan, snow is a big deal. In fact, the northern city of Sapporo’s « 雪まつり » Snow Festival is so big that over 2 million people visit annually - all to celebrate the snow and frost!
The first snow in Japan is very culturally important as well - so important that it has its own name: « 初雪 » (Hatsuyuki). While one can never really predict when the first snow will fall, but at the very least you can prepare yourself with the following Japanese snow vocabulary:
The snow has thawed, the hills are green with grass, the birds begin to chirp and the air smells just a little sweeter. Indeed, the days have become warmer and there is no need to wear your heavy winter jacket.
As it warms up, you can now enjoy the outdoors and relish in the romance of the Japanese spring. Go for a bike ride or perhaps take a leisurely stroll alongside a river path. However, be warned - Japanese spring is notoriously windy so hold onto your hat!
Just as the first snow is a big part of the Japanese winter, the first warm wind of spring is a cultural phenomenon in Japan and is called the « 春一番 » (Haru ichiban).
Not far behind the « Haru ichiban » is the wave of cherry blossoms that have become almost synonymous with the country itself.
Cherry blossoms bloom starting in the south towards the end of February and continue to work their way up north to Hokkaido all the way until the middle of May.
Bonus word: Remember the word « 吹雪 » (Fubuki) from the last section? It means blizzard and so in Japan when it rains down a whole lot of cherry blossoms at once, we call that « 桜吹雪 » (Sakura fubuki) - a cherry blossom blizzard!
The Japanese summer is blisteringly hot and incredibly humid. Even in northern Hokkaido temperatures are easily well over 32℃/90°F and the air conditioner will be one of your best friends between June and August.
However, in the unfortunate circumstance where you have no choice but to leave the cool comfort of your home to venture outside, make sure you wear plenty of sunscreen and wear light clothes otherwise you’ll find yourself one sweaty mess!
Sound like a Native: If you want to sound like the cool kids, check out this hot Japanese slang! When it’s so hot outside that its simply ridiculous, you can say:「バカ暑い！」 (Baka atsui!)
バカ (Baka) in Japanese means stupid. And as you just learned, 暑い (Atsui) means hot. So when you use the two together as「バカ暑い」, it literally means that it is stupidly or “mad” hot.
You can use this バカ + adjective pattern with other Japanese vocabulary words too for example:
It’s a good thing that Japan is an island right? In Japan you are never more than 150 km from the ocean which is the perfect way to cool down during a hot day. There are all sorts of fun activities to do at the beach.
Will you take a dip in the sea? Or perhaps laying on the sand and catching some rays is more your style. Learn how to talk about some fun summer activities with these fun Japanese summer vocabulary words”
« 土用の丑の日 » (Doyo ushi no hi) is considered by many in Japan to be the hottest day of the summer.
« 土用 » (Doyo) is the special name given to the special period of 18 days coming before the change of the season. And « 丑 » (Ushi) is the Japanese word for the Ox as represented by the Chinese zodiac calendar and is one of these 18 days of the « 土用 » period.
While the dates of « 土用の丑の日 » are a bit different each year, typically it is celebrated somewhere between July 20- July 30th and follows the Chinese Zodiac calendar.
So how do Japanese people celebrate this special day? By eating « 鰻 » (Unagi) eel! Eel is very nutritious, not to mention delicious, and so eating it on the hottest day of the year is the best way to keep your stamina up!
Since Japanese eel is a delicacy and tends to be quite expensive, many Japanese people will wait all year until « 土用の丑の日 » just to have some. So while your friends are at home eating ice cream and popsicles, why not try some Japanese eel in order to beat the summer heat!
The temperature goes down, the days start to shorten, and leaves begin to turn a bright crimson. Autumn is here and soon the leaves will be falling one by one just as is the circle of life.
The changing of the leaves in Japan is an important cultural phenomenon and many people will travel far distances on holiday to see the bright fall colors. Red, orange, yellow. There is no shortage of color during the season so best get out and see it for yourself!
Although the Japanese autumn is magnificent, it is also the wettest time of the year. From mid-September until November, typhoons frequently run their course through the Land of the Rising Sun and seasonal floods or mudslides are not uncommon, especially in the south.
While most weeks you’ll just see sprinkles of rain with intermediate downpours, let’s learn some various words and phrases in Japanese so that you can describe the rainy weather with ease.
Bonus word: Have you ever been enjoying a perfectly good day when all of a sudden it starts raining out of nowhere even though it's sunny? In Japanese, this is called « 天気雨 » (Tenki ame) or in English, a sunshower.
If you get a chance to see this rare meteorological phenomenon consider yourself lucky and if your luck is really good, you might even see a « 虹 » (Niji) Rainbow.
Remember in the Japanese Vocabulary for Gardening lesson where we talked about the different Japanese verbs used for putting on different articles of clothing? Let’s practice them again here as we get ready to go outside on a rainy day.先ず、カッパを着て (Mazu, Kappa wo kite) First, put on your raincoat そして、雨靴を履いて (Soshite, amagutsu wo haite) Then, put on your rain boots 次、頭巾を被って (Tsugi, zukin wo kabutte) Next, put up your hood. 最後、傘を手に持って (Saigo, kasa wo te ni motte) Lastly, grab your umbrella in your hand
Ever read the newspaper to take a look at the weather forecast to and see clear skys, only to have your day completely ruined by an unexpected huge thunderstorm?
During a big storm or a period of continuous rain, Japanese children like to make « てるてる坊主 » (teruteru bouzu) dolls. The name of these dolls is made up from the words « てる » (teru), meaning to shine, and « 坊主 » (bouzu) meaning a bald-headed monk.
After making these dolls out of either a white cloth or some tissue paper, children like to hand them up by the window to ward off the rain.
Here are some Japanese vocabulary words for talking about stormy weather:
Although Japan’s crime rate is notoriously low, that doesn't always mean that it’s safe. Japan is very prone to a slew of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and even volcanos.
In fact, in 2018, there were so many natural disasters that « 災 » (disaster) was chosen as the kanji of the year. Many of these natural disasters are brought about by weather conditions such as heavy rains or unforgiving snow.
Here is some helpful Japanese vocabulary for describing natural disasters:
While in Japan, it is important to identify the nearest « 避難所 » (Hinan sho) evacuation center whenever you move somewhere new. This is particularly important if you live near the ocean as tsunamis are frequent and can be potentially life-endangering.
Usually, these are a public place such as a school, city hall, or even a train station. These facilities have spare food reserves on hand, medical supplies, wireless radio receivers, and will be the best place to get information and instructions on what to do next in case of an emergency.
If you find yourself in an emergency due to inclement weather and need help, here are some people that can assist you:
Rain, snow, hail, or shine, we hope that with our guide to Japanese weather vocabulary that you can now feel confident describing any sort of weather condition, no matter the season!
Remember, while it may seem like a jumble of words and phrases now, practice makes perfect! Weather is something that happens every day! One good way to help practice your weather words in Japanese is to keep a daily journal and write a few sentences about today’s weather each day.
With enough practice and dedication, you’ll be talking about the weather in Japanese like a native in no time!