The 25 words listed below are a mere sample of all the words that relate to summer in Japanese. But, they are the most common, frequent, and popular among the culture. Anyone visiting over the summer months should have a basic command of these words.
However, it’s important to note that the Japanese use of characters, or kanji, serves as a base root for other manifestations of any particular word.
This means if you can understand what a basic character is, you may be able to figure out what the rest of the word means via context.
Overview of 25 Japanese Words about Summer
- (夏) Natsu: Summer
- (立夏) Rikka: First Day of Summer
- (夏季) Kaki: Summer Months
- (暑中見舞い) Shochu Mimai ; (残暑見舞い) Zansho Mimai: Summertime Giving
- (薫風) Kunpuu: Summer Breeze
- (涼み) Suzumi: Enjoying the Cool Air
- (梅雨) Tsuyu: Rainy Season
- (雲の峰) Kumo-no-mine: Summer Clouds
- (炎昼) Enchu: Hot Summer Midday Sun
- (日盛り) Hizakari: Heat at the Zenith
- (浴衣) Yukata: Summer Robe
- (扇子) Sensu ; (団扇) Uchiwa: Fans
- (夏の食べ物) Summer Foods
- (祭り) Matsuri: Festivals
- (花火) Hanabi: Fireworks
- (紫外線) Shigaisen: Ultraviolet Rays
- (ベタベタ) Betabeta: Sticky
- (水泳) Suiei: Swimming
- (ハイキング) Haikingu: Hiking
- (ボート) Bōto: Boating
- (園芸) Engei: Gardening
- (花) Hana: Flowers
- (日焼け) Hiyake: Sunburn
- (暑い) Atsui: Weather Heat
- (じめじめ) Jimejime: Humidity
1. (夏) Natsu: Summer
In Japanese, summer is “natsu” (夏). There are many words that combine “natsu” to indicate an object, event, or concept strictly belonging to summer.
- Natsu-meku (夏めく): Meaning “start of summer” or “becoming summery.” People say this when they notice things like flowers, the onset of a warmer climate or how the sun glints on the ocean.
- Natsu-bate (夏ばて): Summers in Japan are unbearably humid and people easily experience exhaustion. This heat fatigue is “natsubate,” stemming from the verb “bateru,” or exhausted.
- Natsu-yasumi (夏休み): In English, this is a “summer vacation” that begins around July 20th and ends about August 3rd.
2. (立夏) Rikka: First Day of Summer
Per the old Japanese astrological calendar, “Rikka” is the first day of summer. This is when the ecliptic longitude of the sun reaches 45°. The day changes each year but occurs sometime within the first couple weeks of May.
3. (夏季) Kaki: Summer Months
Kaki translates to “summer months.”
- May: Go-Gatsu (五月)
- June: Roku-Gatsu (六月)
- July: Shichi-Gatsu (七月)
- August: Hachi-Gatsu (八月)
4. (暑中見舞い) Shochu Mimai ; (残暑見舞い) Zansho Mimai: Summertime Giving
The Japanese have a wonderful custom where they give each other special gifts and greeting cards. They do this as an act of kindness and concern; to check on loved ones, friends, and family so they stay safe from natsubate.
They do this twice throughout the summer. Shochu Mimai occurs during the last two weeks of July and then again after the first week of August, called Zansho Mimai.
5. (薫風) Kunpuu: Summer Breeze
When you want to speak about a gentle, balmy summer breeze, this is “kunpuu.” It’s a poetic term to speak about how nice the wind is.
6. (涼み) Suzumi: Enjoying the Cool Air
“Suzumi” is a reference for when someone finds relief from the summer heat in air conditioning or because the air temperature cooled.
7. (梅雨) Tsuyu: Rainy Season
Depending on where you are, Japan’s rainy season begins around May and lasts through June/July.
This is the hallmark of the summer season. It’s an important time as it allows for rice cultivation and other agricultural pursuits.
They call this “tsuyu” and it incorporates the kanji for an apricot tree (or plum), which is “ume” (梅) and the character for rain, “ame” (雨). Literally this means apricot (or plum) rain.
When they wish to discuss chilly summer rain, they say “tsuyuzamu” (梅雨寒).
8. (雲の峰) Kumo-no-mine: Summer Clouds
A poetic turn of phrase for clouds, the Japanese “kumo-no-mine” means “clouds standing like mountain peaks during summer.” However, a thunderstorm is “raiu” (雷雨). But if you hear thunder or see lightning, they are the same word, “kaminari” (雷).
9. (炎昼) Enchu: Hot Summer Midday Sun
Literally meaning “fire midday,” enchu is a word reserved for extremely hot and humid summer afternoons.
10. (日盛り) Hizakari: Heat at the Zenith
The Japanese phrase for referring to the heat of the sun at high noon is “hizakari.”
11. (浴衣) Yukata: Summer Robe
During Japan’s summer festivals, you’ll see people wearing a kimono-like robe called a “yukata.” But the kanji that comprise the word is “abiru” (浴びる) and “koromo” (衣). Together they mean “bathing robe.”
This is a light cotton garment worn by everyone. Women wear floral patterns while men wear darker styles. People accessorize with a sash (obi) and sandals (geta) along with a foldable or handheld fan and a bag (kinchaku).
12. (扇子) Sensu ; (団扇) Uchiwa: Fans
There are two fan types: folding, or “sensu” (扇子), and handheld, or “uchiwa” (団扇). Both types are excellent for staying cool or fanning barbecue fires.
13. (夏の食べ物) Summer Foods
The Japanese have a few food items with an intrinsic connection to summertime:
- Kaki-goori (かき氷): Translated as “scratch ice,” it’s a shaved frozen desert made with condensed milk and syrup. Sometimes there are toppings like fresh fruit or red beans and has the consistency of snow.
- Ramune (ラムネ): A popular Japanese soda, “ramune” is a soft drink synonymous with summertime. It comes in 57 varieties. These have an iconic glass bottle with a curve in the neck and a glass ball in the opening. You pop the ball down and the fizz comes up.
- Suika (スイカ): Suika is the word for “watermelon” in Japanese. But, they have a summer party game called “suikawari” (スイカ割り), or “watermelon splitting.” Blindfolded children take turns hitting a watermelon with a stick until it splits open; similar to the Mexican children’s game of a piñata.
14. (祭り) Matsuri: Festivals
“Matsuri,” or festivals, are a traditional occurrence in Japan and happen all over the country throughout the year. But, they are most popular during summer.
Therefore, a “summer festival” in Japanese is a “natsu matsuri” (夏祭り). These always have games, food vendors, dances, and fireworks.
15. (花火) Hanabi: Fireworks
You can’t have a festival in Japan without fireworks, or “hanabi.” Every town, city, and region has its own displays during the summer.
They are very much akin and connected to the Japanese mindset around this time of year. The characters literally translate to “flower fire.”
16. (紫外線) Shigaisen: Ultraviolet Rays
Synonymous with the summer sun, “shigaisen” describes the ultraviolet rays that emanate from the big, round ball in the sky. Because of the intense Japanese summers, it’s something people take great care to guard against.
17. (ベタベタ) Betabeta: Sticky
This refers to how the skin feels when it’s really hot and humid; where you can almost scrape it off the skin’s surface.
18. (水泳) Suiei: Swimming
When you take a dip into a pool or the ocean to go “swimming,” the Japanese call it “suiei.”
19. (ハイキング) Haikingu: Hiking
When people take a trek through the woods or the mountains, they go “haikingu” or hiking.
20. (ボート) Bōto: Boating
Another word that sounds somewhat similar to English, “bōto” is the Japanese version of saying “boating.”
21. (園芸) Engei: Gardening
Gardening, horticulture, and agriculture are big in Japan throughout the summer. For personal gardening and landscaping, they call it “engei.”
22. (花) Hana: Flowers
Japan often uses the flower, or “hana,” as an allegory for life and is applied often to the samurai, geisha, and other such intricate occupations. Every home displays flowers and summertime has the widest variety.
23. (日焼け) Hiyake: Sunburn
The Japanese will avoid contracting sunburn, or “hiyake,” at all costs. This is especially true of women who prefer white, fair skin.
24. (暑い) Atsui: Weather Heat
“Atsui,” or “hot,” is an adjective to describe the degree of heat of the day.
25. (じめじめ) Jimejime: Humidity
“Jimejime” is a word the Japanese use to describe the texture of the air in the summertime. This is otherwise known as “humidity.”