May Illness

In Japanese culture there is a phrase, gogatsu-byō (5月病), which means “May Illness”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek saying that describes the feeling of haziness or lethargy that many people experience in late April/early May.

In Japan’s case, this is keenly felt by students whose school year ends in April (not June),1 and new office workers who often start their careers in May. People are burned out in April and by the time May rolls around, they get tired plus the weather is warm and pleasant.

Another phrase you hear around this time is:


shunmin akatsuki wo oboezu

I’ve talked about this phrase before, and its origin in a Tang-Dynasty Chinese poem, titled “Spring Dawn” (春曉 Chūn Xiǎo) composed by poet Mèng Hàorán (689/691–740, 孟浩然). In Japanese he was called mōkōnen. The original poem was translated into Japanese at some point, and the first verse became a phrase all its own. Here’s a side by side comparison of the original Chinese with the Japanese translation plus English:

春眠不覺曉Chūn mián bù jué xiǎo春眠暁を覚えずShunmin akatsuki wo oboezuI slumbered this spring morning, and missed the dawn,
處處聞啼鳥Chùchù wén tíniǎo処々に啼鳥を聞くSho sho ni teichō to kikuFrom everywhere I heard the cry of birds.
夜來風雨聲Yè lái fēngyǔ shēng夜来風雨の声Yarai fūu no koeThat night the sound of wind and rain had come,
花落知多少Huā luò zhī duōshǎo花落つること知る多少Hana otsuru koto shinnu tashōzoWho knows how many petals then had fallen?
1 Translation courtesy of

Even if you don’t live in Japan, that sense of late spring haziness is something we can all appreciate.

1 If I recall correctly, Japanese students don’t have a long summer break, like kids i, the US. Instead they have more breaks scattered throughout the year, and so summer break in Japan only lasts a few weeks.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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