A Japanese word for May: Gogatsu byou

In Japan, a mysterious sickness to a foreign eye appears every year around May. Termed as the May sickness, 五月病ごがつびょう is not a specific disease per se, but more a disorder created by the rhythm of the Japanese year.

April marks the start of a new school semester, and for most Japanese companies, this is also a popular hiring season or to reassign staff to new departments. The novelty of a new school, the joy of having a job is motivates everyone at first. “I will study well”, “I will do my best”. Here are some thoughts, full of hope and energy that Japanese have during the initial phase. However, even those who go to school or work pumped up with hope and motivation may end up feeling tired or stressed after a month has passed.

After an exciting and exhausting April, they enter a phase where they are unable to adjust to those new surroundings. May indicates a peak period of sleep deprivation and appetite issues for those who just began schooling or their new job. The Japanese society is not known for its short working week and its holidays. Students will face the pressure to do well and newly hired workers will cumulate more and more extra hours of work. This is a situation where one loses motivation or becomes doubtful of oneself.  You might have smiled at the expression, but this syndrome affects millions of Japanese every year. Co-workers, family, friends, everyone is feeling the malaise in the air.

For some, it might simply be a bad feeling hovering over their head for a few weeks: “I feel down, I am fed up, nothing feels right”. But for others, it might represent a serious illness up till the point they will resign or quit school.

The reality is that no immediate cure that can help them to recover, they will have to become stronger and to toughen up. Most often the 五月病ごがつびょう is contracted by the end of the Golden Weekan important holiday season in Japan, which takes place in the first week of May.


A: Yamada has been absent ever since Golden Week.
B: That’s true. Well, maybe it’s just May sickness?
A: It’s already his third year in a row…

If you are feeling unwell, be sure to recharge yourself with plenty of sleep and get out there to meet your friends! June is just around the corner!

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