In March, I wrote about my interest in certain Japanese phrases that seem to describe a moment perfectly. Back then, on a snowy morning, my co-worker taught me the phrase nagori yuki, which roughly means “last snow” or “spring snow,” though its kanji breakdown is far more poetic.
A few weeks ago, the same co-worker taught me another Japanese phrase that I have since become fond of. After biking to work on a very warm and sticky morning in the rainy season, I plopped down my large black work bag next to my desk and took off my red St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. My face was most likely the same bright shade of red. “Oh, Sheila-san, good morning,” Teresaki-sensei, a Japanese teacher, said. “Today is very mushiatsui (むしあつい).”
I knew atsui meant hot, but I had not heard of mushiatsui. “It means humid. It is very wet and humid,” he told me. Intrigued by how the phrase rolls off the tongue, I looked up the kanji. It is comprised of the kanji 蒸 , which means steam, and 暑, which means hot or summer heat.
So next time you see a Japanese person and want to practice your Japanese, you can say “mushi atsui desu ne?” (It’s very humid, isn’t it?). With sweat rolling down my neck every day, there is no doubt it’s very mushiatsui.