If you’re shocked that January is almost over, Japanese has a phrase for that.

Last month we took a look at the Kanji of the Year and aired out a 30-year-old fart-related translation error in Hokkaido. So let’s keep things going with another look at Japanese linguistics to start off the New Year…

Huh…that’s weird. My calendar says that January is almost over, but I could have sworn it was just the other day that everyone in Japan was trying not to kill themselves mochi, the traditional way to start off the New Year. Sure, I guess things have been pretty hectic after coming back from winter vacation, but we’re already at the end of the month? When did that happen?!?

This psychological phenomenon isn’t unique to Japan, of course. Between responsibilities that pile up while taking time off for Christmas and New Year’s, projects with their starts delayed until after everyone returns to work/school in January, and just the sudden shift back to the daily grind after the most festive time of year, people in many countries feel like January goes by in a flash. What’s unique about Japan, though, is that there’s a set phrase to describe that feeling, and also the fact that it sometimes carries on into the start of spring.

First, let’s go over how to talk about months in Japanese. Just about anyone who’s got even a passing interest in the Japanese language knows that ichi means “one,” Tack –gatsu, meaning “moon,” onto it and you get ichigatsu, literally “one month,” the Japanese word for January.

▼ Ichigatsu

In Japanese, that feeling of January being over before you know it gets expressed with “Ichigatsu wa iku,” meaning “January goes.”

▼ Ichigatsu wa iku

Getting back to numbers, ni and san are the Japanese words for “two” and “three,” and we can add –gatsu to them too to create nigatsu and sangatsu, meaning “February” and “March.”

▼ Nigatsu and sangatsu

Remember how we said ichigatsu wa iku? Well sometime February goes by crazy fast too, especially since it’s the shortest month of the year. So the way to express that feeling is “Nigatsu wa nigeru,” or “February runs away.”

And March/sangatsu? That’s a particularly busy month too in Japan, what with it being the end of the academic and business years at most schools and companies, leading many to remark “Sangatsu wa saru,” or “March departs.”

So put it all together, and the complete phrase becomes:

Ichigatsu wa iku
Nigatsu wa nigeru
Sangatsu wa saru

Or, if you want to be old-school, you can substitute the more classical sounding inuru (往ぬる), which also means “go” or “leave,” for iku and still keep the alliteration.

▼ Ichigatsu wa inuru

The fact that there’s a set phrase for this sentiment shows that it can be easy to get caught up in the busy atmosphere of the first fourth of the year, even if you’re making your best efforts to keep everything under control. So remember to take breaks if and when you can, and don’t forget that once January has gone, February has fled, and March has marched off into the past, in April it’s time to relax under the cherry blossoms.

Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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