五月病: May Sickness
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Cherry Blossoms' Melancholia
It's finally May in Japan! Golden Week, sunny and hotter days, Spring... Everything seems perfect! But there is a catch, the "may sickness" is around the corner as well.
I was first struck by the 五月病 (Gogatsubyo or literally "May Sickness") during my third stay in Japan, in 2012. I had just started an internship in Tokyo and April had been full of discoveries and adventures. I even experienced for the first time a Hanami with colleagues. For Golden Week, I went to Kyoto, meeting old friends of mine there and enjoying every little hidden temples or sanctuary, Kansai street food and stumbling upon World heritage masterpieces at every corner.
And then, in the blink of an eye, I came back to the Kanto. All the excitement was gone. Motivation was nowhere to be seen. Ahead, the rainy season and the unbearable hotness... and no more Cherry Blossoms! "It must be the Gogatsubyo!" said my colleague, marking my first encounter with the word.
Gogatsubyo is not an official sickness but much more like a concept and it has been a talking topic for 40 years. It rather refers to a state of apathy Japanese freshmen and new hires can feel for a few days or a few weeks after the Golden week. Even though it is not a disease, it includes insomnia, lost of appetite, nervousness, anxiety and other disorders depending on who is experiencing it.
But why would that happen in May?
April is the busiest month in Japanese calendar. School, jobs, fiscal year... in Japan, almost everything starts in April. It is a month full of agitation, stress and -mainly- enthusiasm; flirting dangerously with the burn-out... Then, suddenly, the Golden Week arrives and as it comes to an end (always too quickly if you ask), new students and new hires face the reality of adapting to a new environment, for a long term.
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