The feeling of natsukashii
日本語には、外国の ことばに うまく 翻訳することができない 複雑な 感情を 表す ことばが たくさん あります。
５年前の 歌を 聞き「懐かしい」と 言う 人、テレビで 古い アニメが 流れているのを 見て「懐かしい」と 言う 人も おり、「懐かしい」という 感情は、いろいろな シーンに あるようです。
There are many words that don’t translate well between languages. They convey a nuance that can only be described with a sentence, or an approximation. Human emotions are complex, and not all cultures have come up with ways to express them succinctly. One famous example, coming from German and recently being used in English, is “schadenfreude”, a feeling of pleasure derived from another’s suffering.
The Japanese language is especially terse and there are many words that express complex emotions that can’t be translated well into English. One such case is natsukashii. While there is a literal translation we can attempt (nostalgic), it doesn’t fully express the feeling of natsukashii, and it’s not nearly as flexible. Most people would agree “I’m feeling nostalgic” is a very robotic phrase. Phrases like “That brings back memories”, “I remember this” or “It reminds me of my childhood” are more accurate, but a little too strong and romantic, and natsukashii doesn’t have to be about childhood at all, it could be about something that you experienced a few years ago. When you use the word natsukashii, it means you’re reminiscing a pleasant memory.
Japanese people use natsukashii very often compared to the English “nostalgic”, sometimes even several times a day. They hear a song from five years ago and might say: “Natsukashii“. They see an old anime is playing on TV and say: “Natsukashii“. They have a drink they haven’t had in a while and: “Natsukashii“. They play on an old Game Boy: “Natsukashii”. Even though they might not truly want to go back to playing on a Game Boy and have no interest in keeping it, the natsukashii feeling is still there and evokes a time in life they can’t go back to.
There is certain obsession in Japanese culture with cherishing the old times. You’ll see that, for example, a lot of Japanese movies have high school students as protagonists. Most big hits in Japan involve being teenagers in one way or another. School reunions are a common tradition in Japan, and a lot of people’s friends outside of the workplace consist mainly of old classmates. The feeling of natsukashii is everywhere and you shouldn’t be afraid to express it.
Hi, I’m Sergio.
I’m from Spain, lived in the UK for seven years and came to Japan in 2012.
I majored in journalism in London and have been teaching English in Tokyo.
I like traveling, cycling, photography, movies, and spending time with friends.
I wrote articles about life in Japan as a foreigner and anything that I might find interesting.
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