May Disease / by Jim Hathaway


May 5th, Boy's Day, reborn as “Children's day,” a national holiday in Japan. Girl's day is still the third day of the third month, not a holiday. 

Childrens's Day marks the end of, “Golden Week,“ a string of national holidays.  Families with sons, schools, and communities fly colorful carp kites. People decorate their tokonoma with samurai parifinalia, models of armor, helmets, swords.

In homes and in the public baths people soak with iris leaves floating in the water.

After Golden Week we will return to work. Some of us come down with May Disease.

I ask my students to translate, “Go Gotsu Biyo,“ into English. Students freeze, then put together, "May Disease." I tell them it was a trick. It can't be translated. English hasn't the concept. 

May Disease is connected with the Golden Week and the Japanese Calender. 

Japan has three new years, the newest and biggest falls on January first, the older is on the first day of the first moon. It is the same day as Chinese New Year, and the final new year’s day is April first, the beginning the fiscal and academic year. New company recruits report on mass to the first real job of their life. Students begin at a new school.

Students begin university life, that thing their parents have been calling the most important attainment in their life, or the job they spent their senior year of university groveling for. 

April begins. They have three or four weeks of new life, then the Golden Week, time to reflect, time to realize that the thing they have worked for all their life to get ain't quite what they had expected.

May Disease. 

Mind the train delays.