Exploring Japanese Vocabulary and Phrases in the Realm of Mental Health


Japan has a rich cultural heritage that extends to its language, including expressions and vocabulary related to mental health. Understanding these phrases provides insights into Japanese society’s approach to mental well-being and the importance placed on emotional expression and support.

  1. Kokoro no kaze (心の風邪)

Literally translating to “cold of the heart,” this phrase encapsulates the idea of experiencing emotional distress or feeling mentally unwell. It acknowledges the parallels between physical and mental health, emphasizing the need to care for one’s emotional state as diligently as one’s physical health.

  1. Kūki wo yomu (空気を読む)

This expression, meaning “to read the air,” refers to the ability to understand unspoken cues in social situations. In the context of mental health, it underscores the importance of empathy and sensitivity to others’ emotional states, promoting communication and connection as vital tools for maintaining well-being.

  1. Yūgen (幽玄)

Yūgen conveys a profound sense of mystery and depth, often associated with beauty that evokes a sense of the sublime. In the realm of mental health, it can represent the complexity and depth of human emotions, encouraging individuals to embrace the nuances of their inner experiences rather than seeking simplistic explanations or solutions.

  1. Ki ()

Ki encompasses a range of meanings, including energy, mood, and spirit. In the context of mental health, it highlights the interconnectedness of mind and body, recognizing the influence of one’s emotional and psychological state on overall well-being. Practices like meditation and mindfulness aim to cultivate a harmonious ki, promoting mental balance and clarity.

  1. Kireru (キレる)

Kireru refers to losing one’s temper or becoming explosively angry. While often viewed negatively, acknowledging and expressing anger can be an essential aspect of mental health. This term prompts reflection on emotional regulation and the importance of healthy outlets for processing and managing intense feelings.

  1. Mono no aware (物の哀れ)

Mono no aware captures the bittersweet beauty of impermanence and the transient nature of life. In the context of mental health, it encourages acceptance and resilience in the face of adversity, reminding individuals that difficult emotions are a natural part of the human experience and can ultimately contribute to personal growth and understanding.

  1. Shinrinyoku (森林浴)

Shinrinyoku, or “forest bathing,” involves immersing oneself in nature to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Recognized for its therapeutic benefits, this practice highlights the importance of environmental factors in mental well-being, encouraging individuals to connect with the natural world as a source of healing and rejuvenation.

  1. Shinkeishitsu (神経質)

Shinkeishitsu refers to neuroticism or being overly sensitive or anxious. This term acknowledges the tendency for individuals to experience heightened levels of stress or worry and underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing these concerns to maintain mental well-being.

  1. Omoiyari (思いやり)

Omoiyari translates to empathy or compassion, emphasizing the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In the realm of mental health, omoiyari promotes supportive relationships and a sense of community, highlighting the importance of emotional connection and mutual understanding in navigating life’s challenges.

  1. Jishuku (自粛)

Jishuku means self-restraint or self-control and is often used in the context of societal pressure to conform or suppress one’s emotions or desires. This term prompts reflection on the balance between individual autonomy and social expectations, encouraging individuals to assert their needs while respecting the well-being of others.

  1. Tatemae (建前) and Honne (本音)

Tatemae refers to the facade or public face that individuals present to conform to social norms, while honne represents one’s true feelings or intentions. These concepts highlight the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the importance of authenticity and honesty in fostering genuine connections and promoting mental well-being.

  1. Kintsugi (金継ぎ)

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, emphasizing the beauty of imperfection and the value of embracing one’s scars or flaws. In the context of mental health, kintsugi symbolizes resilience and transformation, encouraging individuals to find strength and beauty in their struggles and experiences of healing.

  1. Yutori (ゆとり)

Yutori refers to a sense of spaciousness or relaxation and is often associated with taking leisurely time to enjoy life. In the context of mental health, yutori promotes balance and self-care, encouraging individuals to prioritize rest and relaxation to alleviate stress and cultivate a sense of well-being.

  1. Hikikomori (引きこもり)

Hikikomori describes individuals who withdraw from social life and often confine themselves to their homes for an extended period, typically due to psychological distress or social anxiety. This phenomenon reflects the complexities of mental health in modern society and underscores the need for early intervention and support for individuals experiencing social withdrawal.

  1. Genkikou (元気工)

Genkikou refers to activities or practices that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, healthy eating, and stress management techniques. This term highlights the importance of proactive self-care in maintaining overall health and vitality, emphasizing the interconnectedness of physical and mental well-being.

  1. Kyōki (狂気)

Kyōki translates to madness or insanity and acknowledges the existence of severe mental health challenges. While stigmatized, recognizing and addressing kyōki is essential for promoting understanding and compassion for individuals living with mental illness, emphasizing the importance of access to mental health services and support networks.

  1. Seishinbyō (精神病)

Seishinbyō refers to mental illness or psychiatric disorder and encompasses a wide range of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. This term underscores the need for destigmatization and increased awareness of mental health issues, advocating for greater access to treatment and resources for individuals living with seishinbyō.

  1. Tsundoku (積ん読)

Tsundoku refers to the habit of acquiring books but letting them pile up without reading them. While seemingly unrelated to mental health, it highlights the importance of self-awareness and self-care. Addressing habits like tsundoku can contribute to reducing clutter and creating a more conducive environment for relaxation and mental well-being.

  1. Kūkan (空間)

Kūkan translates to space or atmosphere and encompasses both physical and emotional space. In the context of mental health, kūkan emphasizes the significance of creating environments that foster calmness and comfort, whether it be through decluttering physical spaces or cultivating supportive and nurturing relationships.

  1. Natsukashii (懐かしい)

Natsukashii evokes a sense of nostalgia or longing for the past. While nostalgia can sometimes be bittersweet, it can also serve as a source of comfort and connection, reminding individuals of cherished memories and experiences. Acknowledging and appreciating moments of natsukashii can contribute to overall emotional well-being by fostering a sense of continuity and belonging.

In conclusion, exploring Japanese vocabulary and phrases related to mental health reveals a nuanced understanding of emotional well-being deeply rooted in culture and tradition. These expressions offer valuable insights into Japanese perspectives on mental health, emphasizing the interconnectedness of mind, body, and environment, as well as the importance of empathy, acceptance, and self-care in fostering resilience and emotional balance.

Thank you for reading!

These were some of the common vocabularies used in the world of mental health in Japan.

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