Word of the Week: 懐かしい

It’s time for Word of the Week again! Last week we looked at a Japanese word or phrase beginning with ‘to’ (と), and focussed on the word とんでもない (tondemonai), which means ‘unthinkable’, ‘absolutely not’, or ‘don’t mention it’. This week I’m looking for a word or phrase beginning with ‘na’ (な). A big thank you to everyone who joined in with their suggestions:

My Mum suggested ‘natsukashii’ (なつかしい), the feeling you get when reminded of the past; Japan Australia suggested ‘nani mo nai’ (何もない), ‘nothing’; ‘naigashiro ni suru’ (ないがしろにする), ‘to make light of’, ‘to ignore’; and ‘nanto ie ba ii desu ka’ (なんと言えばいいですか), ‘what should I say?’; lovelycomplex22 suggested ‘nani yori mo’ (何よりも), ‘more than anything’, ‘above all else’; and Rockin’ suggested ‘nantonaku’ (なんとなく), ‘somehow or other’, ‘for some reason or another’.

There was only ever one word I could write about today, but thank you all for your suggestions! Without further ado…

懐かしい (なつかしい)


‘Natsukashii’ is probably my favourite Japanese word, and yet it’s quite hard to translate. The dictionary definition says ‘dear; desired; missed’, but it is so much more than that.

Natsukashii dictionary definition according to jisho.org

‘Natsukashii’ dictionary definition according to jisho.org

‘Natsukashii’ is the word you say when you hear a song you haven’t heard for years that you used to dance around your bedroom to as a child…

Kylie & Jason - Natsukashii!

Kylie & Jason – Natsukashii!

(Image source)

‘Natsukashii’ is the word you say when you taste your favourite ice cream that you haven’t had in years and remember all the times you ate it whilst walking along the beach…

'Running raisin' ice cream, as I used to call it

‘Running raisin’ ice cream, as I used to call it

(Image source)

‘Natsukashii’ is the word you say when you see that toy from your childhood and remember how much you loved it…

I Googled '1980s toys' and felt instantly 'natsukashii' when I saw this glow worm I used to have as a child

I Googled ‘1980s toys’ and felt instantly ‘natsukashii’ when I saw this glow-worm I used to have as a child

(Image source)

Natsukashii doesn’t have to relate to your childhood, though. It can relate to anything that takes you back to a past moment. Returning to Japan recently was very ‘natsukashii’ for me, especially when I got to Nagoya, my home of 2 years from 2008 – 2010. I felt very ‘natsukashii’ when I saw the building where I had my teacher training in 2008. It reminded me of the new adventure I was beginning at that time, the friends I made, and the happy times we shared.

Natsukashii building in Nagoya

Natsukashii building in Nagoya

A word that often goes hand in hand with ‘natuskashii’ is ‘hisashiburi’ (ひさしぶり), which means ‘it’s been a while…’. This can be said to someone when you see them after a long time, but can also relate to places and food.

‘Natuskashii’ is a word with a lot of sentiment attached to it, which is why it is most often associated with childhood or long-ago memories that evoke a certain feeling or a particular sensation. I don’t believe there’s a word in English which has quite the same meaning, and I think the closest English gets is when we say “aw, I remember this!”. It’s a feeling of nostalgia, but in English I think we rarely see something and say “how nostalgic” or “I feel so nostalgic”.

One of the great things about studying a language is when you realise you actually understand the nuances of the language as well as the words and grammar. I now can’t imagine not knowing the word ‘natsukashii’, and it’s even become part of my everyday language. When I feel nostalgic about something I instantly think (or say!) “natsukashii” now.

What makes you feel ‘natsukashii’?


Next week’s post will be about a word or phrase beginning with ‘ni’ (に), so please leave your suggestions below. The word can be a verb, adjective or expression, but no nouns please! For example, ‘nigai’ (にがい) meaning ‘bitter’ would be acceptable, but ‘Nikko’ (日光), the place, would not. I look forward to reading your ideas! (*^_^)v

Word of the Week 2014

11 thoughts on “Word of the Week: 懐かしい

  1. 懐かしい•••








  2. Isn’t it great how Japanese has specific words like ‘natsukashii’ to describe a feeling, unlike English which you need to say a whole phrase!
    For に, how about 肉食男児 nikushoku danshi – strong, masculine guys. The first time I heard this phrase was from my boss at a nomikai! He was teaching me the difference between nikushoku and soshoku men. It was a truly bizarre conversation!


  3. Today I found the word “natsukashii” while watching Samurai Gourmet on Netflix, so I googled it and found this article. Thank you so much for sharing. It might not be the exact translation, but the first word that came to my mind when I read your explanation is “reminiscing” and “reminiscent.” Wonderful writing. I hope to browse your blog for more Japanese phases and enjoy reading what you wrote. 🙂


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