Japanese kanji for 'hot': 暑, 湯, and 熱

Kanji for 'Hot' in Japanese: 暑, 湯, and 熱 - A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our journey into the world of Japanese kanji!

Today, we're going to delve into an exciting and essential concept - 'hot'. Now, you might be wondering, "Isn't there just one way to say 'hot' in Japanese?" The answer is no. In fact, the Japanese language has different kanji for different types of 'hot', and in this article, we're exploring each of them: 暑, 湯, and 熱.

Understanding these kanji is more than just about expanding your vocabulary. It's a window into the beautiful complexity of the Japanese language and culture.

So, whether you're preparing for a summer trip to Japan, wanting to understand the differences between a hot day and hot water, or simply aiming to enhance your Japanese language skills, this guide is for you.

Let's dive in and turn up the heat on your Japanese language-learning journey!

Understanding the origin of 暑, 湯, and 熱

1. Origin of 暑 (Hot weather)

This kanji consists of two radicals:

  • 日 (Sun, day): This radical is typically associated with the sun, day, or time in general.
  • 者 (Person, someone): This radical usually refers to a person or someone. However, in this kanji, it is used in a more abstract manner to represent the action of enduring or suffering.

So, the kanji 暑 can be thought of as 'enduring the sun', a fitting image for describing 'hot weather'.


2. Origin of 湯 (Hot water)

The kanji 湯 is composed of two elements:

  • 氵: This is a variant of the radical 水, which means "water". It is often seen in kanji related to water or liquids.
  • 昜: This element is derived from the kanji 陽, which means "yang" in the Yin and Yang concept, often associated with the sun or brightness.

The 昜 element in 湯 could be seen to symbolize the warming or heating up of the water, making 湯 a symbol for 'hot water'.


3. Origin of 熱 (Heat)

This kanji is formed from two components:

  • 灬 (Fire): The lower part of this kanji is a variant of the radical 火, which means fire. It signifies heat or burning and is often found in kanji related to fire or heat.
  • The upper part of the kanji is a phonetic element derived from the character 耎 (nuan), which means "warm". It doesn't represent a distinct radical but provides a phonetic cue to the kanji. Together, these components create a vivid image of fire causing warmth.

This combination of elements is why 熱 is used to describe 'heat' in a broad sense, from the heat we feel from the sun to the warmth of a heated room.

Next, let's see how to read those kanji and common vocabulary words using them.

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How to read 暑, 湯, and 熱

1. 暑 (hot weather) 

暑 onyomi and kunyomi readings

Kanji  Onyomi Kunyomi
ショ - sho あつ(い) - atsu(i)

Vocabulary words containing 暑:

  • 暑い (あつい - atsui) = hot (weather)
  • 蒸し暑い (むしあつい - mushiatsui) = humid (hot and humid weather)
  • 暑さ (あつさ - atsusa) = heat (of the weather)
  • 酷暑 (こくしょ - kokusho) = intense heat
  • 猛暑 (もうしょ - mousho) = heat wave


2. 湯 (hot water)

湯 onyomi and kunyomi readings

Kanji Onyomi Kunyomi
トウ - tou ゆ - yu

Vocabulary words containing 湯:

  • 湯 (ゆ - yu) = hot water
  • 温湯 (おんとう - ontō) = warm water
  • 湯船 (ゆぶね - yubune) = bathtub
  • 湯気 (ゆげ - yuge) = steam
  • お湯 (おゆ - oyu) = hot water
  • 風呂湯 (ふろゆ - furoyu) = bathwater
  • 湯巡り (ゆめぐり - yumeguri) = tour of hot springs
  • 湯のみ (ゆのみ - yunomi) = teacup


3. 熱 (heat)

湯 onyomi and kunyomi readings

Kanji Onyomi Kunyomi
ネツ - netsu あつ(い) - atsu(i)

Vocabulary words containing 熱:

  • 熱 (ねつ - netsu) = heat, fever
  • 熱い (あつい - atsui) = hot (to touch, or passion)
  • 熱心 (ねっしん - nesshin) = enthusiasm (literally, "hot heart")
  • 熱量 (ねつりょう - netsuryō) = calorie (literally, "heat quantity")
  • 熱烈 (ねつれつ - netsuretsu) = fervent, passionate
  • 熱中 (ねっちゅう - necchū) = being absorbed in, engrossed in
  • 発熱 (はつねつ - hatsunetsu) = generation of heat, fever


How to use 暑, 湯, and 熱 in Japan

1. Cultural significance and usage of 暑 (Hot weather)

The kanji 暑 is heavily used during the summertime in Japan. It's seen in public service announcements and weather forecasts reminding people to stay hydrated and avoid heatstroke.

As for cultural significance, 暑中見舞い (Shochū mimai) is a tradition of sending postcards in summer to inquire about one another's health in the intense heat.


2. Cultural significance and usage of 湯 (Hot water)

The kanji 湯 is significant in Japan due to the country's love for hot baths, or 風呂 (furo). The Japanese bathing culture revolves around soaking in large bathtubs filled with hot water (お湯 - Oyu). This tradition extends to public bathing facilities called 温泉 (Onsen), which are hot springs.

When you see 湯 in signs, it usually indicates a place where hot water is available, such as bathhouses or hot springs. The phrase 湯を沸かす (yu o wakasu), literally meaning 'to boil water', is used when preparing a bath.


3. Cultural significance and usage of 熱 (Heat)

The kanji 熱 is often seen in the context of personal feelings, especially passion or enthusiasm. It is used in words like 熱心 (Nesshin) which means enthusiasm, showing how the Japanese often associate 'heat' with passionate feelings.

Another common usage is in the context of health. Body temperature is referred to as 体温 (Taion), where 熱 could indicate a fever. Also, the phrase 熱が出る (netsu ga deru), meaning 'heat comes out', is a common way to say 'to have a fever'.


In our exploration today, we've delved into the world of three powerful kanji: 暑 (Hot weather), 湯 (Hot water), and 熱 (Heat). Each of these characters tells a unique story, from their individual radicals that hint at their meanings, to their varied readings and vocabulary that they form.

  • Understanding 暑 can help you navigate conversations and readings about the weather, especially in the context of Japan's hot summer season.
  • Learning 湯 offers you a glimpse into the beloved Japanese tradition of hot baths and the language around it.
  • And 熱, with its diverse applications in expressing intensity, passion, and even health conditions, is a tool to express a range of emotions and situations in your conversations.

We encourage you to practice these kanji regularly, be it in writing, reading, or incorporating them into your daily language study. Learning kanji is more than just memorizing shapes and strokes. It's about understanding the culture and context that these characters inhabit. And as we've seen today, each kanji comes with its own colorful story.

See as well:

So why not keep adding more kanji stories to your language arsenal? You're not just learning symbols; you're unlocking new ways to express yourself and understand a rich cultural heritage. Happy studying, and remember - every kanji you learn brings you one step closer to fluency.

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