Encounters at the end of the Word
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Some days I feel hungover from experiencing too many feelings at once. I don't know what I am actually feeling and I can't relate the feelings to anything known. I have kept those feelings to myself, because I could find no words to describe them. I just felt they are larger than me, larger than this life.
In this turmoil, I was relieved to find most of the answers in Japanese linguistics and culture.
Let me present to you a short list of strange, but beautiful sensations and aesthetics - you may find you enjoy/suffer one too.
Once, a meeting
ichigo = one life / ichie = a one-time encounter
Did your mom teach you not to talk to strangers? My biggest advice is to do quite the opposite. Ichigo-ichie - Japanese life philosophy literally translated to one time, one encounter or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In a nutshell, this is an idea that each experience is a unique treasure that will never occur again. If we let it escape us without enjoying it, we will lose forever the opportunity. So, there you go, let the feelings fly and cherish every encounter..
MONO NO AWARE (物の哀れ)
The 'ahh-ness' of things
mono = things / aware = sentiment
Literally, mono no aware is “pathos of things,” but it's far more complicated to translate faithfully. It refers to an awfully specific feeling, dancing between the lines of nostalgia, melancholia, a yearning for the past time and a respectful deeper expectance for the transient state of the world. And all that independently splits from our relationship with what has disappeared.
This pretty much explained the pain-pleasure-existential exalted feeling of never again I kept feeling, mostly on my journeys when you actually stop and observe. It is a tough one, but the idea that everything is transient made me more sensitive to the wonder of life and beauty of nature in each moment.
WABI SABI (侘寂)
Beauty is in the imperfection
wabi = a serene beauty expressing a mood of spiritual solitude / sabi = the patina of age
They say it takes a wabi heart to recognise a sabi beauty. Wabi is about recognizing beauty in humble simplicity. Sabi is concerned with how all things grow, age, and decay, and how it manifests itself beautifully. It suggests that beauty is hidden beneath the surface of what we actually see, even in what we initially perceive as broken. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of appreciating beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". The kind of beauty found in asymmetrical, uneven or unbalanced things.
Wabi-sabi is a concept that keeps us searching for the beauty in imperfection and accept the more natural cycle of life as beautiful. It reminds us that all things including us and life itself, are impermanent, incomplete, and imperfect. Perfection, then, is impossible and impermanence is the only way.
Omotenashi means not just providing outstanding service, but providing hospitality that goes above and beyond the expectations of the person. Japanese carry a strong sense of responsibility in taking care of others. No matter the class, to be able to provide to those in our care with an extremely kind welcome was an art and something to strive for in our everyday lives.
The generosity and selflessness that is at the heart of true omotenashi can be felt in every interaction. For example, if you ask for directions, they will guide you to the entrance of your ryokan. Whether it’s pouring a cup of coffee or making sure you have a comfortable stay, at the end of the day, it’s just that little bit of extra love.
A simple beauty
shibui = particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.
The Japanese aesthetic of shibui respects silent, subtle and unobtrusive qualities of a person, performance or an object. Although seemingly simplistic, hides complex variables, authentic and appealing without the need for decoration – this is the shibui ideal.
Its intent is to evoke awareness and appreciation for life as it is, seeing the implicit beauty in what has come to be considered ordinary or mundane.
The essence of deliciousness
Called the 5th taste between all tastes, is often described as the meaty, savory deliciousness that deepens flavour of meat broths and fermented products. Since umami has its own receptors rather than arising out of a combination of the traditionally recognized taste receptors, scientists now consider umami to be a distinct taste. Foods that have a strong umami flavor include meats, shellfish, fish, tomatoes, mushrooms, meat extract, yeast extract, cheeses, and soy sauce. Everything stinkingly delicious.
The cuteness culture
kawaii = lovely, cute
Refers to items, humans and non-humans that are charming, vulnerable, shy and childlike. Like cute handwriting, certain genres of manga, and characters including Hello Kitty and Pikachu. The cuteness culture, or kawaii aesthetic, has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personal appearance, and mannerisms.
The essence of fresh
kaika = blooming
It is close to the current commonly used expression of « getting out of one’s comfort zone.» When you experiment with new experiences, you feel new sensations, new emotions. You develop new ideas and new ways of finding solutions.
An awakened state
satori = understanding
This kind of state can happen while observing a piece of art, a landscape, an activity that fully absorbs us (such as meditation, painting, playing an instrument, making love, dancing, listening to music, etc..). While practicing those activities, one may get a note or a sound or a touch that brings awareness fully at the moment. That is the satori of the moment.
For a moment, you will see clearly a situation, find a solution to something that had been bothering you, when life appears so clearly in front of us, in a more understanding way. I love when that happens.
Occupational sudden mortality
karoshi = overwork death
The most common medical causes of karoshi deaths are heart attacks or strokes due to stress and a starvation diet. Mental stress from the workplace can also cause karoshi through workers taking their own lives. Even recently, Japanese companies have "forced" their employees to take vacation days.
No wonder the Japanese have a special relationship with impermanence, seeing their excitement for cherry blossoms in the spring.
They taught me that it is ok to get overly excited. Because - once, a meeting (ichigo-ichie). They taught me to recognize and encapsule the 'ahh-ness' of things (mono no aware). They taught me to cherish imperfection (wabi-sabi) and simplicity (shibui). They taught me to cook with umami and greet guests with omotenashi. They taught me that the highs of satori and kaika are often followed with the crashes of karoshi. I knew everything already. They just gave it a name, and thus, a permit.
Cherish every guest, every encounter, every moment, cherish imperfections and simplicities, deep tastes, feelings and experiences. Balance is good, but experience the highs of satori and mono no aware once in a while.