和訳は英文の後にございます。/ The Japanese translation is below the English text.


1. An Inquiry
2. “Ichi-go ichi-e”
3. The modern interpretation

“Ichi-go Ichi-e” / 一期一会

1. An Inquiry

Someone asked me for a suggestion for a nice Japanese word. He is studying calligraphy, and wanted to write a nice word in calligraphy for his teacher’s birthday.

I said,

“How about ‘ichi-go ichi-e’”?

He didn’t know the word, and the following is what I explained to him.

2. “Ichi-go ichi-e”

A photo of a Japanese-style tea party in the spirit of "ichi-go ichi-e"
[Click to enlarge / 画像をクリックすると拡大します] A person practicing tea / お茶をする人

“Ichi-go ichi-e (commonly written 一期一会)” looks like a Chinese word but it is attributed to a Japanese man called Sen no Rikyuu from the 16th Century.

Rikyuu refined and completed the Way of Tea and was a revered master of tea (the Japanese Tea Ceremony). His pupils included such powerful lords as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideoshi.

One of his pupils wrote as his words that we should be respectful to the host, humble ourselves, and be mindful, from the moment we enter through leaving, as if we would meet the host for the last time in our life.

“Ichi-go ichi-e” is extracted from this passage as its essence. Literally it means one meeting in a lifetime. “Ichi” (一) means one, “go” (期) in this context lifetime. “E” (会) means meeting, so “ichi-e” means one meeting.

The entrance of the tea room in Rikyuu’s style is very small. Before entering, you must take off all of your swords and other weapons. / 侘茶の茶室の入り口はとても小さい。入る前に、刀など武器は体から外さなければなりません。

Even today, people who practice tea hold this word as their motto, and at a tea party, try to put in all their heart and spend the time seriously with the host as if it were going to be the last time.

3. The modern interpretation

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a respected hobby, and in the 20th Century, some even considered it as an important skill for a girl to be a well-educated, desirable wife.

As for me, I have never lived in the formal Tea Ceremony world. My mother tried to teach me, but in vain; I may know how to deal with a cup and chopsticks, and to appreciate the art and the flower arrangement in the room, but that is it.

Still, “ichi-go ichi-e” is one of my favorite idioms. It is the same for many people who don’t practice tea.

The reason is now we interpret “ichi-go ichi-e” more broadly, as follows:

“Treat the person you are facing right now with all your heart and sincerity, as if this were your last meeting”. The person can be your guest, host, family, friend, lover, customer or even a stranger on the street who asks you directions.

Some interpret it as: “Concentrate on the activity you are currently engaged in as if it were the only opportunity in your life”.

One good example is your class.

Yours may be a weekly class of 12 weeks. After three or four lessons, you might feel tired of repeated practice week after week, but if you put in all your heart each time, one day you can be as good as anything.

[End of the English post]























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