Ichigo Ichie: The Japanese Art of Living Every Moment

Ichigo Ichie The Japanese Art of Living Every Moment

Do you feel time is slipping away? Are you able to live every moment of your life before it’s lost forever? The Japanese concept of Ichigo ichie teaches you how to treasure every opportunity in life.

What is Ichigo ichie?

Ichigo ichie, which translates into “one time, one meeting”, encourages us to appreciate the nature of every moment as it will not reoccur in the exact same way.

The 4 letter idiom or yojijukugo reminds us that every moment is fleeting and we should cherish the essence of every moment we encounter. Also translated as “once in a lifetime” and “for this time only”, this idea is about enjoying every meeting and encounter as it might never be experienced again, even with the same people and in the same location.

Ichi-go ichi-e cites that we cannot recreate or repeat any moment in life. Hence, each and every moment is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. This Japanese concept is closely associated with Zen Buddhism and the Japanese tea ceremony. It is also related to the concepts of mindfulness and impermanence.

Wish to know more about Zen Buddhism? Read Zen Koans: 5 Profound Paradoxical Riddles To Expand Your Mind

Origin of Ichigo ichie

The term is believed to have derived from the 16th century expression ‘ichigo ni ichido’ meaning “one chance in a lifetime” by Sen no Rikyū, a tea master. The Buddhist word Ichigo means “from one’s birth to death” or “one’s lifetime.”

The phrase Ichi-go ichi-e was later coined by Ii Naosuke, chief administrator of the Tokugawa shogunate who lived between 1815 and 1860. 

According to legends, Naosuke’s life was at great risk due to repeated threats of assasination. So every day, when he made his tea, he did so as if it was his last. So he took great care while making his tea and made sure he enjoyed the process. Every day the tea tasted different and unique, better than the previous day. He soon realized that ‘right now’ is the perfect moment to enjoy the cup of tea he just made as he would never be able to make another cup of tea exactly like this one. Ichigo ichie is the realization that everything is impermanent and so we should embrace it.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Want to be more mindful? Read 7 Daily Habits To Help You Practice Mindfulness Effectively

Understanding Ichigo ichie

Ichi-go ichi-e can also be translated into “In this moment, an opportunity” and “Once, a meeting”, according to former software engineer and author Héctor García and award-winning author Francesc Miralles. Authors of The Book of Ichigo Ichie, Héctor, and Francesc explain that this Japanese concept tells us “each meeting, everything we experience, is a unique treasure that will never be repeated in the same way again. So if we let it slip away without enjoying it, the moment will be lost forever.” 

Ichigo Ichie: The Japanese Art of Living Every Moment

They add “Becoming aware of Ichigo ichie helps us take our foot off the gas and remember that each morning we spend in the world, every moment we spend with our children and with our loved ones is infinitely valuable and deserves our full attention.

When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself. – Shunryu Suzuki

Ichigo Ichie teaches us to be more mindful but in a unique kind of way. This old concept asks us to master the art of-

  • Using all our senses to experience the present moment by letting go of anger, fear, sadness, and other negative thoughts and emotions about our past or the future.
  • Opening ourselves up to new possibilities and opportunities that come to us every day and may appear as random coincidences.
  • Appreciating the nature of every fleeting moment and enjoy the inherent beauty of transience of Mono no aware, the Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence.
  • Understanding and using the concept of Ichi-go Ichi-e to discover our purpose of life or Ikigai as it will enable us to realize what motivates us to move ahead and makes us happy.

What is Ikigai? Read Reason for Being: Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

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