This is the last post on the Asian inspired ideas, and I want to share a way of thinking that has really captured my interest. One of the things that really inspires me is the Japanese way of showing gratitude and an appreciation of beauty in everything, down to the smallest thing, the tiniest detail. There are some words in Japanese that have no literal translation into English. It takes a paragraph to convey the meaning. Think about a cold December day, dawn over the east mountains seen from our verandah, the architecture of the bare tree branches, the color of the sky, and a tinge of sadness at the transience of the scene. There’s a feeling of gratitude for being alive, for witnessing the scene, for living in this place at this time, for being in the moment. I take a moment to capture the image on my camera, then I put it down to live in this moment as long as I can, and be grateful for all the blessings in my life, for the journey that brought me to this moment. Ichi-Go Ichi-E is translated loosely in English to mean “one opportunity, one time”, or “one meeting, one opportunity”. It is used to speak of appreciation of every interaction as it only happens in this way and in this time once. Live each day to the fullest.
There are many ways to express gratitude that exist in the Japanese culture. I really like the concept of Itadakimasu, an expression of gratitude for a meal and all that went into it, from the sacrifice of the living things to provide sustenance, the time and effort of the chef to prepare, and to the person that served the meal. In formal situations, the hands are placed together and the word is said with a slight bow. In the less formal, only the word is used. Certainly it was appropriate for this meal, a gorgeous Sweetheart Roll I had for dinner at Champa, a local Thai-Japanese restaurant. This beautifully presented meal was part of the inspiration for this Asian inspired series of posts.
Itadakimasu is usually only used for food and meals (or in certain situations for other tangible things), and is only used before the meal is eaten. When addressing the chef, the word Otsukaresama is used, literally meaning ‘you are tired’ acknowledges the effort that went into the preparation. To express appreciation after a meal, say “Gochisousamadesu!” to say ‘thank you’ to those who made the meal, served the meal, or to the friend who paid for the meal.
Sunlight through the trees is called komorebi, but it is more than just the light. The word conveys the feelings of appreciation for the wonders of nature, the blessings of warmth and light. One of my favorite quotes is from naturalist John Muir who said “Most people are on the world, not in it” (John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, 1938). When standing in the green of the forest, with the sunlight coming through the trees, you cannot help but be in the world. That feeling of being connected, of the restorative effect of being in this light is called shinrinyoku, literally taking a “forest bath”.
Yuugen communicates the connection of the universe, and the emotion felt when thinking about our place in it. Another quote from John Muir – “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” Certainly last August with the solar eclipse, being in the umbra zone, we felt this as the world went to twilight. I sometimes get this feeling when looking at the stars on a dark, moonless night, that feeling of awe, and the totality of the scale of the universe.
Wabi-sabi conveys a meaning of appreciation of imperfection, and the transience of beauty in things with a tinge of sadness. Flowers bloom beautifully, but are enjoyed only a short time then they fade. There is a component of melancholy and loneliness in the original meaning that is conveyed in the words as well. It is a celebration of that which isn’t perfect, that which is authentic in its flaws. The cycle of life of growth and beauty, leading to decline and return to dust, the totality of that whole is part of the meaning. There is beauty in a broken bowl that has been repaired, in its imperfection that speaks to its history and use, and its continued use after the repair which adds to its character and makes it unique.
Shoganai means “it cannot be helped”, or there are situations beyond an ability to have any control. This is the one that I am trying to think of more as I am still bothered by things in the past. Two situations in particular, both deeply hurtful to me, but beyond my capability to do anything about. These still trouble me, sometimes keeping me awake in the early hours of the morning, but I really do need to let them go. Both situations occurred over a year ago, and despite my efforts to resolve have not been and now never will be, but still it is easier said than done to let it go. But I am turning the corner, and soon hope that I will put it behind me and move on.
Tsundoku is a word meaning collecting books that aren’t read, literally ‘to pile up’ and ‘to read’. This one is funny to me, as I never thought there was a particular word for this common condition of book
hoarders lovers. I just like having a library. In our previous home, I had these in a bedroom space with chairs for reading. That smaller space began to have that wonderful smell of a library after a while, that combination of ink, paper, and book binding glue that I associate with a room full of books. Real books. Unfortunately, that is lost in our present home, as the ceiling is vaulted above the second floor in this space. Most of these have been read, but there are several shelves of not read yet on the left end bookcase.
While I have close to 300 books in the house yet not read, I will eventually get to them, at least I hope to. I am a voracious reader, but I might have collected a few too many cozy mysteries, LOL!! Some of those may get donated and not read. This shelf is stacked two-deep for most of the space.
These are just a few of the concepts that have my attention right now. I want to enjoy each day, each season, all things in their time. I will strive to live in the moment, letting go of the past, savoring the present, looking forward to the future. We can all take a moment each day to stop and breathe, listen to the rain on the roof, appreciate the fragrance of a fresh flower or a delicious meal, delight in that moment which is unique to that day and time and will not come again in exactly the same way. Cherish family and friends. Be kind to strangers.
My last Japanese phrase for you is Arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much) for reading my blog!! I hope you enjoyed the Asian inspired series.
If you are just now finding this series, and want to see more on culture, cooking, gardening, quilting and more from Japanese inspirations, click on Japanese Inspired February for a list of posts. While you are here, I hope you will look around a bit, my blog is a wide variety of home based subjects, along with travel and mountain living, and more.
22 thoughts on “Itadakimasu, and Musings on Gratitude”
Thank you so much for this series on Japan. I feel I’m much more knowledgeable to talk to our son and DIL who live in Japan.
I like the concepts you describe in this post. As for bookcases – it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one where the books are kept two deep on the shelves.
I second this thought. Nice to know others have bookshelves with more than single books.
It will take awhile to absorb all the feelings this blog invoked. Thank you for New vocabulary .
Another wonderful blog post! Thank you so much.
Thank you for showing us your Asian-style quilts and for explaining more about Japanese culture.
Touching and beautiful. Yours is the only blog where I find myself grabbing a pen and paper to take notes. Thank you.
I appreciate your transparency regarding past hurts . . . and the respect you show those involved by not including details that would single out the events and the players. You are strong and wise. Just as water seeks its own level, things will continue to balance out toward resolution. Those mid-night musings will shorten and diminish. For me, the hurts are hardest healed when I have been an active — misunderstood — participant. You are a thoughtful person, and as you implied, sometimes the only resolution is an acceptance of no resolution.
On another note: I appreciate that your blog is not peppered with ads. I’m not sure, but I think that’s more costly for you; it is considerate and makes the reading pleasurable. Thank you.
For the Japan series, Carole, arigatou gozaimashita! Tanoshikatta!
Your Japanese posts have been lovely and enlightening. It’s always a pleasure to visit with you through your blog. It is so important to take time to enjoy the moment, remember the past, and look forward, with hope, to the future.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as ” a few too many cozy mysteries’!!! I love mysteries as well…especially ones with a quilting, cooking, embroidery theme! As for the things in the past that are bothering you….that is definitely a hard one for me as well. In my own life, once a person has ‘betrayed’ me….I do not want to have anything more to do with them. If it was a really close/good friend, that makes the loss doubly hard….I no longer have the friendship, and it continues to bother me in other ways. Sometimes I feel stupid for not seeing it beforehand…sometimes I mourn the loss and tell myself I need to forgive and move on (this is such a hard one for me personally)….but as you indicated, it’s easier said/thought than done…whatever it is. I am hoping that you (and I) will be able to let go and move on.
Beautiful, well done. Carolyn Walberg
Your writing is beautiful and how you are able to captivate the tiny details of what you see and experience. Thank you for making me appreciate more of a culture I know so little about.
Hello Carole; I truly enjoyed reading your post today! I am glad that you have shared this series with us, I have learned a lot. Today’s post leaves a lot to think about and also just to take a moment and love! Have a fabulous day!
Thank you for this lovely series!
I have enjoyed this series very much. I knew some of the information shared having worked for a Japanese company for many years, but not as much as I wish I knew. We also had 10 different Japanese foreign exchange students and our oldest daughter won a scholarship to do a home stay in Japan. I wish I had kept up with my Japanese which I took at the same time my oldest did so we could study together. But alas I have lost most of it from lack of use.
I thoroughly enjoyed each of your Japanese inspired posts. I learned so much!!
Dōmo arigatōgozaimasu (Thank You So Much)
I really enjoyed all your Japanese education. Such a gentle people…
Some very beautiful concepts, and I Appreciate how you shared some of your personal application.
Thank you. I needed that.
What a wonderful collection of books. I too LOVE that real book smell. I truly enjoyed your series…if not to just see you have so much fun learning and exploring. I found you to be inspiring example of living and loving life. 🙂
I enjoyed your Japanese posts and the photos that went with them. Beautiful!
I always enjoy your posts and all the inspiration and thoughtfulness you put into it. Letting go of “those things” takes practice, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I have learned to change the subject in my mind when these harsh events come to mind. Sounds trite, I know, but it works with continual practice. A very meanspirited event years ago caused me such distress, I had to learn to change my thoughts. And living in the moment every day is most helpful. Is this too involved as a posted comment? LOL You are admired, Carole!
You and my son could have long conversations about Japanese culture and attitude! If he could, he would move there forever. =) Your sunrise picture is utterly gorgeous, and that dish presentation at the restaurant is a work of art. I think you can never have too many books. The idea of having 300 unread books in my library is delicious! I don’t need money if I have food and books. =)
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