The Meaning of Ichigo Ichie: Making the Most of Every Moment
Japan Culture | | A. Broadway

The Meaning of Ichigo Ichie: Making the Most of Every Moment

Ichigo Ichie is a Japanese proverb with many translations. While this phrase means "one time, one meeting" literally, it can also be translated "one lifetime, one encounter" or "in this moment, an opportunity"

In today's culture, instant gratification is common due to social media and the convenience of modern life, making disengagement easy. Amid busier lives, intentionally practicing mindfulness and cherishing the present are crucial.

In this article, we will discuss the meaning of Ichigo Ichie: the practice of making the most of every encounter and understanding how important the “now” is.

What is the Meaning Behind Ichigo Ichie?

Ichigo ichie (一期一会, which means “one time, one meeting”) is a Japanese yojijukugo (四字熟語, meaning “four-character proverb”) that describes the concept of being present in all moments. We understand that all moments fleetingly pass by. Even those simple in nature warrant complete attention and cherishing. The proverb stresses treating each moment as a unique experience, enjoying it fully before it disappears as such moments may never be replicated.

What is The History Behind The Proverb?

While mindfulness is an important practice in life, you may be wondering, how is this related to Japanese teaIchigo Ichie and its meaning actually dates back to the 16th century. This famous proverb originally came from the expression ichigo ni ichido, said by historical and influential tea master Sen no Rikyuu. This expression, 一期に一度, meaning "one chance in a lifetime". Rikyuu's teachings heavily influenced chanoyu or the "way of tea". He emphasized the significance of treating everyone you encounter, especially your hosts, as if it were a once-in-a-lifetime encounter. An excerpt from the tea book Chanoyu Ichie Shuu (茶湯一会集), written by Tokugawa Shogunate Chief Administrator Ii Naosuke, further explains Sen no Rikyuu’s expression of Ichigo ni Ichido.

Understanding the importance of living in the present enables you to cherish fleeting moments with loved ones and make them meaningful. Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day's gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The host, accordingly, must in true sincerity take the greatest care with every aspect of the gathering and devote himself entirely to ensuring that nothing is rough. The guests, for their part, must understand that the gathering cannot occur again, and, appreciating how the host has flawlessly planned it, must also participate with true sincerity. This is what is meant by ‘one time, one meeting.’

This passage is what established the yojijukugo or four-character proverb that we know today. When you attend a tea ceremony, you're encouraged to listen to the bamboo whisk, savor tea aromas, and observe the entire process. You complete all of this in a quiet room without any distractions until you finish the cup of tea.

In Conclusion of Ichigo Ichie

The traditional Japanese tea ceremony mirrors the practice of mindfulness found in today's proverb. As simple as drinking a cup of tea is, may you enjoy that moment with the meaning of ichigo ichie in mind. Understanding the importance of living in the present enables you to cherish fleeting moments with loved ones and make them meaningful.

 🍵 Drinking our tea? Take a picture and tag us on Instagram at @senbirdtea or #senbirdtea. We’d love to see your moment with tea!

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