Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mono no Aware

物の哀れ(read as "mono no aware") literally means "an empathy towards things" , (mono = things; aware=pitiful)It is a Japanese word basically used to describe the "awareness of impermanence", that things are ephemeral, and that there is usually a sympathetic sadness associated with them.

This term, coined in the late eighteenth century has now eventually become the center of Japanese culture and tradition. The Japanese have a great sensitivity towards this concept and believe that this awareness that everything in this world is temporary, and the understanding that happiness and beauty are always fleeting, increases our appreciation towards things and thus evokes a deep sense of melancholy on their passing.

Sakura (Cherry blossoms) perfectly symbolize this concept. They bloom right after the harsh winters, a symbol of warmth and life after the dead coldness of winters, only to die after a few days.

This has also been a strong recurring theme in almost all the Japanese movies that I have seen so far - out of which the one I remember the most is Okuribito " and "Tokyo.Sora".I have realized that in spite of the anguish and longing that is projected on the screen, not a single movie that I remember seeing has left me with a sense of sadness or depression. Instead, the movies resonate with a sense of optimism and calmness that is unbelievably incredible.

As we all probably know, Japan has experienced a lot of pain in the last few decades, right from the post-world war days and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the many devastating earthquakes/tsunamis, including the very recent 9.0M earthquake that rocked north-eastern part of the country. All through these difficult years, the Japanese seemed to have mastered this concept of "mono no aware" and this has been quite visible in their behavior and attitude every time a great tragedy has befallen this beautiful island nation. This, almost Zen like acceptance that they have for things tragic is unbelievable.

I understand that to many of us foreigners, this concept may sound very odd and difficult to accept. Yet, this is the essence of Japan and its people, and also the supreme reality - something which cannot be altered, no matter what we do, no matter where we go.

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  1. A very touching look at a wonderful nation. Thanks for the insight.

  2. You are welcome Gita aunty..i am glad you liked it!!

  3. I was just writing a blog post related to mono no aware and came across yours. Thanks for posting!