One life, one encounter: 10 life-changing Japanese sayings

In the series of “10 Japanese sayings, 10 life lessons”, I would like to share classy and beautiful selections of Japanese sayings that may change life perspectives. Language is the mirror of culture and philosophy. Through the lens of Japanese, we may see a different color in life.

The Japanese word today:


One Life, One Encounter

This saying originated from the Japanese tea ceremony 500 years ago. It was said that one would only encounter this ceremony and this companion once in a lifetime, suggesting everyone to embrace this encounter as the only one and put one’s heart into it.

This philosophy extends to every facet of life, influencing how Japanese serve the guests, appreciate the sake and enjoy the cherry blossoms. Just because life is so transient like the cherry blossoms, the living should hold every life moment precious like the only moment.

Isn’t this romantic? Ironically this romantic perspective of “One Life, One Encounter” was said by a monk called “Sen no Rikyu”, a legendary monk that lived and died for the art and beauty that continues to influence the Japanese culture from history till now. Wish I have another chance to talk about his story.

The Buddhism link does not end here. The concept is somewhat relevant with the trend of “mindfulness”. Nowadays hipsters meditate like the Buddhists and practice mindfulness, which is good. Even before virtual reality, we used to have virtual reality inside our head, focusing on our own imagination instead of opening the senses to the changing present. Being mindful helps orient ourselves back to the real time and place.

One life, one encounter with the food

If you are now reading and having lunch, the easiest way to get mindful is forgetting my story and focusing on the lunch. Close your eyes, smell your pizza, bite slowly and taste all the ingredients like the last pizza you enjoy…if you are mindful, you will not only taste the lovely cheese but also the green pepper you hate perhaps. It is like the richness in life, something we should sense and taste more.

One life, one encounter with the love

In the age of social networking, the abundance of friends and relationships is overwhelming. Not that it’s uncommon to know 10 new people online every day on Tinder saying “How’s going?”. Over the years how many of them make lasting impressions? Should we go back to the times to ask for a date and take it so seriously like the only chance in life?

One life, one encounter with the parents

You may love or hate your parents for various reasons. You may wish to connect or disconnect with them for various happenings. If you believe in the next life, who knows if this life is the only encounter with the parents. That bonding can be fragile but special. We all like choices, and unfortunately, parents are not someone we can always pick and choose. If this life is the only encounter, perhaps we may start to miss the days spending with the parents, even if these days are not always pleasant.

One life, one encounter with the success

The never ending chase for successes can be tiring without a second of fulfillment in the present. A sense of purpose may hopefully help us respect and appreciate what we are doing now. If not, why not open your senses now and catch that opportunity to change like the only chance?

Dear readers, this may be also our “one life, one encounter”. Thank you for your time.

Your sharing will be the best motivation for me to go on.

Rex Lam K.M.

A ghostwriter who helps opinion leaders write Chinese stories in China, and helps himself with the indulgence in Japan.

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