I was watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown this past weekend, specifically, the episode where Tony goes to visit Japan with the head chef and owner of Masa (from NYC), Masayoshi Takayama. (Not that it matters to this story but Masa is supposedly the most expensive restaurant in the USA where meals apparently cost $600 pp, not including drinks.) During a scene in the episode, Tony was sitting around a traditional Japanese indoor cooking fire (an “irori”), having delicious-looking food and drink with chef Takayama and some local friends, when Tony mentioned something about having a wonderful time. At this point, chef Takayama elaborated on a saying that I find beautiful.
“Ichi-go ichi-e”. “One time, one meeting”.
Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会 “one time, one meeting”) is a Japanese four-character idiom (yojijukugo) that describes a cultural concept of treasuring meetings with people. The term is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” The term reminds people to cherish any gathering that they may take part in, citing the fact that many meetings in life are not repeated. Even when the same group of people can get together again, a particular gathering will never be replicated, and thus, each moment is always once-in-a-lifetime.
I find that in this life, we must try to cherish every moment we have with others. I admit, I am not often seen as the most sociable person in the world. It takes me a while to warm up to others, and others to warm up to me, at which point the people who were destined to like me, will (I hope) like me, and those whose personalities, communication styles, and interests are on a different wavelength, will do everything they can do remove themselves from ever crossing paths with me again.
But the point is, no matter what the final outcome of our temporary meetings are, we were together, interacting, in a particular place and time. And we should take time to appreciate the uniqueness of that moment, which can never be replicated again.
I am going to try to embrace this concept of life whether I’m traveling and making (mostly) temporary connections with others, or whether I’m home with family and friends. Just be in the moment, paying attention to the details of an interaction, memorizing and appreciating the moment that will never happen again.