Traditional Culture of Japan - Traditional crafts and culture

The “ichi-go ichi-e”concept: the spirit and wisdom of the Way of Tea


In the Way of Tea, the flowers used are different in each ceremony, and the hanging scroll is changed according to the theme of the ceremony. Different people take part in the ceremony and different utensils are used.


This means that a tea ceremony will never be the performed in exactly the same way twice. The theme will change if the ceremony is held on a different day, and, because it is important in tea ceremony to be in harmony with the season, the type of utensils and the type of flowers will change depending on the season.


The commonly used Japanese expression “ichi-go ichi-e” refers to the notion that every encounter with someone is unique and should be treasured. The idea is that the time one spends with someone else should be treated as precious because the same moment will never come back again.


The notion of “ichi-go ichi-e” originated in tea ceremony, where the idea is that the same tea ceremony will never be held again, so one must put one’s whole heart into looking after one’s guests on every occasion.




  The idea behind “ichi-go ichi-e”
The expression “ichi-goichi-e” is often used in Japan when you get to know somebody for the first time. For example, you may become friendly with the owner of a hotel where you stay during a trip, or a conversation may develop with someone you speak to on the street.


When you part ways with these people, you may never meet again. In this sort of situation, the expression “ichi-go ichi-e” is used to mean that the encounter will be treasured and remembered.


However, you don't always meet new people when you perform a tea ceremony. On the contrary, in most cases, the tea ceremony is performed among people who have met each other many times before and know each other well.


In other words, “ichi-go ichi-e” is not only used in cases where you meet someone for the first time. It also applies when you meet someone you have met many times before.


In this type of situation, “ichi-go ichi-e” means that, even if you have met the other person many times before, you should give yourself wholeheartedly to the occasion, as if it were the last time you are to meet.


For example, how would you feel if a colleague you see every day at work didn’t show up one day, and you found out later that he was involved in a traffic accident? Or if a member of your family suddenly died from a heart attack? You might have expected that you could say thank you to this person at any time, but that would no longer be possible.


The true significance hidden in “ichi-go ichi-e” is to always remember to express your gratitude to others, as if this is the last time you will meet.


Even if you think that you will have many chances to meet again, it may not be so. This is why you have to put all your effort into what you are doing in this present moment. If you make this way of thinking part of your life and you live in this spirit, your life will be rich. This is the essence of the Way of Tea.

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