Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mono No Aware

Mono no aware (物の哀れ) has been translated as:

"the pathos of things"

"an empathy toward things,"

"a sensitivity of ephemera,"

“the ‘ahh-ness’ of things….”

It is a Japanese term, central to the culture and aesthetic of Japan, denoting awareness of mujo or the transience of things and a bittersweet sadness at their passing.

The term was coined in the 18th century by the Edo-period Japanese cultural scholar, Motoori Norinaga, and used in his literary criticism of The Tale of Genji, a seminal, 11th-century Japanese epic tale. Norinaga noted that mono no aware is a crucial emotion which moves readers and while not limited to Japanese literature, it has come to be symbolic of Japan’s very essence.

The term derives from the Japanese words mono, which means "things", and aware, which was a Heian period expression of measured surprise (similar to "ah" or "oh"), translating roughly as "pathos," "poignancy," "deep feeling," or "sensitivity." Thus, mono no aware has frequently been translated as
"the 'ahh-ness' of things."

In Japan, the concept of mono no aware is perhaps best embodied in the Sakura, the Japanese flowering cherry, an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. The flowers bloom each year for no more than two weeks and the Japanese weather service tracks the blooming periods (including “best viewing periods”) for the entire country. Picnics of entire families under the blooming cherry trees are a common sight. The fleeting nature of the phenomenon is celebrated, if not revered.
Cherry blossom is an omen of good fortune and further symbolizes love, affection and re-birth.

Mono no aware teaches observation and sensitive thought. The concept also celebrates the mixed emotions of happinness at the existence of an object or process and the bittersweet sadness at its passing nature.

Mono no aware aesthetic considers beautiful not just a flower in full bloom but especially a flower which is fading and whose fleeting life can be appreciated and celebrated...

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credits: Flickr - yumi, florian hoeltje, nonoCaptures


  1. thank you so very much for this - it is beautiful... xo

  2. have been on my mind in the last few days, Maire...glad the "story" pleased you oxoxoxox

  3. These are absolutely gorgeous shots!!!

    Hope you are enjoying your weekend :)
    xoxo Laura

  4. Thank you so much, Laura, for visiting! I am so glad you like the post - you have a super eye for photography so this is a great compliment, thank you! oxox

  5. “the ‘ahh-ness’ of things…”
    I'll remember that.
    Extremely enlightening post.x

  6. Appreciate the compliment, Jan. Ahhhh.....ox AJ

  7. Love the photos. I'm in DC and I am excited for the cherry blossom festival in March/April! :)


  8. Oh wow! These photos are stunning. Thanks for sharing these with us and thanks for always being so kind with me!

  9. Federica, you are such a sweet and classy lady's a pleasure....ox AJ

  10. Jill: I am so envious that you will be so close to so many blooms - I have been to DC many times but never in the spring - it must be just dreamy! oxox