“Learn to live fully in the present, recognizing and accepting the gift of each moment.”

Many countries around the world have their own ways of happiness. The Danes have Hygge, the Portuguese have Saudade, and the Poles have “Somehow it will be done.” The Japanese, on the other hand, have Ichigo Ichie. This is a unique philosophy, according to which, in order to achieve happiness, one should focus on the moment and fully immerse oneself in the present.

Table of Contents:


The art of experiencing special moments

Ichigo Ichie (一期一会) in Japanese means one meeting, one time, one occasion. Every moment we experience is unique and absolutely special.

The meaning of the term comes from the words Ichigo- one (in turn) and Ichie (meeting, opportunity). It can be defined as Japan’s Carpe Diem. By focusing on the moment we are experiencing, we immerse ourselves in the present. Each of the moments we experience is unique. When we realize that it will never happen again and celebrate it in the right way, we are able to see the beauty in the passing of time.

Where the term Ichigo Ichie comes from

The first testimony of ichigo ichie can be found in the records of tea master Yamanoue Soji. It dates back to 1588, and the passage of interest reads as follows:

If we were to leave the concept occupying us untranslated, the above sentence would translate like this: “You should treat your host with due Ichigo Ichie.”

Yamanoue Soji wrote down the teachings of the tea ceremony, gleaned from meetings with the Rikyu master, considered one of the co-creators of wabi-cha, a variation of the tea ceremony that puts simplicity first. To describe the concept in question, however, Soji reached for an Old Japanese phrase一期一度. It is almost identical to the 一期一会 cited at the beginning, the difference is in the last character – in Soji’s case we find not “meeting” but “(one) time”. The change of the fourth sign is significant because it takes the issue of the uniqueness of the moment beyond the context of the tea ceremony. To the latter we devote a separate paragraph explaining its philosophical depth.

Tea ceremony

The first testimony of Ichigo Ichie dates back to 1588 from the records of tea master Yamanpuego Soji. According to him, a host holding such a meeting should approach preparations with great attention to detail. Even if the organizer and his guests often spend time together, the moments can never be relived in the same form. Both the master of the tea ceremony and the participants should take care to create a unique atmosphere – the host takes care of the preparations, the guests appreciate every detail.

Chanoyu in Japanese means the way of tea. The ceremony of drinking it engages each of the five senses: taste-The tea served by the host must be of the highest quality, and the taste after drinking it should linger in the memory of guests for a long time. Smell-The aroma of tea is a very important part of it. In addition, the smell of sweets prepared by the host should be in the air. Sight- the unique tableware prepared for the ceremony by the host pleases the eye with its simplicity and careful craftsmanship. Pouring the tea itself is also a kind of choreography, which, thanks to the subtle movements of the master, is a unique experience for guests. Touch- by taking a small cup in their hand and raising it to their lips, guests experience a symbolic act of bonding. Hearing- drinking tea is accompanied by conversation, which involves listening carefully to the words of the interlocutor and speaking according to etiquette.

Ichigo Ichie -
Ichigo Ichie – unforgettable moments

Celebrating Everyday Life

The tea ceremony is more than a meeting. It is a unique experience that, with the help of engaging us in the alertness of all our senses, allows us to appreciate the moment and give ourselves completely to the present moment

“In everyday life, on the other hand, chanoyu can be conducted almost anywhere-at a public tea shop, gathering participants around a table, or at home in the company of friends. It is important-when the tea is served-that we let time stand still. Let’s put aside all worries, complaints and daily concerns.”

Zazen practice

There are many forms of meditation. Zazen is one of them. It is closely related to the concept of Ichigo Ichie because of its purpose-it is to focus on being here and now, as well as to free oneself from suffering and liberate oneself from vanity. The practice of this meditation involves sitting with your back straight on a cushion, while your legs are placed in a “full lotus” position. You should breathe deeply and keep your eyes half-closed. Meditation has many positive sides. These include leveling stress, entering a state of tranquility, and communing with oneself and one’s own thoughts.


The practice was used on a daily basis by Apple founder Steve Jobs, who began this type of meditation under the guidance of Kobun monk Chino Otogawa. He became his friend and mentor for the rest of his life. He also passed on to him the wisdom of Ichigo Ichie. Jobs has tapped into Japanese inspiration at Apple and has repeatedly mentioned his fascination with the country and its culture.

The Magic of Hanami

Hana in Japanese means flower. Hanami is the time in early spring when cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Literally, the phrase means “to see flowers.

This special time is celebrated very lavishly by the people of Japan and attracts many tourists. No wonder it is called the Land of the Cherry Blossom. Beautiful flowers in shades of pink, white and peach decorate parks and streets of cities and villages. Japanese people are very keen on going for walks and having picnics during this period. The hanami ritual is about celebrating nature and the rebirth of life. One of the most interesting forms of celebration is Yozakura-it involves gathering in a park at dusk, where traditional lanterns are lit, with which trees are decorated. Hanami is exemplary proof that what is most beautiful in life passes quickly and cannot be put off.

Ichigo Ichie
Ichigo Ichie – Japanese art

Meeting in the spirit of Ichigo Ichie

Are Japanese people currently following the Ichigo Ichie principles? According to them, the modern use of the term is most apt in several situations. One of them is to meet for the first time with a person they have never met before. Another use is when they see their relative or friend, while they want to emphasize how important it is for them to spend time together. In addition, they are very keen on holding social gatherings. Amid a flurry of work and responsibilities, Japanese people greatly value time spent with family and friends. When organizing such a meeting, they very often base it on ancient ceremonies and take care of the quality of the dishes served and the unique atmosphere at the table.

The art of celebration

The key to preparing an event that will run in the spirit of Ichigo Ichie is to ask yourself: “what will this event be remembered for?” The answer can indicate, for example, the theme of the meeting or ideas for the course of the party, or the dishes served by the host. Each moment with loved ones is precious – so it is worthwhile to take care of the unique decor of the apartment, tasty dishes and, above all, the atmosphere. It is the most valuable and essential element.

“A tea ceremony, a favorite sport, listening to music, reading an interesting book, indulging in one’s hobbies or meeting with friends in the spirit of Ichigo Ichie have the power to bring us back to life. It’s a way that works no matter how many annoyances and disappointments we have experienced.”

Ichigo Ichie Rules

Ichigo Ichie’s philosophy has its own set of principles. Guided by them, we have the opportunity to become masters of ceremony of our own lives and give meaning to each moment.

10 Principles of Ichigo Ichie

  1. Don’t delay the good times
  1. Experience everything as if it would happen only once
  1. Settle into the here and now
  1. Do something you haven’t done before
  1. Practice Zen
  1. Apply mindfulness to all senses
  1. Recognize coincidences
  1. Make each moment a celebration
  1. If you don’t like what’s around you, create something new
  1. Be a hunter of good moments

Catch the moments

Living in the moment, our thoughts revolve around the current environment, what we hear or what activity we are engaged in. In Ichigo Ichie’s philosophy, there is the concept of enemies of the moment. These include postponing what is urgent and persisting in the belief that we currently do not have the right conditions to do what we set out to do, yet we do not know if we will get another opportunity. Ephemerality is beautiful- knowing that nothing we experience will be repeated makes us appreciate the gift of each moment- our lives are made up of many wonderful moments and are worth celebrating.

Source: Ichigo Ichie. The Japanese art of experiencing unforgettable moments- Hector Garcia, Francesc Miralles


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