‘One time, one meeting’ 一期一会 – Do you know Four Character Idioms?

‘One time, one meeting’ 一期一会 – Do you know Four Character Idioms?

If you follow our Instagram, you might have seen our reels explaining those Japanese phrases: 一期一会 (Ichi-go Ichi-e), 桜梅桃李 (Ohbai Tori), and 切磋琢磨 (Sessa Takuma). Some of you showed interest in learning more about those phrases called ‘Yojijukugo’ (four-character idioms), so I thought I would write about it in my blog!


So, what are Four Character Idioms?

This Four-character idioms, known as ‘Yojijukugo(四字熟語)’ in Japanese, are idiomatic expressions composed of four Chinese characters. ‘四字’(yoji) means four letters and ‘熟語’(jukugo) means idioms, hence you see four characters in each idiom. These idioms are commonly used in the Japanese language to express complex ideas or situations clearly and concisely. They often originate from classical Chinese literature and philosophy and are used to describe states of affairs, human characteristics, behaviours, or natural phenomena. The four-character structure allows for rich, symbolic meanings to be expressed in a compact form.


Would you like to learn some examples?

We recently added a premium wooden pen line, each featuring a different four-character idiom engraved. So, let me introduce them to you as you learn some Four Character Idioms:


桜花爛漫 'Ohka Ranman' - Premium Cherry Wood Black Japanese Ballpoint Pen


桜花爛漫 'Ohka Ranman,’ which translates as 'the cherry blossoms are in full bloom'. It evokes the image of cherry trees covered in an abundance of blossoms, symbolising the peak of spring's beauty. This idiom is often used to convey the overwhelming and breathtaking beauty of nature when cherry blossoms are at their most splendid, and it can also refer to someone who is 'flamboyant, gorgeous, and bright.'


冥冥之志  ‘Meimei no Kokorozashi' - Premium Padauk Wood Black Japanese Ballpoint Pen

冥冥之志  ‘Meimei no Kokorozashi,’ which roughly translates as, 'strong will' or 'deep aspiration that lies in the darkness, or without letting other people know about it.' The term ‘冥冥’ (meimei) suggests something dark, obscure, or hidden, while ‘之志’ (no kokorozashi) refers to one’s will or aspiration. Therefore, this idiom represents the concept of having a profound inner desire or goal that remains unspoken or unnoticed by others.


文武両道 'Bunbu Ryoudou' - Premium Oak Wood Black Japanese Ballpoint Pen


文武両道 'Bunbu Ryoudou', which loosely translates as 'being accomplished in both the literary and martial arts / do well in both academic and sports, especially in school this often refers to the students who are well-rounded. The term ‘文’ (bun) refers to literary or scholarly pursuits, whilst ‘武’(bu) refers to martial arts or military skills. ‘両道’(ryoudou) means ‘both ways’ or ‘both paths.’ Together, the idiom expresses the ideal of being well-rounded and proficient in both intellectual and physical disciplines.


雲外蒼天  'Ungai Souten' - Premium Ebony Black Japanese Ballpoint Pen

雲外蒼天  'Ungai Souten' which broadly translates as the 'sky beyond the clouds / there is always light beyond the clouds.’ It conveys the idea that if one perseveres through difficulties, they will eventually reach a bright and promising future. The idiom uses the metaphor of clouds representing obstacles and the clear blue sky symbolising the positive outcomes that lie beyond these challenges. It is very similar to the phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’!

温故知新  ‘Onko Chishin’

You can see this idiom written on the gift box of those premium pens. 温故知新 ‘Onko Chishin’, which translates as ‘learn from the past. The term '温故‘(onko) refers to reviewing the old’ and ‘知新’(chishin) means ‘to know the new.’ It expresses the idea of gaining new insights or understanding by studying and reflecting on past knowledge and experiences.


一期一会 (Ichi-go Ichi-e)

(A host preparing Matcha tea at a tea ceremony)

In my last blog, I talked about Japanese tea and tea ceremony. A tea ceremony is kind of ritual where guests are invited to a special tearoom, where the host serves matcha tea, sharing and appreciating calm and spiritual time together.  There is a phrase associated with tea ceremony ritual, that is ‘一期一会’ (pronounced ‘Ichi-go Ichi-e’ in Japanese) which translates to ‘one time, one meeting’ or ‘once in a lifetime.’ ‘一期’(ichigo) refers to a lifetime and ‘一会’(ichie) means ‘an encounter.’ It is a concept derived from Japanese tea ceremony, expressing the idea of treasuring each moment and valuing every encounter as a unique and precious because it will never happen again in exactly the same way.

I view our encounter through this blog as ‘Ichi-go Ichi-e.’ Although I cannot see you in person, I appreciate this unique moment we share, knowing it will never occur in the same way again. Thank you for joining me in this once-in-a-lifetime experience!


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