Yoshizen's Blog

Lost in Translation

There are quite few Japanese words notoriously difficult to translate into western language. 

Such as  Itadaki-masu (いただきます), Okage-sama (おかげさま), Mottai-nai(もったいない)、and abave all  Wabi, Sabi. (わび) (さび)

Why those words were difficult to translate, was because of that the one’s fundamental conscious to exists were completely different in the west.   Some said that because of the difference between the Christianity and the Buddhism.  But, to my eyes, the cause was much deeper = because of the fundamental difference, the westerner invented God, but the people in the east IS living under the Heaven since the beginning of the time. (so that, even Buddhism adapted the Dharma / Rule of the Universe)  And in the Shinto, (of which Japanese unconsciously follows) naturally follow the Rule of Nature which is almost the same to Dharma though sublimated much deeper down to the almost chemical level.  (That’s why Japanese doesn’t touch other’s possession and wash or clean the hand almost obsessively = so that, they were reluctant to shake hand, let alone kissing others, because they were prohibited to touch filth by the Shinto. —– hence, wearing surgical mask to avoid to breath other’s germ. = some of them even don’t eat a rice ball made by others hand.) 

In the same time, since the Japanese has the deep awareness that they “were Made to exists” by the Heaven, Rules, Dharma what so ever called, when they start to eat, they have to say Itadaki-masu = I gratefully receive this given food and thanks to the food (material itself) who gave their lives to me as well = Japanese are well aware that they are killing the Potato, Beans etc boiled alive.  Likewise, the word Okage-sama meant the thanks not only to the person who gave a kindness to him but also grateful to the Heaven who arrange the meeting. = This is the word to express absolute humbleness. = conscious toward the “Given Life” and thanks to its fate.  And the word Mottai-nai meant “Feel shame to waste the precious resources which has been given to us“.

=== It’s easy to see the point, that the fate of the rice glowing society was governed by the sun and rain = nature, not by a strong hunting, fighting individual. (The western God was conceived as an ancient Hero ascended to the heaven (A legend became myth, then to a religion) = therefore speak same language, and negotiable with a bribe = how humanistic !    😀 )

In contrast to the east, the western’s Ego justify his existence “As a rightful owner of my life”  and have a right to kill and eat, because they were made to be eaten. = thus feel no sorry to a butchered chicken.  Such fundamental difference between arrogant Ego and passive Humbleness couldn’t have the same kind of sentiment, the psych which is the base of each word. = therefore no compatible word could exist.   No wonder a trouble in translation.

I’ll explain the words Wabi and Sabi on the next post with sample photos. 

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