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Water in Japanese Culture: No. 3

Japanese used to use many expressions using water;
“Be careful with the water you will have there.”
“This water doesn’t suit me.”
“Now I get used to this water.”
“So, it was the WATER to cause this problem.”

These are expressions to describe the place you were born, or to send wishes to the person who are leaving or living away from you.  People used these expressions all the time in their daily life 50 years ago.

People often used “water” to describe something they did not know the reason or cause.  In that context, the water means climate and environment which surround us around.  These expressions, I think, display both delicacy and boldness of Japanese characters well.

Water also takes on the character of delicacy and boldness at the same time.  To be honest, that describes the water very well.

If you are people of Japan, which is so blessed with the water, we can learn from the water to be delicate and bold at the same time.
Why don’t you take a minute to imagine the way of life like water?


Water in Japanese Culture: No. 2

Water has nourished Japanese culture.  It means that some water is very unique to the certain area, and numerous art and crafts heavily depends on the character of water which is only available to the area.  The range of the genre is so wide that it is from Japanese Sake, handmade paper, Tea Ceremony, Japanese cuisine such as Sushi and Tofu, to art craft such as Japanese sword.  Those cannot be made without the water which is unique to the place.

To be more precise, the water makes the differences in tastes and colors of rice, flower, and vegetables, for example, and the differences become the character of the outcomes.

Handmade paper of Echizen, Sake of Nada, flowers in Toyama, to name some.  Kaiseki cuisine of Kyoto; very refined traditional course meal, also is heavily influenced by the water they use.

Moreover, water itself is a part of culture of the places.  Kumamoto city of Kumamoto, Matsue city of Shimane, and Hiraizumi city of Iwate, for example.  Those places are known for their natural water, and their culture and everyday lives are so close to the water.

As a reasonable thing to do, people have closely studied the water they have, and know the characters well, so that they can imitate the way of life as water has shown to them. That leads to the result of making the best out of the water as they have, and in return, the water has nurture people’s lives. 

It will not be affected by the changes of time because it is an essential quality of the water.  Therefore, we have to place an importance on the water for it has a universal value to our livings.


Water in Japanese Culture: No. 1

Japanese people have tendency to see the way of life in water.  There are many songs comparing a life with a flow of water.  When it comes to classic literature, “Hojyoki” by Kamo no Choumei, is very famous for it.  One of the shoguns, Kuroda Nyosui, has “water” in his name.  Buddhism teaching also uses water often to describe truth. 
Here is “5 lessons from water” by Kuroda Nyosui, which you can see at people’s houses flamed;
1.    It is water that can move other things by moving for onself.
2.    It is water that always seeks its own course and never stops.
3.    It is water that gains 100 times stronger force when it encounters obstacles.
4.    It is water that cleans gracefully other’s uncleanness and has capacity to accept both clean and unclean together
5.    It is water that fills boundless oceans, vaporizes in the form of fog, and freezes like mirror but its essential quality is still the same in any form.
(Translated by Masaru Emoto)

Just be conscious and observe water;
The one in a glass when you drink it. 
The one which flows from the tap. 
The one when you take bath, which clings to your skin. 
The one which flows in a river. 
Humans cannot transform its shapes and forms, but can change feelings and mental state. 
And, it all depends how you be conscious and observe the object.


Water in Taoism: No. 10

Movement of Tao is a selfless motion to make the natural world into eternal.  In fact, we can see the movement in that of water.

People do not pay much attention to the water especially where water is abundant, like Japan.  Therefore, people do not see the movement of water, or do not know how lucky they are to have that water.  They even take for granted.
If we daresay about water, it becomes somewhat like “knowledge” which we have to learn.  By doing so, we cannot get closer to water.  Therefore, people do not believe that if I say water shows us the good example to our lives.
Water remains the same since 3.5 billion years ago.  What it has been doing is to nurture lives alive for ever.  Human beings also seek for eternal life.  It is natural for all the living beings to live even for an hour or a day longer with his life.  We can learn the way from the water by looking how it circulates the life.

Water changes its forms and shapes depending on time and place with its flexibility.  It circulates between heaven and earth, and purifies itself to have longer life.  Humans also can circulate the lives by looking at the water with attention.


Water in Taoism: No. 9

Water does not show off its existence.  We may not be able to see the figure, but it surely does exist.  There, water acts its primary role.  I call the acts as “water does its truth”.  On the other hand, if I ask myself whether humans do its truth, it seems to me that we got wrong directions.

What is human’s truth?
We should take some time to think about our starting point.
Why do we exist? Why humankind appeared on the earth to start with? 
Each individual possesses their original strength.  In order to show the true strength, we have to be free from anything like water.  It means no fight, no limitation, and just seeking way to go. 
You can create a life which you and nature coexist in your life.  Be confident with what you have in your heart.


Water in Taoism: No. 8

Water’s character is unique in its movement to give things life in any circumstances. 

The natural world maintains order by preserving the species.  This may be the earth’s will to give things life forever.

Every substance lives its life and reaches to death, and the death becomes origin of the other lives.  This circulation of lives leads to the eternal life.

Each being’s unintentional actions become the origin of life, and contribute to the future.  We can see the Dharma, an action to give other thing life, in the movement of water.  Dharma is the action of virtues for all the living creatures.

By existing between heaven and earth, water and human beings are connected with Dharma. 

Beauty lies in Dharma, especially more so if the act is done modestly.

Photo:Yu Nozaki

Rain, the water to nurture all the lives, falls on to earth.


Water in Taoism: No. 7

The focal points of Taoism summarized in “now” and “here”.  People only live each moment, and not a linear of time.  However, we tend to postpone things saying “well, I will do it tomorrow”, “next time”, or “another time”.  Tao teaches that the energy which exists “now” and “here” is the best.  It is so true that when we are thirsty, we do not postpone the urge for tomorrow but drink the water right away.  We can just take things simply like that.

When you have an urge to do things, the motivation leads you to the best result by doing it immediately.  When you think back past, most of the things left behind still remain untouched, aren’t they?

Water expresses the life of newness.  No other situation is better than now for the water.  Water stays alive by accumulating each moment by itself.  If we learn from the water, we may be able to live forever.  Don’t you think?


Water in Taoism: No. 6

Taoism explains the concepts of “夷=I, 奇=Ki, and 微=Bi”, which mean human’s subtle energy to feel, hear, and see.  These concepts value human’s ability to see the unseen, to hear the unheard, and to feel the subtle changes, which all of us are supposed to have.

Japanese people inherit “the state of mind” of ancestors even now.  Those are expressed in many aspects of our traditional life.  For example, we feel the existence of gods by hanging sacred straw ropes around woods, rocks, and rivers.  The rope isolates the area from the environment, and creates the atmosphere which feels like something sacred does exists, though it may not be seen.

At local festivals, people carry Mikoshi, a miniature shrine, while calling out “Wassoi wassioi”.  By doing so, they feel the existence of gods.  The activity itself is important for making someone more human. 

The objects which can be seen are supported by the unseen.  Realizing this fact makes people to be humble and see the truth.  You can see the current of the river, but flows by the bank or at the bottom cannot be seen.  In fact, however, the banks or the bottom support the greater flow of the river.  That I mean is the truth.