How sweet the scent of blossoms lacing the air! Imagine a bowl of matcha in hands, your eyes following the steam up to adore soft pink sakura, then peering through the blossoms to delight in a blue sky blurred by spring haze. Enjoying matcha in spring is just as delicious for your eyes.
This month I will be taking part in a research program nicknamed the 'Omoiyari Project'. The aim of the program is to deepen understanding of the characteristically Japanese value of omoiyari. Let me briefly explain my sense of the concept of omoiyari. The English words of ‘courtesy’, 'consideration' 'compassion' and 'humanity' start to paint the picture.
Since ancient times, Japanese have valued the concept of wa (harmony). For example, Prince Shōtoku (574 – 622) decreed to the Japanese people: ‘Harmony is of the highest value.’ Compassion for others and consideration for your surrounds - omoiyari - is the grounds for harmony. The crystallisation of the related values of 'compassion', 'consideration', 'courtesy', and 'humanity' into an overarching concept: omoiyari, is unique to the Japanese. Omoiyari influences the spiritual nature, aesthetics, and mannerisms of Japan.
I think the emergence of omoiyari is intimately linked to the environmental surrounds of the Japanese archipelago. Japan has a congenial climate with incredibly rich and diverse natural beauty. The people have grown warm and rich hearts to match. Yet as we saw with this year’s earthquake disaster, Japan's natural surrounds can be devastating beyond comprehension. The Japanese have forever lived with the possibility of these disasters in their consciousness. The fearful power, yet striking beauty of Japan's natural world has demanded an especial reverence of nature from the Japanese people, and demanded an acute sensibility to the subtle changes in nature just to live their daily lives. To ride the whims of nature, a spirit of mutual aid and cooperation is a must.
In a setting of breathtaking beauty yet ever-threatening calamity, going about your personal affairs requires due consideration to your environment, the needs of others, and emotional responses to your environment and others. Here you have the foundations for the human value of omoiyari.
I've devoted my life to chanoyu. Chanoyu embodies reverence for nature, and striving for wa (harmony) in all your interactions with nature and people. Harmony both in the tearoom and outside emerges very naturally when people have omoiyari.