Enishi in the Modern World

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Enishi in the Modern World Photography by Hiroshi Tasaka

Destined Encounter of Enishi in the Modern World

"Every encounter in our lives has meaning"

IN Japan, people sometimes say, “This is enishi,” or “This is en,” when they meet someone for the first time. Enishi, known casually as en, means “a destined encounter.” The word holds a great deal of significance for the people of Japan. They believe that if two people never cross paths in life, there is no enishi between them. Certain life events thus take on a new meaning, each with a different implication. For example, a man and a woman may meet and eventually marry — this would be one form of positive enishi. Even a criminal and a victim can possess enishi, but in the form of a tragedy. As if to further validate this idea, there is another famous saying in Japan that states, “It is the result of enishi in the former life that someone meets a person in this life.” In fact, at this moment thereare more than 7.3billion people living on Earth, but in our short life we could have intimate and close relationships with less than 100 of them.

Japanese people always say “arigatou gozaimashita” at the end of a meeting. Arigatou is usually translated into English as “thank you.” Yet, in truth, arigatou doesn’t mean “thank you.” Arigatou is a casual way of saying arigatai, which is a combination of the words ari and gatai. Ari means “to exist” and gatai means “it is difficult.” Therefore, arigatai literally translates to “it is difficult to exist.”

There are, however, other meanings of the phrase. In the sense of religious feeling, arigatai means, “it is a miracle.” Another connotation associated with the word is: “it is a kind of miracle in our life to meet and help each other today in this way.”

Yes, it is a certain kind of miracle to meet someone out of 7.3 billion in the small amount of time we are given. Our life is often equated to the blink of an eye — a fairly short amount of time compared with the 4.6 billion years the Earth has existed. An encounter between people is a miracle simply because it is “an encounter in a moment.”

Why do Japanese people use the words enishi and arigatou or arigatai and so closely associate them with the idea of miracles? To put it simply, Japanese people believe that life is led by “something great.” Some people believe it is Hotoke (Buddha), while others believe it is Kami (God). Yet, in the greater scheme of things, Japanese people don’t care what that “something great” really is. The most important thing for them is the overall feeling that our lives are led by “something great,” whatever that may be.

However, this feeling doesn’t simply mean that our lives are always going to be happy or lucky. Rather, people believe that “something great” can sometimes mean challenging us with a negative encounter to help us grow and develop personally. Thus, when these trials and tribulations occur in our lives, we start thinking of their overall importance. In order to do this, we must ask ourselves two different questions: “Why did this encounter occur in my life?” and “Why was I given this difficulty (accident, illness, etc.)?”

Basically, Japanese people try to derive some kind of meaning from a difficulty shortly after it occurs. Because Japanese people believe “something great” is always watching over us and trying to help us grow, Japanese people believe that the various trials in our lives tend to happen at the best time even if it may not seem like it at first.

Once the storm has passed, so to speak, Japanese people ask themselves the following question: “What kind of personal growth or change is needed for me in relation to what I’ve just been put through?”

This thought process is not unique to the people of Japan. Many countries with a strong religious background also have this ideology. The next time you are given more than you can handle, remember the idea of enishi — you’ll already have won half the battle and you’ll be equipped with wisdom that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Every encounter in our lives has meaning. Every event in our lives has meaning. So, what is the meaning of yours? tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

Written By:

Hiroshi Tasaka

Tokyo Journal columnist Hiroshi Tasaka is President of Think Tank SophiaBank, Former Special Advisor to Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan, World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council Member and Tama University Professor. He graduated from the University of Tokyo with a Ph. D. in Nuclear Engineering in 1981. From 1987, he worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute and also at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in the USA. In 1990, he participated in founding the Japan Research Institute. In 2000, he became a Professor at Tama University in Tokyo and founded Think Tank SophiaBank. Dr. Tasaka is a philosopher who has put forward a wide range of ideas, theories and philosophies. He is the author of more than 60 books.


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