A few years ago I showed a solo exhibition titled “Love Does(nt) Exist)”.
The exhibition was inspired by the absence of a word for ‘love’ in Juhuri, a language spoken by Jews in the Caucasus. Working on the exhibition I learned that the ways to express love in words is a whole cultural thing. The substitute words and expressions for love have since been close to my heart.
In Japan I discovered that the phrase “the moon is beautiful, isn’t it?” doesn’t literally mean that the moon is beautiful, but actually means “I love you”.
When the novelist Souseki Natsume (1867-1916) was an English teacher he pointed out that Japanese people don’t say 愛す | aisu - “to love”, and explained that the best translation to “I love you” would actually be 月が綺麗ですね | tsuki ga kirei desune “the moon is beautiful, isn’t it?”.
Another way is to use stars instead of moon. Saying “The stars are beautiful” means you are beautiful, and eventually translates into “I like you”.
As a culture Japanese people are less direct than westerns.
At the time of Souseki Natsume Japanese were even more reserved than they are at present day, and they hesitated to express feelings of love directly.
Lovers were using those expressions while being under the moon and stars looking at the sky, that way they could avoid looking in each other eyes if they were too shy.
I find the expression “the moon is beautiful, isn’t is?” poetic and intelligent.
An appropriately literary response suggested by the novelist Shimei Futabatei (1864-1909) would be 死んでもいいわ | shindemo iiwa - “I can die happy.”
Text Source: Confessing your love in Japanese