Harmony

Harmony

Although I don't speak Japanese (which is a daily struggle), the Japanese language and the folded meanings it holds is fascinating to me.  Each time I reveal a certain word's meanful meaning I feel like someone has just told me a delicious secret. 

A great example for this is the *kanji character 和 which means “Japanese” or “Japanese style” and also "Harmony". Mostly referring to social harmony where group values and the welfare of the community are seen as more important than individual ambitions or desires. 

The original meaning of the Kanji is “harmony,” and “Japanese” is actually the secondary meaning that the Japanese chose for themselves. I find this fact very telling. “Wa” meaning “harmony" was a very important concept in Japan’s formative years and is still a big part of how the Japanese see themselves.

Living in Japan I sometimes consider the line that is stretched between the desire to belong to the group and the desire to maintain my individuality. 

But looking at the kanji’s origins we can see an understanding that group harmony is actually dependent on different, distinct elements that complement and enhance each other, like different ingredients that are brought together and mixed so that their various flavors are harmonized into a satisfying whole. 

There’s a whole lot of meaning wrapped up in 和 , and in the past few weeks I have been wondering if social harmony is the key of accepting the new world we are now experiencing and learning to live in...?


 

*Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system. They are used alongside  the Japanese syllabic scripts hiragana and katakana.

Text Source: Working in Japan - "all about wa"