TeaLife Audio – Episode 126 – Ichi go Ichi e

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  • Adam
  • Anthony
  • Marius

Topic Ichi Go Ichi E

Information referenced:

Yamanoue Sōji’s expression of ‘ichi-go ichi-e’ appears the Record of Yamanoue Sōji, a detailed compendium of annotated lists of utensils and notations of teachings in the lineage descending from Jukō, transmitted down through Jukō’s adopted heir Sōju, Torii Insetsu, Jōō and Rikyū, to Rikyū’s student and fellow Sakai merchant Yamanoue Sōji (1544-1590). In this famous work are two lists that come under the title “Points of Attention for Practitioners of Tea”. The ichi-go ichi-e philosophy appears in point 10 of the second list:

“10. Concerning the manner as a guest: attention should be given to building a unified gathering, There are may secretly transmitted provisions. For the sake of beginners, Jōō spoke of htis matter. At present, however, [such provisions] are rejected by Rikyū. He revealed bits and pieces during a nightfall tea gathering. To begin with, even during a morning or an evening gathering, and needless to say a gathering for the first showing of the jar of new tea, or even an ordinary chanoyu, from the moment you enter the garden pathway until the time you depart, hold the host in most respectful esteem, in the spirit that that encounter will occur but once in your life 一期ニ一度ノ会ノヤウニ.”



Sōji’s words are not as as succinct as the four character phrase we have today. It wasn’t until the mid 19th century that we have documented evidence of ichi-go ichi-e expressed as its compound 4 character idiomatic form. This was done by Ii Naosuke, Prime Minister of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate, in his work titled: Collected Notes on the Chanoyu Gathering or “Chanoyu Ichie Shū”:

“The gathering in chanoyu is spoken of as ‘a single encounter in a lifetime’ (ichigo ichie). Thus, although the same host and guests may come together a number of times, when one considers that one cannot return again to the gathering of this very day, one realises it indeed occurs but once in one’s life. Therefore, the host is meticulously attentive to all things, applying deep mindfulness and complete sincerity so that there be not the slightest negligence. And the guest, fully discerning the preciousness of the circumstances leading to the gathering, should be sensitive to the host’s intentions not to be remiss in what is meant by ‘a single encounter in a lifetime’.” 


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