On the Same Wavelength

四字熟語(Japanese idioms)「以心伝心」英語訳(English translation)

When you meet someone else’s eyes and you just know what the other is thinking about or about to say so you can make a mental connection with the other person, you say…
「以心伝心」 ishin denshin

ishindenshin nande, kotobaga nakutemo tsutawarundesu. sugoku hachoga aundesu.
We can read each other’s minds and often share information without speaking, because we are very much on the same mental wavelength.

以:by means of
心:heart, mind
伝:communicate, pass down
心:heart, mind

It originally refers to Zen secrets passed down by means of mental communication between priests and their disciples. The disciples try to read master’s mind. Zen priests don’t often turn to oral or written instructions to pass on Zen secrets.  It might bear some literal resemblance to Augustine’s phrase: Cor ad cor loquitur. It’s about the personal relationship between God and human beings through prayer. Just as eyes speak to eyes, heart speaks to heart in a silent conversing.

元々は、師と弟子が心を通い合わせて伝わる禅の奥義のこと。弟子たちは師の心を読もうとする。禅の奥義は、口伝などに頼らない。アウグスティヌスの”Cor ad cor loquitur(心と心がしゃべる)”に通じるところがある。祈りを通じた神との対話であり、視線を交わすように、沈黙の会話によって心と心を結ぶ。

Shades and Absence

額田王「君待つと わが恋ひをれば わが屋戸の簾動かし 秋の風吹く」英語訳

What about Japanese culture fascinates me? Its attention to shades over lights, absence over presence. As pensive and pathetic as it may sound, it is a void in your heart that evokes your reminiscences of people, things and events. An unattended tea cup, empty space at the dining table or a lone laughter in front of the TV set, all of these are a reminder of the loss of, separation or being away from loved ones. It even makes you feel they might be around or alive here or there when you feel the wind blow or when the night falls. This sensibility is pretty universal, for it has been sung in many different forms of poetries in history. For comparison, let me take two examples: one dates back to the 7th century Japan and the other to the 19th century New England.


君待つと わが恋ひをれば わが屋戸の
簾動かし 秋の風吹く
ー 額田王
 kimi matsuto waga koi oreba waga yadono
 sudare ugokashi akino kaze huku

恋しいあなたをひとり待つ 部屋の簾が
揺れたのは 秋の風が吹き抜けたから

Alone in my room… in longing… the blinds…
rustling… in the Autumn wind
– Nukata no Ohkimi


Water, is taught by thirst.
Land – by the Oceans passed.
Transport – by throe –
Peace – by its battles told –
Love, by Memorial Mold –
Birds, by the Snow.
– Emily Dickinson

陸地は ― はるばる越えてきた海が。
歓喜は ― 苦痛が
平和は ― 戦いの物語が
愛は ― 思い出の品が

ー エミリー・ディキンソン

These two don’t depict things themselves but imagination and sentiments they arouse. Absence speaks aloud, in reserved longing and quiet contemplation. Later on in history people built astonishingly ostentatious shrines even deep in the mountains and much later on, today, we see architectural mishmash of Tokyo and their slapdash concrete environs. Do we need to become a hermit and build a hermitage on an isolated moor or prairie to be away from distractions and noise? No. Just try to see what is not here and listen to silence.


Without Cutting Corners

四字熟語(Japanese idioms)「一生懸命」英語訳(English translation)

When your friend is not sure about her efforts and is thinking of taking an easy way out in her reckless haste, you say…

「一生懸命」 issho kenmei

iiwake mo sezu, zuru mo sezu, tonikaku gambarushika naidesho. isshokemmei yatteireba, itsuka mukuwarerukara.
With no excuses, without cutting corners, just do your best, believing all the hard work will eventually pay off.

一生:a lifetime
懸命:devotedly, desperately, to commit one’s whole life
 Originally, 一所懸命
 一所:one place, one plot of land
 懸命:devotedly, desperately, to commit one’s whole life

After establishing the new military headquarters (what is referred to as the shogunate) in Kamakura, the first shogun laid out the feudal system. Under the system, the shogun guaranteed the ownership of land; in return, samurai warriors pledged their loyalty and work hard to secure their land. Over time, the emphasis on securing land has changed into that on a once-in-a-lifetime significance or effort. There has been the strong undertone of feudal loyalty and moral integrity throughout the ages, even in these modern days.


Flawless Completion Is Something Undesirable


Learning is something of a journey with no perfection in sight.


In everything, flawless completion is something undesirable. Intriguing is leaving something incomplete so that there is room for growth. – Kenko Ramblings


With all knowledge and experience you have, you still get your skills radar chart showing that you lack a particular skill(s), which means that what you get is something far from the perfect hexagonal chart. You still lack fluency. You get the feeling of missing something, a rough and coarse texture. Dents and repairs. But it’s through your yesterday’s embarrassments and surprise over cultural gaps that you gain insights. That’s what makes growth possible. Assured, decided and committed to what really matters, you let the greatness shine through. That’s the beauty of imperfection.


Late Bloomer

四字熟語(Japanese idioms)「大器晩成」英語訳(English translation)

When you feel frustrated about catching up to your peers and hard-pressed to flourish, you say…

「大器晩成」 taiki bansei

I’m having a hard time now, but I believe I’m kind of a late bloomer and my talent will present itself later on, right?

imawa kuro shiterukedo, kitto taikibanseigata namdayo. itsuka sainoga kaikasurutte.

大:big, great
器:bowl, capacity
成:to become

Just as making a big bowl takes a great deal of time, a person of great talent often bloom late in their career.



四字熟語(Japanese idioms)「器用貧乏」英語訳(English translation)

When you feel you are quick in understanding how things work and mastering new skills but feel scattered or overwhelmed by multiple interests or assigned tasks, you say…

「器用貧乏」 kiyo bimbo

I’m kind of a Jack-of-all-trades type person. Any managers find it handy to have me around, but I don’t think I’m going to make a successful career.

kiyoubinbo na taipu dakara, donna joshi karamo chohogarareru kedo, konomama dato taisei shinasaso

器用:versatile, good with one’s hands

If you’re versatile enough to understand and master skills quickly enough, you will be a “grease guy” for the team and be expected to volunteer unpopular tasks. It will be a great contribution to making their groups better off, but you will not be a specialist, become unsure about life-long passions or career path and end up making smaller success in your own career than you would otherwise.

No Encounter is Ever Wasted

四字熟語(Japanese idioms)「一期一会」英語訳(English translation)

When you are really appreciative of, inspired by and connected to someone or something through this and that chance meeting, you say…

「一期一会」 ichigo ichie

No encounter is ever wasted. You know, just make the best of every encounter with care and commitment.
 donna deai mo ichigoichie dakara. sono deaiwo taisetsuni shinaitone

期:period, chance
会:encounter, meeting

Originally referring to desirable attitude at the tea ceremony, it indicates that you must serve tea to this person whole-heartedly, believing that you will never see this person again or there will be no other ceremony exactly the same as the one you have today. Take every encounter as a once-in-a-lifetime chance.