Brain Food #634

Mono no aware

Thoughts of the day

I recently came across the Japanese concept of ‘mono no aware’, which refers to the ephemeral nature of all things, the sad beauty of watching time pass. It is a bittersweet feeling, and the words are hard to translate, though a frequent interpretation is ‘the pathos of things’.

The Japanese celebrate this concept annually through one of their most famous natural events: the cherry blossom season. Cherry blossom trees are not admired due to being more beautiful or grandiose compared to other trees - they are loved because they are the representation of the ephemeral nature of things.

Mono no aware is a push to overcome the paralysing fear of the sadness that might come with a future loss. The more we accept that everything is temporary, the more we can enable ourselves to be exposed to life, and all it has to offer.

When you see things change, whether in the world around you or in yourself, mono no aware calls for an acceptance of them, because that is what is meant to happen. And even if the trees seem barren, the cherry blossoms might still come back.


The concept of mono no aware is often found in popular culture. Lost in Translation focuses on the transient relationship of two Americans who find some form of solace in each other while feeling lost in Tokyo. They know their relationship will end the moment they leave Japan, and return to ‘real’ life. They pursue it anyway.