The Info List - Mono No Aware

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MONO NO AWARE (物の哀れ), literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.


* 1 Origins * 2 Etymology * 3 In contemporary culture * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links


The term comes from Heian period
Heian period
literature, but was picked up and used by 18th century Edo period
Edo period
Japanese cultural scholar Motoori Norinaga in his literary criticism of The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji
, and later to other seminal Japanese works including the Man\'yōshū . It became central to his philosophy of literature and eventually to Japanese cultural tradition .


The phrase is derived from the Japanese word mono (物), which means "thing", and aware (哀れ), which was a Heian period
Heian period
expression of measured surprise (similar to "ah" or "oh"), translating roughly as "pathos", "poignancy", "deep feeling", "sensitivity", or "awareness". Thus, mono no aware has frequently been translated as "the 'ahh-ness' of things", life, and love. Awareness of the transience of all things heightens appreciation of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing. In his criticism of The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji
Motoori noted that mono no aware is the crucial emotion that moves readers. Its scope was not limited to Japanese literature , and became associated with Japanese cultural tradition (see also sakura ).


Notable manga artists who use mono no aware–style storytelling include Hitoshi Ashinano , Kozue Amano , and Kaoru Mori . In anime , both Only Yesterday by Isao Takahata
Isao Takahata
and Mai Mai Miracle by Sunao Katabuchi emphasize the passing of time in gentle notes and by presenting the main plot against a parallel one from the past. In addition, the Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu
Yasujirō Ozu
was well known for creating a sense of mono no aware, frequently climaxing with a character very understatedly saying "Ii tenki desu ne?" (いい天気ですね, "Fine weather, isn't it?"), after a familial and societal paradigm shift, such as a daughter being married off, against the backdrop of a swiftly changing Japan.

In his book about courtly life in ancient Japan , The World of the Shining Prince, Ivan Morris compares mono no aware to Virgil
's term lacrimae rerum , Latin for "tears of things".

Science fiction
Science fiction
author Ken Liu 's short story, "Mono no Aware", won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Short Story . Inspired by works like the science fiction manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō
, Liu sought to evoke an "aesthetic primarily oriented towards creating in the reader an empathy towards the inevitable passing of all things", and to acknowledge "the importance of memory and continuity with the past".

Nobel - and Booker Prize -winning British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro ends many of his novels without any sense of resolution. The issues his characters confront are buried in the past and remain unresolved. Thus Ishiguro ends many of his novels on a note of melancholic resignation. His characters accept their past and who they have become, typically discovering that this realization brings comfort and an ending to mental anguish. This can be seen as a literary reflection of the Japanese idea of mono no aware.

Films like Alain Resnais ' Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hiroshima Mon Amour
, Shohei Imamura 's Black Rain and Akira Kurosawa
Akira Kurosawa
's I Live in Fear have all been associated with the term.


* Melancholia

Media and written works:

* In Search of Lost Time
In Search of Lost Time
* " Ballade des dames du temps jadis " * Lost in Translation (film)
Lost in Translation (film)
* Last Life in the Universe
Last Life in the Universe

Other related terms with no direct translation in English:


* Han * Lacrimae rerum * Memento mori * Mottainai * Nine Changes * Wabi-sabi * Ubi sunt * Weltschmerz * Sehnsucht
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