Ichi Go, Ichi E

One Life, One Meeting

One Life, One Meeting


Hello dear Reader, Kon’nichiwa!

Just back from an awesome trip to Japan. The Cherry blossoms were in profusion and were spectacular. Ditto the gardens, temples, and shrines. But the best of all – for me, ALWAYS the best of all, wherever we go – were the people. Without a single exception, every person we encountered was authentically kind, warm, welcoming, as friendly and helpful as they could be, and just plain sweet.

Some of that was a bit of a happy surprise for me. What do I mean? Obviously I didn’t expect people to be cold or unfriendly, not at all. But those of you who know me well, know that I’m a hugger. I really love physical contact. “Press the flesh” as the late Lyndon Johnson used to call it (BTW, he got a lot of stuff done…A LOT!). But also called “touchy-feely” by many who aren’t such big fans of this kind of interaction, a term which some say is a wee bit derogatory of those who too openly display their emotions and affections.

Anyway, I am who I am. I’m a hugger, and people know that. So I did hear some advice about that before we left, along the lines of: “Michael, the people in Japan are way more formal than here. Better not touch them. They won’t like it. Just bow, and that’s all.”

You know what? NOT TRUE!! Every single time I offered a warm greeting, or affection in whatever form – a smile, handshake, pat on the shoulder, fist-bump, and yes even the occasional hug – all were gratefully and happily received, returned in kind, and very often without the benefit of spoken language. I even crashed a family birthday party in our hotel restaurant, and took this pic of grandpa and his grandchildren. They loved it.IMG_0398

People are the same everywhere. Offer them warmth and love, and you get it right back.

A word about the Japanese calligraphy at the top of this post:

The large figures at the right can be translated as “for this time only”, “chance meeting”, “one meeting, one opportunity”, “never again”, or “one chance in a lifetime”. 

The characters literally mean “one time one meeting”.

The document, kindly written out in ink, and properly stamped at the bottom with the family mark, was presented to us by our host, Nakagawa san, in his Tokyo home, where we were lucky enough to be invited. The smaller figures, in addition to Laura’s and my names, represent the names of his wife Noriko san, and his beautiful grand kids, Chie san and Kiyoshi san. We all took tea and a sweet together, after which Mr Nakagawa prepared and offered us this wonderful memory of our visit.

P1060253Mr. Nakagawa explained all this to us as follows:

“ICHI GO, ICHI E, is one of the favorite expressions and sentiments of the Japanese people. It means, “One chance in a life time.” Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.

When I got back to the hotel, I showed this document to Kazumi san, our wonderful and wise guide, and asked her to give me a deeper understanding of what ICHI GO, ICHI E means to the Japanese people. She kindly explained as follows:

“This proverb is quoted to call our present attention to the opportunity that is presenting itself itself – perhaps for the only time in our life – RIGHT NOW – even as it is occurring. It’s an expression for ANY event that might happen once in a lifetime, perhaps even the single chance-meeting with your true soul mate. We appreciate meeting someone as if it is a very precious gift.”

Kazumi san went on: “By paying attention, by appreciating EVERY MEETING in this way you can make the most of this, and every precious encounter, which likely was realized not by yourself alone but just as much by other people or by circumstances beyond your control.”

Before I sign off for now sweet Reader,  I’d like to share a few beautiful faces with you. The slideshow is totally optional of course, but if you do decide to take a peek, you can click on the media player right below the picture of Kouzan and Keiko  (also Nakagawa coincidentally, but no relation), masters of the Shakuhachi flute and Koto – whose home we were also blessed to be in. You’ll enjoy some traditional Japanese music performed by Kouzan for us.

Oh yeah…almost forgot…the usual caveat: if any of the media won’t play in your email, just click on the title of this post, which will take you to my site. You’ll be able to play it from there.


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Practice Tip Push PinPractice Tip (for Michael, and for you too if you like):

Since I’m back, I’ve been thinking about why, among all the amazing things we saw,  people we met, and things we learned, why ICHI GO, ICH I stands out so much in my mind. I reckon it is because of the big teaching in it. I’ve been asking myself whether I do regard every encounter as precious; whether I give my total attention to every single person I meet; to how I engage, and whether I engage differently with someone who I recognize I will likely never meet again, vs. someone who I know I will; and, if differently, then differently in what way, and why?

Dear Reader, it’s so good to be back with you again. Until next time, please take care of, and be kind to, yourself.



About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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