Five Beautiful Japanese Words

Language provides us with the ability to describe human experiences. With over thousands of cultures and even more number of languages, we can’t quite capture our whole understanding of the world with just one language. History, tradition, religion and character are merely examples of the causes that guide languages to invent unique words. You’d be surprised to know how many words there are that cannot be translated directly to your native language.

Learning Japanese has opened my mind to some beautiful words that are quite hard to translate to English. Here are my favorites below!

1. Mono no Aware

Beautiful Words - Mono no Aware

It’s hard to explain this notion without giving an example so… Imagine yourself sitting in a car. Your head is resting on your hand and your eyes focused outside. You try to catch the scenery but the car is going too fast that the colors all fade into one big blurry image. You can hear the music from the radio, soft and unassuming. Your breath comes in unhurried. The world is beautiful, is it not? You wistfully think. Your mind slowly voids any forthcoming thoughts. Then, you snap out of it. You had a moment, and that intense awareness that an experience has slipped away is “Mono no Aware”. All good things come to an end.

2. Yūgen

Beautiful Words - Yugen

“Yūgen” is an awareness of the world that is deep and beyond words. A sense you get when you notice that you can almost grab hold of the reality that inspires existence, the meaning of life. In a way, “Yūgen” is the directly related to “Mono no Aware”. Though “Yūgen” is more… thought-provoking.

3. Ikigai

Beautiful Words - Ikigai

Often, this word is related to a lengthy search of a person’s purpose. In Okinawa, it is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”. They say that to find “Ikigai” is to be completely satisfied and at peace with one’s self and the world.

4. Koi no Yokan

Beautiful Words - Koi no Yokan

“Koi no Yokan” refers to a feeling that you can fall in love with a person, after meeting them for the first time. It should not be confused with love at first sight in which there are already feelings of love. Rather, this could be akin to the knowledge that love, in the long run, is inevitable.

5. Komorebi

Beautiful Words - Komorebi

The word that inspired this post! Best explained by watching this YouTube short.

C’est fini!

How about in your language? Are there any words that cannot be directly translated? Comment below!

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27 thoughts on “Five Beautiful Japanese Words

  1. In German there is the word ‘Weltschmerz’ literally translated as ‘world pain’ meaning to feel a sorrow connected to being alive in this world, a melancholia, akin to existentialism but without the pretense that goes usually with it.

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  2. Hi! I love the words, especially komorebi. So, I use the pic komorebi in one of my article and I make a direct link here. Is it ok? If not, I will replace it with another pic. Thanks, what a wonderful blog you have.

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    1. There’s so much emotions and actions that we can’t put into words in our own language. It’s great to be able to adapt other words and create a connection between other culture and our own. 🙂

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  3. Bonjour Kaan. A thought provoking blog. I will most certainly come back. I need to think about a French word that beats translation… (All of them?) 😉 Hmm. Here is one in portuguese: “Saudade”. A mixture of nostalgia (of Brazil, samba, love, caipirinhas, feijoada, a beach at Itapoa, etc.)
    Domo arigato for joining the “Followship of the Equinox”. 🙂
    Bonne semaine.
    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

      1. L’esprit de l’escalier, mademoiselle Diderot? 🙂 years since I have not “heard” that. Now, as Rousseau, I have a confession to make: I have not thought about a particular french word to equate your five japanese examples. Maybe because one of the most beautiful words is: “Liberté”. 😉
        Bon week-end (Enchanté)

        Liked by 1 person

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