"Mono no aware" (Japanese)

Mono no aware" is a key term in Japanese culture. ‘Mono’ means ‘thing’ or ‘things’; ‘aware’ means ‘feeling’ or sentiment, and the particle ‘no’ indicates something an object possesses. So "mono no aware" signifies the deep feeling or pathos of things, the powerful emotions that objects can evoke or instil in us. It is often associated with a poignant feeling of transience, a beautiful sadness in the passing of lives and objects, like the glorious colour of autumn leaves as they are about to fall.

Japanese art and literature has been especially concerned with the moods of pathos around mono no aware: falling blossoms, the changes of the moon, the passing of the seasons, the plaintive cries of birds or insects, and the absence of friends or lovers.

Mono no aware stresses the impermanence of life and states that we should willingly and gracefully let go of our attachments to transient things. Zeami Motokiyo (c.1363-c.1443), the major theoretician, actor and writer of the Noh drama wrote that ‘the flower is marvellous because it blooms, and singular because it falls’.