Japanese Tea Ceremony Ichigo Ichie Calligraphy Poster



These kanji characters have a deep association with the Japanese tea ceremony, and Ichigo ichie along the spirit behind this expression is familiar to a growing number of people outside Japan. It’s often translated into English as ‘one time, one encounter’ or ‘each moment only once.’

Are you looking for downloadable digital kanji art? In addition to the print option, this poster is now available as an instant download, too!

The characters are written horizontally here and are read in the traditional way from right to left. We have chosen the character 会 here, it’s the last character, the one on the left. It’s invariably used in everyday situations as well as in this context. So if you’re wondering about how to write ichigo ichie in Japanese, this version is the one that’s most often seen and referenced these days.

But there is an older character that is no longer in general use that was once used here, it has a peaked ‘roof’ at the top as this character does, but has more elements below it. We also offer a vertical version of Ichigo ichie separately, and that work features the older character at the bottom for aesthetic and historical reasons. It works well with the vertical style, and it also reflects the history of this sentiment, which has its roots in the 16th century.

You can find it offered separately in our shop, so please have a look at both and see which best suits your needs! One consideration might be the size and shape of the paper-this horizontal style tends to work best with paper that is appreciably longer than it is wide, so that the blank space is more evenly distributed around the calligraphy. It also lends a distinct flavor to this design that draws attention to it.

Both versions are associated with chado, the Japanese tea ceremony, also referred to as sado and chanoyu in Japanese, and can be seen on kakejiku(hanging scrolls) in tea room tokonoma(alcoves).

Tea master Sen no Rikyu is the source of the original expression that these four kanji characters are based on, and it pertains to the tea ceremony in that it is a reminder to the host that the occasion represents a truly once-in-a-lifetime chance that can never be repeated.

This is of course relatively easy to grasp if strangers gather and will soon depart and go their own ways, but it also applies to those who know each other very well and have the chance to meet often, even perhaps in similar contexts. The fact remains that future interactions can never recreate this encounter exactly.

This is indeed a philosophy more than simply a quote or proverb, and it is applicable to myriad aspects of life beyond the confines of the tea ceremony and the host’s role. It speaks to us all in each moment, and beseeches us to see the uniqueness of each interaction, however seemingly inconsequential it may be. Because it is through this practice that we can begin to truly experience a variety of events for what they are-precious and fleeting.

Although Ichigo Ichie has its roots in the Japanese tea ceremony, it also ultimately springs from zen Buddhism and an awareness of transience. Meditation and mindfulness are natural expressions of this teaching, and so it applies to anyone who seeks to live more fully.

In attending fully to others, we attend to the moment, which offers us everything if we choose to see it.

Four-character kanji compounds like this are referred to as a yojijukugo (四字熟語). There are hundreds, and they’re required study for Japanese children. They appear on school entrance exams, as well as in the conversation of well read people.

They are linguistic gems, conveying meaning compactly, colorfully and profoundly.

Brush artist Hiro created this work at his studio in Kyoto by hand. Then we scanned it for use here. Hiro’s red name stamp to the lower left of the calligraphy adds a dash of vibrant color and the black kanji characters written in a bold style on a simple white base give this design a dynamic energy and flow.  Its simple flair and the history behind it make this work a distinctive piece of wall art that’s just right for spaces with a minimalist decor, be it modern or more folk inspired.

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