“The Spirit of the Japanese” by Motoori Norinaga

Motoori Norinaga was a Japanese scholar and poet in the 16th century who emphasized mono no aware or “the pathos of things” in his literary philosophy, insisting on the role of empathy in life and in composition. The following waka is one of his most famous poems: it was usurped by nationalists during WWII.

If someone wonders
how to describe the spirit
of the Japanese,
say “mountain cherry blossoms,
glowing in the morning sun.”

—Translated by David Bowles, July 2013

Original Japanese

shikishima no
yamatogokoro o
hito towaba
asahi ni niou
yamazakura hana.

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