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Mono no aware (物の哀れ mono no aware ?, lit. "the pathos of things"), also translated as "an empathy toward things," or "a sensitivity of ephemera," is a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of mujo or the transience of things and a bittersweet sadness at their passing. The term was coined in the eighteenth century by the Edo-period Japanese cultural scholar Motoori Norinaga, and was originally a concept used in his literary criticism of The Tale of Genji, and later applied to other seminal Japanese works including the Man'yōshū, becoming central to his philosophy of literature, and eventually to Japanese cultural tradition.

The word is derived from the Japanese word mono, which means "things" and aware, which was a Heian period expression of measured surprise (similar to "ah" or "oh"), translating roughly as "pathos," "poignancy," "deep feeling," or "sensitivity." Thus, mono no aware has frequently been translated as "the 'ahh-ness' of things." In his criticism of The Tale of Genji, Motoori noted that mono no aware is the crucial emotion that moves readers. Its scope was not limited to Japanese literature, and became associated with Japanese cultural tradition (see also sakura).[1]

Notable manga artists who use mono no aware-style storytelling include Hitoshi Ashinano, Kozue Amano, and Kaoru Mori. The quintessentially "Japanese" director Yasujiro Ozu was well known for creating a sense of mono no aware, frequently climaxing with a character saying a very understated "ii tenki desu ne" (It is fine weather, isn't it?), after both a familial and societal paradigm shift, such as daughter being married off, against the backdrop of a swiftly changing Japan. Norwegian Wood by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is an example of this feeling as well.

Some Western scholars have compared it to Virgil's term lacrimae rerum.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Choy Lee, Khoon. Japan--between Myth and Reality. 1995, page 142.
  2. ^ Morris, Ivan I. The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan. 1994, page 197.

External links

Simple English

Mono no aware (物の哀れ) is a Japanese literary term. It means "the pathos of things" in English. It is a very important concept when reading old literature, so that the reader can understand the importance and beauty of the literature. It is used to express the keen emotion and pathos of a piece of literature and the feeling it gives the readers' senses, such as the description of a sound or scenery. Tales of Genji, said to be the world's oldest novel, is a good example of literature that gives its readers the sense of mono no aware.


The term mono no aware was first used by Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) to describe Heian Period (794 AD - 1185 AD) literature, especially Tales of Genji.

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