Mono no aware (the sadness or pathos of things) (もののあはれ)

Mono no aware (written as もののあわれ or 物の哀れ) is the key literary and aesthetic notion in the study of dynastic style literature in the Heian period. It is a profound mood or pathos occasionally provoked and inspired by what one sees or hears. It is an inenarrable heartfelt 'touching (aware)' feeling experienced on encountering things (mono) remote from daily life.

Discovery of 'mono no aware'

Mono no aware was proposed by Norinaga MOTOORI, a scholar specialized in the Japanese classical literature who lived during the Edo period, in his treatise titled "Genji Monogatari Tama no Ogushi" (Jeweled Comb of The tale of Genji), in which he argued that mono no aware culminated in "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji).

In the Edo period, the notion of 'kanzen choaku' (rewarding good and punishing evil), which originated from Confucianism and was protected and encouraged by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), prevailed. During the period, the literature in the Heian period was argued and explained from the standpoint of kanzen choaku. The discovery of mono no aware not only denied the trend but also provided a new perspective.

[Original Japanese]