Lessons from the Japanese language

What I love about the Japanese language is that an individual word often tells a story, and gets to the core of what that word is actually about.

For example, when I translate the following Japanese words literally back to English, this is what happens:

Physics – 物理学 “butsu-ri-gaku” – the study of the reason for the way things are

Engineering – 工学 “kou-gaku”- the study of the making of useful things

Music – 音楽 “on-gaku” – the enjoyment of sound

Note that music is to be enjoyed, not studied.


Here’s another one I love:

Happiness – 幸福 “kou-fuku” – Happy and Lucky

Now, this is deep. Happy AND lucky, not just happy. Let that sink in for a moment.

When we think about the word “happiness”, we often think of it as something that we are currently missing, and therefore need to go looking for. Isn’t that right? I mean, why else would so many people read all these self-help books, or click on articles we see on Facebook with titles like “13 Incredibly Smart Tips to be Happier”?

Maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe happiness is not to be sought after, but rather, something that we all have already.

Published by

Shin Adachi

I am a pianist and composer based in Los Angeles.