Kachoufugetsu

Kachoufugetsu is a yoji-jukugo, meaning four Japanese kanji or characters grouped together to make an idiom, well-known phrase, or poem. They were originally created for practicing calligraphy. There are thousands of yoji-jukugo in the Japanese language, and they are often used as a kind of short cut to describe a particular kind of item or subject matter. Examples include nichibeikankei (nichi Japan + bei United States + kankei relations) and reikishishōsetsu (rekishi history + shōsetsu novel).

Kachoufugetu is one of the most famous yoji-jukugo. The characters used in its composition are the kanji for flower, bird, wind, and moon. These four hashioki are their representatives, and would probably be recognized as such by many Japanese. It can be translated as “Experience the beauties of nature, and in doing so learn about yourself.”

For me Kachoufugetsu will always have a meaning beyond that poem. In November 2016, when I was in Japan, I visited the famous pottery village of Arita in Kyushu. I was there on a Sunday afternoon, which was unfortunate because almost everything was closed. One of the few shops that was open had a large tray of assorted hashioki priced at 200 JPY each, or less than  2.00 USD.  I spent a long time sifting through the mound of cheap hashioki, but frankly none of them really appealed to me. However I did feel some sort of attraction to pieces in the pile in the shape of a flower, a bird head, a quarter moon, and a cloud or gust of wind. I couldn’t figure out why I felt drawn to these hashioki, and I was reluctant to buy them because they didn’t seem very unusual. But in the end I did buy the one (above) that I now know is a symbol for wind.

I figured it out when I got home; before I left on my trip I had seen a kachoufugetsu set for sale on the Internet at a price 5 or 6 times what I would have paid for the same set in Arita. I didn’t know what ‘kachoufugetsu” meant at that point, so I didn’t buy it. But thanks to finding the $2.00 wind piece in Arita I was able to assemble an almost identical kachoufugetsu set from my inventory.

If there is a yoji-jukugo which describes that collecting experience, it’s four characters that somehow convey “Follow your instincts.”

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