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“Joucho”, the essence of Japanese sensibility

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Japanese famous mathematician Dr. Oka Kiyoshi said “The central concept of Human is the umbilical cord of mind”. We call it “joucho” (‘情緒): “Jou” means “mind”, “cho” means “umbilical cord”. Usually “joucho” is translated as “emotion”, though it is a much more subtle and sensitive concept than being simply described as emotion. Because this concept is very difficult to explain in English, we translated it literally, as above.

What kind of concept do Japanese cherish? ”Joucho” is the “subtle movement of mind”. Japanese people think with the heart, as opposed to the brain. For example, when they perceive the changes of seasons, they feel the changes of their emotion. When they fall in love with somebody, their “joucho” moves very sensitively. The concept of “joucho” resembles “sensibility”. “Cho” meaning “umbilical cord”, when we use this word, we remember the feeling of being connected with others – as we were all connected with our mother, when we were born. Kindness for all things, as which Japanese can have, is considered to be attributed to this concept “joucho”.

This is also true when Japanese people appreciate arts. In particular, artistic expression in Japan tends to revere delicacy and fineness. Although there have been a lot of famous artists in Japan, without insight for “joucho”, none of them could have accomplished making masterpieces.

If one truly wants to know Japanese and its culture, its way of thinking, one needs to grasp the core essence of “joucho”.