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Times Malta: How ‘Arigato’ Can Inspire Gratitude in Difficult Times

By Mary Attard | Published February 10, 2022

It is an interesting phenomenon that languages tend to infiltrate each other and odd words from one language find themselves being integrated into other languages. ‘Hello’, ‘goodbye’, and ‘thank you’ are some of the most basic words one can learn when visiting a new country and these can leave their mark on our own cultures.

That’s what happened with the Japanese word arigato. It was in the 1980s when the Japanese economy was booming, the film Shogun was a huge success on TV, and anything Japanese, like electronics and sushi, caught people’s imagination. Besides, Westerners who visited Japan and tried to capture some local words started to use arigato when wanting to show appreciation.

There are many ways of expressing appreciation in Japanese, ranging from formal and polite manners to a casual and less polite way. Arigato is mostly used between friends and family members and is basically the equivalent of our ‘thanks’.

The word arigato comes from the Japanese words arigatashi (to be) and katai (difficult). This word literally means “being alive is hard”. In time, arigato began to be used to express gratitude despite life’s challenges and eventually transformed into “thank you”. So the basic concept behind the word is deeper than just saying thanks… it implies that one should feel grateful and say thank you despite the difficulties one has experienced or incurred.

So arigato summarises a sense of gratefulness. Japanese culture tends to show respect with words, and with arigato they show a lot of respect and gratitude.

Studies show that many things are affected when we adopt such gratitude:

Brain: gratitude changes your brain and improves thinking and learning as evidenced by prefrontal cortex activity during experiences of gratitude;

Happier: giving thanks makes you happier;

Relationships: gratitude strengthens relationships;

DNA: gratitude is deep rooted in human − and animal − genetics;

Heart: gratitude improves heart health.

In his book Happy Money, Japanese speaker and writer Ken Honda writes about the positive effect of adopting gratitude for everything in our life, which even affects our relationship with money. We often cringe when we have to fork out money for something, but Honda says we should feel grateful even when parting with our money. If this is done with love, care and friendship, or is used to buy something that improves our life, the circulation of this money is ‘happy money’. He calls this the ‘arigato money technique’. It is a money emotional intelligence quotient where we have a healthy emotional state and energy around money.

Honda advises to ‘arigato our money’ and when we receive money, we say ‘arigatoin’, and when we part from it, we say ‘arigato out’, as we had the availability of money to serve us in many ways. It’s a matter of trusting the flow of money.

Money is energy and our attitude towards it should not be destructive. We can be controlling with money or even fear it as something evil, scarce or disrupting. Just appreciating money opens the doors to money opportunities in one’s life. Honda says we should focus not on accumulating things but experiencing things. Interestingly, Japan has the largest number of millionaires per capita.

“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe,” says Indian-American author and speaker Deepak Chopra, MD.

Arigato has many implications on the way we see life. Whether we experience good times or challenging ones, the concept of arigato, meaning gratefulness, always applies as what we see as negative can be a means for our growth.

As Rumi says: “If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?”


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