The concept of constant change and evanescence is in a way, relatively depressing. We are all essentially powerless and like leaves in the wind, subject completely to the whims of something we have no say in. Continuing these thoughts only ever really ends in the acceptance that life in of itself, is sad. Norinaga, in his conquest to define the Japanese identity, ended with a similar conclusion: mono no aware, or “the sentiment of sadness which has formed the core of the identity of the Japanese (Takahito, 2). During the Tokugawa period, this sense of a changing world consistent only in its sadness, or ukiyo took a surprising turn—the lower classes in a way, found a way around this problem by simply indulging in pleasures (Inouye, Lecture 2/20/13). They found a “tasteful admission of one’s powerlessness” (Inouye, 86).
Personally, I can totally understand and visualize ukiyo and like the lower classes, I don’t particularly enjoy entertaining the thoughts. So, why think about them? Why not just live for pleasure and enjoy things before “my soon forgotten life will vanish with the dew”? (Saikaku, 172). I can never really answer that definitively. There is totally a valid point in acting as the lower classes did during the Tokugawa period. It certainly isn’t a sustainable way of living, but I think that is kind of the point—it isn’t meant to be. What it is meant to be is thoughtless pleasure, disappearing into the desires of biology and forgetting about the troubles of psychology and thinking. Hedonism is absolutely a short-term win, while on the other hand it completely forgoes long-term repercussions. A particularly poignant example can be found in The Woman Who Spent Her Life in Love, which as the title suggests describes one such women. In the end she succumbs to delirium at living such a life, and like many other writers in history she embraces religiosity giving herself up “wholly to prayer to meditation” (Saikaku, 217). Perhaps this is actually the way to avoid the turbulences and sadness of life; it just takes getting jumbled on the way there to make people realize it.