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In our travels we all have special moments. This article is about remembering, memories and making the most of every moment. Embracing the moment.


We plan it- do it and reflect on it. Like most we anticipate and plan our trips in advance. Sometimes a year, sometimes a few months.

We derive much enjoyment from that. Visualising the walk-through Kyoto, the view from Eiffel Tower, walking in the mountains of Austria, a desert trip in Dubai. List goes on and on. Some of these experiences will be once only. Such as an afternoon at the louvre in Paris, enjoying afternoon tea after. Visiting Japan at the height of the Sakura season. Visiting Antarctica, flying first class, spending time on a lesser-known island, following Tour de France, shown around Kyoto by our son, Osaka Castle Park at flowering season, Petra, Pyramids, Fjords, hike the Appalachian trail, see Taj Mahal. Whatever the travel experience, you want it to be special, never forgotten, with those you love preferably.

I have trained Leadership and Customer service in over 55 countries and can recall special ‘once only moments’ in each. For instance, a meal with my 20 training participants from about 12 countries and cultures in a lovely Athens restaurant. Great food, great people, music, laughter, and conversation. Never to be repeated in that place and with those people. I recall visiting Holland leading a group of travel agents and the whole trip was filled with memorable moments. It was with these people at that time. Years later we lived in Amsterdam and visited some of these places. It was different. Still enjoyable but different. It was at same place but a different date and circumstances. A distinct experience and not the same. Of course, with my family it was very special.

What does Ichi-go, Ichi-e mean? 

This brings me to the concept of “ichi-go, ichi-e.” The literal meaning is ‘one time, one meeting ‘. Meaning this moment is unique – it will never happen again. The history of this concept can be traced back to Japanese tea ceremonies, and in particular to 16th-century tea master, Sen no Rikyu, who instructed his apprentices to give respect to their hosts as though their meeting will only happen once in a lifetime. It also has a customer service aspect. Its realising every moment is a moment to please and satisfy the customer. In Japan, they do this with style and pleasure, and they do it often, and you DO want to come back to experience more unique moments of ichi-go, ichi-e. The sensei says: “Treat each new customer encounter like it’s the first and the last chance to delight them.”

The Meaning of Tea Ceremony: Ichi-go Ichi-e

In Kyoto, we attended a traditional tea ceremony. The history of ichi-go ichi-e can be traced back to Japanese tea ceremonies. The founder of the tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu stated that the meaning of tea ceremony means being present at the moment and realizing that every moment only occurs once. His philosophy is known as ichi go ichi e: one time – one meeting. This phrase roughly translates as “every moment occurs only once” or “cherish every moment” or “once in a lifetime chance.”

The tea ceremony is not just about the taste. It is all about enjoying the moment and remembering that this moment will never repeat. We have to forget about everything and just focus on drinking tea in harmony. The tea meeting, which may seem like a simple routine, should be deeply enjoyed as that tea moment will never come back. We had many moments like this in Japan. Living the present moment.

So “ichi-go ichi-e” is a concept designed to appreciate and celebrate that fact. It is a reminder that this moment, right now, is beautiful and amazing and entirely unique. Remember the moment in your travels, be present, the people who you are with, and help make it special. Savour the moment. It will never, ever happen again. So, you better enjoy it. Cherish it. Ichi-go, ichi-e.




Written by: Richard Coles