Ichinichi Issho — One Day, One Lifetime 一日一生

Ichinichi Issho 一日一生 [pronounced “eee-chee-nee-chee eee-show”] means “one day, one lifetime” — and in this thought is the central idea underlying all success in life.

The core of Ichinichi issho 一日一生 is this: each and every day is incredibly precious, and each single day is the building-block of our lifetime.

The origin of the term is lost deep in Asian philosophies that are pre-Confucian and pre-Taoism. It is such a basic idea that it transcends all organized Asian philosophies (Buddhism, Shinto, etc.) and all martial arts, and the idea itself has direct parallels in almost all Western schools of thought as well.

In fact, the near universality of this concept should highlight its fundamental importance.

One Day, A Microcosm of a Life

Think first about the day as a model — a microcosm — of our life. Our life begins, and we are young, full of hope for the day ahead, full of energy. It progresses through to mid-day, when we are now firmly engaged in the creativity and struggle of our worlds just as we are in middle age, and then our life slowly winds down into the quiet of evening and the satisfaction of a contemplative and peaceful night.

Each day is the mirror of our life, and as such, is a treasure. Each day is a miniature lifetime — to be experienced, to be appreciated, to be celebrated, and most of all, to be lived.

And yet…. Do we waste our treasure? For as much as each day is the mirror of our lives, each day is also the material that we use to build our lifetime. Our life is made up of a long series of days, stacked end to end, from birth to our last day.

Our entire life is simply just one long road of individual days. Each day is the currency with which we support and build our lifetime. Each day is the coin with which we pay for the great and wonderful gift of living our lives.

As each day starts, we have the choice to make: will today’s Day be important, well-used, respected as the building block of our life? Or will we waste it carelessly, because we think we have an unlimited supply of treasure, and that tomorrow will bring us yet another Day to spend?

How truly sad if we squander the treasure of our lifetime rather than spending it to build an incredible life.

However, there is much more to ichinichi issho 一日一生.

One Life, A Macrocosm of a Series of Days

As indeed a lifetime is composed of a series of days, and we are aware of the importance of each individual day, we must also recognize the importance of a long string of days, focused on achieving a common goal.

This long string of days is our life.

Perhaps in modern society we feel a constant pressure to achieve and to reach goals quickly. But consider that throughout all of history, we as a society are not as unique as we think, and there has always been that pressure to achieve “right now” and to be impatient for success.

Either way, the fact remains that it is easier for us to acknowledge the importance of today’s particular single day in our lifetime, than it is to acknowledge and accept the reality of the patience stretching among a long series of days that is required to fulfill the aspirations which we have.

Just as we must recognize each single day as precious, we must also understand that any goal worth achieving, any aspiration worth having, will require a long, dedicated series of days to attain them. The easy goals are not worth having; the hard goals are worth the struggle, the work, and the wait.

A Map of Our Days

It is so incredibly important to take charge of our lives, and to have a compass and a map that guides us on the journey that is our existence.

Our “map” is the knowledge of our goals and hopes. It is the understanding that we have destinations we want to reach, and we understand the — usually — vast numbers of steps on our journey to those destinations.

And certainly we also understand that many of these destinations are worth attaining for the journey alone: that the effort and the steps necessary to reach those destinations are their own reward.

As an example, in our karatedō training, we may have a shodan (first dan blackbelt) destination as one of our life goals. And yet, realistically, the great benefit we will receive for arriving at this destination will be received along the journey to that blackbelt. Actually achieving it will bring us great satisfaction, truly — but the mental, physical, and philosophical benefits of becoming the person that can achieve the destination are the rewards of such a journey.

Spend the Day Wisely

Our compass on this journey is the simple and powerful knowledge that each and every day must be spent to further us along towards our destination. Perhaps some days we move mere millimeters forward; and other days we take giant leaps forward: it hardly matters. What matters is that our forward momentum continues. As long as our internal compass keeps us pointed in the direction of our goals, we will continue moving forward on the journey that will bring us to our aspirations.

And as long as we have both the compass of knowing each day is important, and the map of our days leading to our hopes and goals, then surely we will arrive at the most wondrous of destinations.

Each day, make the decision to squeeze from that one particular day every drop of value, every ounce of attention, every possible sparkling diamond of accomplishment and progress.

Spend the treasure that is your Day wisely. You will receive incredible rewards in return.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
one (ichi)
day (hi) [pronounciation changes on combination]
one (ichi)
living, life (nama) [pronounciation changes on combination]

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in San Rafael, California on 26 March 2012; this lecture was chosen to be the Kagami Biraki lecture for 2015, and was given in an expanded format at Kagami Biraki on 11 January 2015 (read more about Kagami Biraki here). This concept was presented again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 28 June 2023.