Arigatou is the Japanese word for Thank You. Although thank you is the English translation for arigatou, the word itself also explains for us why we would want to say thank you. The word arigatou is made by combining the two kanji characters aru or “to have,” “to exist,” and the character gatai or “difficult.” The word arigatou, then, means “difficult to have” or “difficult to exist.”
In writing this article, I have recently been told that my time at the Venice Hongwanji as the resident minister will soon be coming to an end. It has been a wonderful twelve years for me, and hopefully it has been that for the temple and its members as well. Although it wasn’t necessarily an “easy” twelve years they were, nonetheless, very meaningful and for me important years. It was meaningful because even during the difficult times the temple would always come together and figure out a way to overcome the difficulty that was encountered and come out of the experience stronger than before. There were always smiles waiting for everyone at the end regardless of the difficulty. They were also important years because throughout the entire period I was always reminded of how important the Nenbutsu is to me and how much support I constantly receive to be so reminded. For all these reasons and more I wish to express my thanks to everyone at the Venice Hongwanji.
I prefaced this article by writing about arigatou because all these things that I am grateful for are also all things that the word arigatou helps me to understand. Each of these things that I am expressing my gratitude towards were difficult to have. These “things” happen so rarely that one should not take them for granted. Because of having learned how to appreciate what I have been given, the Nenbutsu — as an expression of arigatou — is helping me to not only appreciate the gifts that I have received from everyone at the Venice Hongwanji but is also allowing me to keep all these things as treasures.
Rev. John Iwohara