Itadakimasu. You don’t say it like you read it. That last “u” is silent.

You can also write it ,  meaning “to humbly receive”. The kanji can also mean “top of the head” (among several other things) and comes from the practice of elevating a gift above one’s head as an act of humility and gratitude. The origins of Itadakimasu lie in Buddhism as a reverence for the sacrifice of the lives of the plants and animals we eat.

It is what we all say before eating, right? We give thanks for our good fortunes of not starving.

Well, at least anime protagonists and many Japanese people. Westerners think of it as, “Let’s eat!” A better translation (in the context of a meal) is “Thank you for the food.” Still better is “I humbly receive.” This is not aimed at any person but instead aimed at whatever forces direct one’s fate. It is a kind of saying Grace without specifically directing it at a particular god. Traditionally one says this as one is placing one’s hands together (often as a clap) as a supplicant would or someone in prayer.

The clapping has become less common as has the custom itself, leaving me a bit sad.

Most westerners don’t even say that much. We are much too secular to say grace and even the notion of expressing gratitude for what we receive never enters our minds. Nor does humbling ourselves.

After the meal we thank the people who prepared it, right? In Japan we would say “Gochisousamadeshita!“. A complement of the food meaning, “That was a real treat!” This would also include bringing the hands together, often in a clap. If we were being treated by someone, we would say it to them and they could say it to the preparers.

It is not to be confused with dōmo arigatō, something you’d say to another person for assisting you. (Thank you very much!) Dōmo is a modern shortened version of dōmo arigatō intended for

situations where a simple arigatō (“Thank you”) was still too formal. Arigatō gozaimasu is more formal yet and would be reserved to thanking someone of higher status or for very substantial levels of help. You would use that form when you were about to receive a favor, say you had asked to borrow a book and it was given to you. You would say “Arigatō gozaimashita” once you had returned the book to its owner.

Americans are a selfish lot. I am not a big fan of conservative Christianity. I spent a fair amount of my youth both defying and hiding from it. But every philosophy has its contribution to make and the notion of giving thanks for what we have received is important. You can be thankful in the Christian sense without being a Christian or religious at all. Be thankful to the fates, the universe or the good people who came before you.

It is just as important at the bottom of the food chain as the top.

The US invented the holiday for it to help bind the wounds of the Civil War. Other nations followed. Today, the Thank you holiday is being crowded out by the more profitable gimme holidays of Christmas and Halloween that it is sandwiched in between. Thanksgiving has become a time when family strangers get together to dig up old family grievances instead of being thankful one even has a family, football to watch, food to eat and freedom to say what we will and be who we are. Thankfulness that while we aren’t perfect and never will be, progress has been made and continues to be made.

If you are Jewish you’d celebrate Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) in the spring as well as Thanksgiving. (Jesus would have self-identified as a Jew and the “Last Supper” was really an early and informal Pesach because he knew he was about to be crucified.)  Passover is the same general idea as Thanksgiving but more essentially religious. You are supposed to be thankful for the good things God has provided and sad for the bad things that happened to the Egyptians. Traditionally you would eat reclining (for that is how a free man eats) and you are supposed to drink 4 glasses of wine. (Grape juice is an acceptable alternative but unless you had a really good reason – or all you had was Manichevitz – why would you want to?)

Sometimes I think too much affluence ruins a people.

Thanksgiving dinner. Ichigo does not look happy.

Please and thank you are at the core of civilized behavior. The rich man should say it to the poor man and the poor to the rich. It implies respect for the other person. It is something you say to an equal.  Today too many think that those words put you in a subordinate position. Why should I say please for something that is owed me? Why should I thank someone for doing their job?

Well, it is a simple matter of respect. If you do not respect other people simply as human beings, regardless of social status, political opinion or whatever other irrelevant criteria one can make up,  how can you say you deserve that respect yourself?

If you are at the bottom of the social ladder, forgetting these things leaves you bitter and angry, depriving you of the ability to enjoy what you have. If you are at the top of the ladder forgetting these things turns you into an arrogant narcissist. Either way, you become part of the problem and an obstacle to a solution.

You should always be thankful for what you have – for if you live in the west, even the poorest person here is doing far better than much of the world. No matter how bad it is now, it can always get worse. Much worse. Be thankful you aren’t dodging bombs, living in fear of an inquisition, working as slave labor in a third world country, under the repression of a brutal tyranny or forever one step from famine. That is how much of the second and most of the third world lives.

What am I thankful for?

More things than I can count.

I an thankful for a nation that was formed with lofty ideals, even if we didn’t live up to2018-11-17_23-25-25 them.  If it weren’t for Americans’ willingness to sacrifice everything for lofty ideals we couldn’t live up to, the world would be a much darker place.

I miss what functionality my body has lost even as I am thankful for what it still has left.

I am thankful for personal computers which make extended writing possible for me. And for the internet which brings most of the world’s art, history and science into my home for my use and allows me to share my writing with others in real time.

I am thankful for the wife and children I would never have predicted having when I was younger. Life looked like a very long, very lonely road with a bad ending.

I am thankful for two dogs, two cats, a desert tortoise, and a roof over my head. Warm clothes in the winter. Intermittent air conditioning in the summer. Mountains and deserts to hike on one side and a vibrant cultural center on the other. For employment, however intermittent and unrewarding, over the years. For an opportunity to work as a substitute teacher even after retirement.

Yup. I am thankful for anime too. Ever since that first screening of Vampire Slayer D with a 16mm projector back in the 80s.

Be thankful for what you have no matter how little that may seem. Even while you work to make things better, be thankful for the freedom to try. A majority of the world does not have that option.

This post regards the subject of “Thankful” in anime, my Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self Respect subject for November.