The four-character idiom ichigoichie meaning “Each Moment Only Once” is composed of the word 一期 (read ichigo) meaning “once in a lifetime” and the kanji 一 (read ichi) meaning “one” and 会 (read e) meaning “meeting”.
ichigoichie is one of the central themes for the Japanese Tea Ceremony. ichigoichie reminds us that each encounter, each meeting will ever happen only once and so it is to be cherished.
The concept of ichigo ichie dates back to Sen no Rikyu and took the modern form with Ii Naosuke’s Chanoyu Ichie Shuu. In their book Tea in Japan: Essays on the History of Chanoyu include the quote:
Great attention should be given to a tea gathering, which we can speak of as “one time, one meeting” (ichigo ichie). Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day’s gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The host, accordingly, must in true sincerity take the greatest care with every aspect of the gathering and devote himself entirely to ensuring that nothing is rough. The guests, for their part, must understand that the gathering cannot occur again and, appreciating how the host has flawlessly planned it, must also participate with true sincerity. This is what is meant by “one time, one meeting.”