Pronounced as “Itoshi”, the Japanese word “愛しい” is commonly understood by Chinese readers as “love”. In fact, its ancient pronunciation, “Kanashii”, shares the same sound as “悲しい”, which means sorrow. We are bound to feel lonely and sad when losing something, and such insecurity has become an integral part of our affection for anything. Love and sorrow are inseparable in a certain way; perhaps that was why they shared a similar sound to remind us of the likeness of the two sentiments.
Now “愛しい” is no longer pronounced as “Kanashii” hence without any connotation of grief. You can say “Itoshi” when looking at your lover’s face, a cute move of your child, even when listening to the purring sound of your adorable cat. The phrase sounds so compassionate as you speak it, but it does not take away the inexpressible underlying pain. As time goes by, there are new wrinkles next to the crescent moon-shaped eyes as your lover smiles, you cannot help thinking who will be the first to leave. Imagining how your toddler will grow up and no longer need you can make you slightly blue. Looking at the cat, you wonder would it stop purring one day and never wake up from the deep sleep again?
A line in the Japanese TV drama Quartet has perhaps rightly concluded the complicated sentiments shared by the Japanese when it comes to love. In episode four, the character Beppu (Ryuhei Matsuda) confesses his love for his childhood crush Maki (Takako Matsu). In the end, he said, “愛しく愛しく、虚しい” (The state of loving someone will eventually bring a feeling of emptiness). After all, sorrow is just inseparable from affection.