Understanding Aida: The Gap Between Things

Aida is a Japanese word with two meanings: a gap between things or a time between events. It's just an empty space, but for Shogo Tanaka it can also connect things or people creatively.

Defining aida (betweenness)

Nick: Let's move on to aida. This is a word I'm very familiar with. I think it was one of the first Japanese words I learned when I started to read. So it has this very basic meaning of ‘in between’, but it also has a very different meaning in the context of what we're talking about today.

So how would you describe aida?

Shogo: Well, aida is a very common word in Japanese language, and it means the gap, simply the gap between two things or two persons. Sometimes it refers to a spatial gap, and other times it refers to a temporal gap between two events.

The interesting point included in the concept of aida is that it’s just a spatial or temporal gap, and itself it is nothing —it’s just a gap. It's nothing in itself. However, aida is a sort of creative nothing through which the relation between two things manifests.

Let us take up an example of the so-called personal space. Do you know about personal space?

Nick: Yes, we don't want to invade people's personal space and get too close to them.

Shogo: Yeah. Well, if you feel intimate with someone else, you will naturally come closer to that person. But if you see an unfamiliar person, you will never be that close. So in this case, the aida between two persons is the spatial gap.

The gap, it’s just a gap, and it is a vacant place and empty place, but through which their relationship manifests. So, it is originally nothing but it is something creative, which constructs the relationship between two persons.

And vice versa, if you can come closer to a certain person, the aida will change its aspect and you will have a chance to communicate and feel familiar with that person. So aida is nothing in itself. Let me repeat, aida is nothing in itself. But when you can focus on that you will notice how creative it is.