LASTING COMMITMENTS: We must ‘take good care of our relationships’


Go-en (chance, destiny or special bond.) photo courtesy of Laurie Shigekuni; calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

It was a source of joy for me in recent weeks to learn about an ancient kanji, “go-en.” It means chance, destiny or special bond.

Go-en (chance, destiny or special bond.) photo courtesy of Laurie Shigekuni; calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

I was intrigued when I first learned about the word. It seemed to capture reverence for relationships in a way that was new for me. Since I am a Gosei on my Dad’s side, much of what I know about Japanese culture I have learned in my adult life. This is particularly true when it comes to Japanese words and kanji.

Several people have helped me to understand the meaning of “go-en.” Mark and Masako Kasulen, of Go-En International, initially introduced the word to me. They called their sensei in Japan to obtain input for this article. Nichi Bei Weekly columnist Rev. Masato Kawahatsu of the Konko Church of San Francisco taught me more about the kanji’s meaning. And my own staff members, Shuya Xiao, a Nihongo student originally from Beijing, and Sansei Anthony Ismail, were my sounding boards.

Kawahatsu-sensei informed me that the left side of the go-en kanji represents a string (糸), and the right side represents decoration (彖), so the kanji literally means a decoration put together with a string. As I am writing this article, it is the Christmas season, and I had to opportunity to put up (and untangle) my holiday tinsel decoration with fancy strings. What a wonderful, graphic way of characterizing a complex concept. Even the simplest of decorations on a string get tangled so quickly!

Rev. Kawahatsu also pointed out that the kanji for go-en is very similar to the kanji for kizuna (絆). The kizuna kanji represents something divided into two, but put together with a string. Coming from a Christian tradition as I do, this age-old problem of the need for redemption strikes home.

CARING FOR ONE ANOTHER — (From L to R): Joshua Xiao, Laurie Shigekuni and Anthony Ismail. photo courtesy of Laurie Shigekuni;

Anthony told me that the only time he has heard the word go-en is in the context of weddings. Rev. Kawahatsu has told me that the union of couples during a wedding is go-en, or the divine arrangement of Kami-sama/God/Buddha. Mark says that “go-en arimasu you ni” (御縁ありますように) is a contemporary phrase reinforcing the intent for goodwill to be present in the relationship. From a personal perspective, Mark notes that the phrase is uttered in work relationships in which inevitable perseverance is required.

Rev. Kawahatsu reminded me that “we should take good care of our go-en or relationships.” What an excellent reminder for 2022!

Laurie Shigekuni, owner of the law firm of Laurie Shigekuni & Associates, is working with office colleagues and friends to start a nonprofit organization called Hanami Hope. The new organization’s projects include education to counter anti-Asian hate through storytelling. Learn more at Laurie Shigekuni has practiced estate planning, probate and trust administration law since 1996. She graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz in 1983 and U.C. Hastings College of the Law in 1989. Laurie Shigekuni & Associates is based in San Francisco with satellite offices in San Mateo and in Pasadena. For details see

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *