Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 23 : July/Aug 2008  > Columns  >  Finding Flow  >  The Eight Winds


Finding Flow

By Mitsuharu Kume

The Eight Winds


When I see a typhoon materialize on the weather map, part of me jumps for joy, while the other prays for mercy. As a surfer, naturally I get excited about tropical storms appearing off the coast. However, as a fisherman who makes his living from the sea, it’s not all smiles.

Harvesting food from the ocean is a primal endeavor that puts me in tune with nature. It’s a good gig, but when Mother Nature throws the kitchen sink at us, there is a lot of work to do. When a typhoon gets close, we must pull in our box nets, the size of a large gymnasium, as well as the 500-meter curtain-style nets. The task is tedious and, with the nets in, it means we forfeit the day’s catch – a double whammy for a fisherman.

However, there is a silver lining to every thunder cloud. When the storms draw near Japan, the wind picks up, and so does my anticipation for big waves.
“I think I’m going to leave this island next week,” says my neighbor, the proprietor of a nearby photo studio. His father started our small island’s first portrait studio, and his son took over operations when he retired.

The quaint store is on a side street off the main shopping district, and the store’s sign bore the brunt of a storm five or six years ago and was destroyed. Consequently, many people are unaware of the back-alley gallery.
Although the owner neglected his storefront, he was very skilled in print technology and photography, thus drawing many regular customers. A self-taught shutterbug, I relied on him heavily as a source of instruction. However, his resistance to the digital wave of cameras eventually led to another lost job for a fan of film.

Having thought about his situation, I wondered if there was a saying to express that situation. I pulled out a copy of Zennokotoba (Zen Sayings) which I’ve consulted regularly. I happened upon, “Happu fukedomo dousezu” (Unmovable even when the eight winds blow).

The “eight winds” refer to things that delude the mind and stir up the soul. They include acceptance, contradiction, indirect slander, indirect praise, direct slander, direct praise, torment of mind and body and delight of mind and body.
The phrase encourages one to maintain composure and hold to steadfast convictions when blown about by these eight winds.
The phrase “high tide” has roots in these old sayings, referring to when things start moving in the right direction.


In both the natural world and your personal life, there are times when typhoons draw near, and those experiences can certainly be “high tides.” The closing of the photo studio opens a door to a new life. The loss of my mentor in photography is really him saying, “It’s time for you to set out on your own.”


Well, the nets have all been pulled in, so it’s a good time to paddle out into the high surf brought on by the storm. It’s one way I can stay upbeat, even when the eight winds blow.