“The Enlightened Generation”
The first computer password I ever used was satori.
The time was around 1979, and I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Every term, the university gave each student 25 dollars' worth of computer time, which we could use to run programs through the terminals located in the library. A friend of mine had become hooked on a text-based computer game―one where the computer would type out a situation (“You are standing at the front gate of a castle.”) and you were supposed to type in commands (“Knock on the gate.”)―and he suggested that I try it, too.
I spent a few dollars' worth of computer time trying to play the game, but I could never seem to guess the right commands. (“I don't understand what you mean,” the computer would keep responding. “Please try again.”) So I told my friend my user name and password, and he used my remaining money to keep playing the game. The password I had chosen was satori.
I had probably learned the word from the title of a book by Jack Kerouac, Satori in Paris. Like a lot of young Americans, I had gone through a period when I was engrossed in Kerouac's autobiographical novels―On the Road, The Dharma Bums, others. The word satori also appears in the poems of Kerouac's friend Allen Ginsberg, which I also read.)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word satori first appeared in English in 1727, in the translation of a German book about Japan. In the 20th century, the word was used first in writings about Japanese Buddhism; later, it took on a hipster cachet through the works of Beat writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg. But it was still an unusual word, and I think I chose it for my password to show off my exotic vocabulary.
Although it might be translated as “an epiphany” or “enlightenment,” satori's nuances are difficult to convey through any single word in English. Last year, I wrote a paper for a European academic journal about the use of Japanese-Japanese dictionaries (kokugo jiten) by learners of Japanese as a second language. Because some of the journal's readers might not be familiar with such dictionaries or able to read Japanese, I decided to annotate in detail the dictionary entry for one Japanese word. I needed a word that a learner might want to look up and that would be difficult to understand solely from the translations in bilingual dictionaries. After some thought, the word that I chose was satoru, the verb corresponding to satori.
◇ ◇ ◇
The mass media like generations. During the past few decades, the American media have tossed around terms such as the Greatest Generation (those who grew up during the Depression of the 1930s and served in World War II), the Baby Boom Generation (people born after the war), Generation X (those born from the mid-1960s to around 1980), Generation Y (their successors, also called the Millennials), and Generation Z (today's teenagers). In Japan, we have seen dankai no sedai (Japan's baby boomers), shinjinrui (the new breed), dankai junia (the baby boom juniors), and yutori sedai (the pressure-free generation).
The yutori sedai, who were born from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, got their name from the relaxed educational standards―fewer class hours, less demanding curricula―that took effect in 2002. This lighter load, combined with a rebellion against their parents' competitive status-seeking during the economic bubble of the 1980s, has supposedly made the yutori generation less brand-conscious, less ambitious about work and money, more accepting of things as they are. Because this same combination of wisdom and resignation supposedly characterizes the transcendence of people who have achieved Buddhist satori, and because yutori and satori rhyme, and because there's something a bit comical about referring to unambitious young people by an exalted Buddhist term, this cohort is now being called the satori sedai―the satori generation.
I have long doubted whether the generational categories favored by the media really exist. Although I was born in 1957, the peak year of the baby boom in the United States, I see little of myself or of friends my age in the media stereotypes of “boomers.” Among college-age Japanese now, I know a few who are indeed calm and resigned, but I also know some who are driven and striving and many more who are somewhere in between. Overall, they don't seem very different from young people twenty or thirty years ago.
In any case, it's better to think of people not as types or groups or generations but as individuals. Rather than yutori sedai or satori sedai, I would like to propose a new term: hitori sedai, the generation of each person, the generation of every one of us, now and forever. Maybe that's the term I'll use for my next password.
 terminal コンピューター端末．
 become hooked on . . . …に夢中になる．
 one＝a text-based computer game. where は，そのゲーム空間，場で行われることを説明するための関係副詞．
 邦題『パリの悟り』．「自伝的なアイデンティティ探究のフランス旅行を扱った」1966年の小説．後出のタイトル2つは前者が代表作『路上』(1957年)．後者は邦題が『禅ヒッピー』『ジェフィ・ライダー物語――青春のビートニク』『ザ・ダルマ・バムズ』と変遷．「作者 [ケルアック] 自身と[詩人 Gary] Snyder をモデルに，禅の悟りを求める旅を描く」1958年の小説．(以上「 」内は研究社『20世紀英語文学辞典』Kerouac 項より)
 take on a hipster cachet おしゃれな [進んでる] 響きを帯びる．hipster には後出の Beat 世代・ビート族(beat generation)，ヒッピーの意味もある(研究社『リーダーズ英和辞典 第3版』)．cachet は「(世間が認める)特色」といった意味．
 entry (辞書の)見出し項目．
 a word を先行詞とする 2つめの関係詞節を導く that (主格)．
 bilingual dictionaries (2か国語辞典)とは和英辞典(Japanese- English dictionaries)などのこと．
 The mass media . . . マスメディアは世代というものを好む．
 toss around 〈ある表現などを〉持ち出す，出してみる(『研究社−ロングマン 句動詞英和辞典』)．
 the (Great) Depression 大恐慌．
 serve in a war 戦争に従軍する．
 their successors Generation X の次世代．
 cf. seek status 社会的(に高い)地位をめざす，社会的に認められようと努める(研究社『新編 英和活用大辞典』status 項)．
 brand consciousness なら「ブランド意識」．
 accept things as they are 物事をあるがまま受け入れる．
 resignation 諦観．
 yutori and satori rhyme 「ゆとり」と「さとり」は韻を踏む．
 cohort 統計学では「コーホート」．特定の期間に出生や結婚のような出来事を経験した集団(三省堂『大辞林 第3版』)．
 friends my age 同年代の友人．
 see little of . . . in the stereotypes …はステレオタイプにほとんど当てはまらないと思う．
 college-age Japanese 大学生の年代の日本人．
 driven やる気満々の(研究社『ルミナス英和辞典 第2版』)．