CulturallyOurs Wabi-Sabi Japanese lifestyle perfectly imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect – The Japanese Concept Of Wabi-Sabi

CulturallyOurs Wabi-Sabi Japanese lifestyle perfectly imperfect

During our conversation with Sachiko Eubanks, we explored many different Japanese cultural concepts – ideologies that shape an entire nation and community to live a certain way. One such ideology is a Wabi-Sabi lifestyle – embracing the imperfect.

The concept of Wabi-Sabi is deep rooted in Japan although it is not really a formal idea for many Japanese. In fact this ideology was developed when two separate words wabi and sabi were joined to convey a certain look, feeling and world perspective. Wabi means simplicity, humility and living in tune with nature. It describes someone who is content with little and makes the most of whatever he or she has while always moving towards having less. Sabi, on the other hand, refers to what happens with the passage of time. It is about transience beauty and authenticity of age. Practicing wabi is learning to accept the natural cycle of growth and decay, life and death, as well as embracing the imperfections that comes with it.

Together wabi-sabi describes a concept of finding perfection in that what is imperfect. It is a feeling that encourages harmony and serenity in what is uncomplicated and unassuming.

Wabi-Sabi has often been tied to the Japanese tea ceremony, a ritual that demonstrates the mindfulness and modesty needed to fully understand this way of living. But wabi-sabi isn’t only for monks and tea masters. It is for anyone who wants to reach a state of mind where the imperfect nature of things is accepted and celebrated. Wabi-Sabi isn’t shabby chic, junky, messy or shoddy. You cannot make something wabi-sabi. It just need to naturally become it – the normal ebb and flow of life are allowed to take their intended course.

Additionally, wabi-sabi isn’t only restricted to things and stuff. It can be an experience or even a feeling – like crashing waves on the rocks, old friends gathering together or even an abandoned bird’s nest.CulturallyOurs Wabisabi Japanese culture water fountain in India

Examples of wabi-sabi

  • Dried flowers or branches
  • Cracked or chipped pottery
  • Aged or faded wood
  • Wrinkled linen napkins
  • One of a kind art pieces
  • Belongings that reflect the personality of the individual
  • Drappled light falling on a bed
  • Cozy and intimate spaces
  • Worn leather bag or much loved scuffed shoes
  • Flea market collections
  • Rough or uneven stone walls

Examples of things that are not wabi-sabi

  • Fake flowers or plants
  • Solid steel fences
  • Synthetic bedding
  • Perfectly ironed clothes
  • Mass-marketed reproductions
  • Strong and harsh light
  • Bold, bright and glossy textures
  • Giant warehouse discount stores
  • Sleek and industrial design
  • Shiny new things

We need wabi-sabi in our homes and lives now more than ever because we are oversaturated with glossy images of ‘perfection’ and the drive to achieve more to get more. There is far too much in the media to compare ourselves to get us to do more and more of the same thing. A wabi-sabi viewpoint, on the other hand, pushes these ideals aside and urges us to appreciate a different kind of ideal, such as people, places, and things with humility and simplicity.

Keep in mind that wabi-sabi goes beyond a certain kind of aesthetic. It is a way of life and thought process. One that teaches us to find joy in the simple things and being thoughtful and intentional in all that we do, say and think.

Resources to learn more about the wabi-sabi lifestyle

  1. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
  2. Wabi-Sabi : The Japanese Art of Impermanence by Andrew Juniper
  3. Wabi-Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams
CulturallyOurs Understanding and embracing Wabi Sabi Japanese Culture

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Leave your comments below

  1. Ezekiel says:

    I have recently had a chance to try to recondition some fire damage furniture of a close friend. I wanted to not make perfect but, excepted as intended for. The outcome….Wabi Sabi

  2. While researching for a book I am writing I came across the Japanese photographer, Nobuyuki Kobayoshi – and realized after studying his work and listening to his words, how my own photographic work can be more clearly defined – that is, under the Wabi Sabi aesthetic. Most of my work is landscape oriented, but the past two years have seen a series of work titled, “Intimate with Nature” and more recently, a new chapter titled “Metamorphosis” – shot with film.
    These series of work have not been posted to my website – but by the end of 2020 I will dedicate a page to it.

    In any case, I really appreciate this article as I continue to learn and try to assimilate the Wabi Sabi concept into more of my everyday life. Thank you.

    Kind regards,
    Lance A. Lewin
    Atlanta, Georgia USA

  3. Lynnette ward says:

    am in the process of making a calligraphy based art work for my daughter who has embraced wabi sabi
    your article has been most helpful in defining how I might do this
    thank you