Wabi Sabi

Many deep philosophical concepts in Japan are part of Japanese culture. Histories and traditions in the country are fascinating, and they revolve around many sorts of philosophy. In the world, Japanese culture and philosophy have a unique beauty ideology and perspective of beauty and aesthetics. “Wabi-sabi” is one of these interesting Japanese notions.

Wabi Sabi picture by Japan Fans Utrecht
Picture by Annie Spratt.

The name is a unique blend of two Japanese words and two concepts that serves as both an aesthetic and a philosophy. Wabi is a Japanese word that means deliberate, simplicity, modesty, and natural harmony. It’s about accepting yourself for who you are and what you have.

Sabi, on the other hand, is a term that relates to endurance, patience, and the elegance that comes with age. It describes acquired traits about manufactured qualities in both things or people.

Wabi-sabi is a way of seeing or thinking about finding beauty in all of nature’s imperfections. It’s about the beauty of imperfect, ephemeral, and unfinished objects that already exist. Wabi-sabi is influenced by the Buddha’s teachings, and his school of thought is related to Buddhist ideas. It is essentially a philosophy or ideology derived from the “Buddhist doctrine” of the three marks of existence, namely “transiency”, “suffering”, and “emptiness” or “lack of self-nature.”

Wabi-sabi is a lovely way of defining what is natural and pure, as well as recognizing the beauty of any object or creature in its most natural and raw state. It rejects the more westernized concept of artificial beauty in favor of an impossible and unnatural state of perfection. On the contrary, the Japanese belief and concept of wabi-sabi encompasses exactly that and allows people to be more tolerant and open to embracing the beauty of flaws and rawness with each passing day, distorting the idea of natural beauty and accepting the flaws of existence.

Wabi-sabi: A philosophy

The two words, when put together, constitute a new notion that defines a basic and humble way of life: enjoying the things around you, finding beauty in imperfection, and acknowledging the world’s impermanence.

You may compare it to minimalism, but wabi-sabi is about learning to be content with what you have, as well as what you don’t have.


If you wish to live a Wabi-Sabi lifestyle, you must follow some guidelines:

1. Simplicity (Kanso)

Kanso is a Japanese word that means “simplicity.” At Kanso, you decide to clear your life of clutter and focus on clarity. Kanso encourages you to live a life where less is more, in the same way as minimalism and essentialism do. In reality, this way of life helps you to be more careful about what you eat, worry less, and focus on the things that matter most to you.

2. Asymmetry (Fukinsei)

Have you ever felt compelled to achieve perfect balance? This is particularly prevalent in the arts and design fields, and it causes stress. Fukinsei questions our perceptions of balance and equilibrium. Instead, he considers asymmetry to be natural and beautiful, and one of the things that makes the universe so fascinating. Everything, even if imperfectly, falls into place.

3. Understated Beauty (Shibumi)

Shibumi is a Japanese word that means “understated beauty.” Do you believe that minimalism has its beauty? The Shibumi principle encourages us to choose exquisite simplicity over glitz. This is frequently seen in minimalist and naked looks. Natural qualities are emphasized at Shibumi without being unduly embellished. As a result, authenticity is preserved.

4. Natural (Shizen)

Human intervention is included in the Japanese definition of nature or naturalness (Shizen), which differs from the Western meaning. While we tend to think of nature as pristine and untamed, the Japanese describe it as linked with mankind. The Japanese garden is the most common example used to demonstrate this. Garden design is not just nature in its natural state; it is constructed with purpose and intention in harmony with nature.

5. Letting go of old behaviors (Datsuzoku)

Datsuzoku allows us to break free from usual life habits. Instead, we welcome the unknown and experiment with being different. We open up a universe of possibilities by doing things differently and thinking outside the box. This allows us to have more fun with design and be more creative.

Meaning of Wabi Sabi

We can strive to redefine beauty, broaden our vision, and bring things into sharper focus that trigger joy and admiration. We can achieve this with the things we’ve accumulated around us, with our daily encounters with others we meet or live with, and with nature itself. You may make a Wabi-Sabi album by taking images of the beauty you see every day.

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If you like this post, you might also be interested in another key concept in Japanese musicshodohaiku and other Japanese cultural expressions: “mono no aware”.