kintsugi wabi sabi

Kintsugi and Wabi Sabi: Exploring the Beauty of Imperfection

What is wabi-sabi?


Wabi-sabi is a typical Japanese aesthetic value. Many of you may have felt wabi-sabi when you have seen karesansui or Japanese-style gardens in Kyoto. I am one of them. It is simple and unadorned, yet somehow profoundly beautiful. Although it is not flashy, people are fascinated by its simplicity, and there is a sense that it fills the heart. Wabi-sabi is something that can be felt deep in the heart, and it is difficult to define clearly. Did you know that wabi-sabi is actually a combination of two different words, "wabi" and "sabi," each with a different meaning?

“Wabi" refers to the mind that accepts and enjoys the present situation without pessimism, while "sabi" refers to the deterioration and change of things over time, and how circumstances change over time. In other words, "wabi" refers to a mind that accepts "sabi," which represents things changing. Wabi-cha, established by Sen no Rikyu, is a synonym for wabi and sabi, and this "wabi" represents the same meaning. Contrary to the luxurious and gorgeous tea ceremonies that had been held until then, wabi-cha was a modest and simple style of enjoying the space with one's heart, and was supported by the people of the time. Incidentally, wabi-sabi can be found not only on special occasions, but also in everyday life.

For example, "cherry blossoms and falling petals" ,"the ever-changing colors of the sunset" "feeling the beauty in a worn-out vessel" and "feeling the change of seasons when listening to the chirping of insects”. The moment when you feel wabi-sabi is different for each person, and it is important whether or not you have the mind to feel the taste of the way things are changing. Wabi-sabi can give spiritual richness to our daily life, depending on how we have a mindset in our daily life.

Relationship between Kintsugi and Wabi-sabi

kintsugi wabi sabi

Kintsugi is one of the techniques to restore broken vessels, and the process of kintsugi and the restored vessels give us wabi-sabi feeling. It is sad to see a cherished vessel break, but one day it will break because it has a form. If we accept it as it is and know that it can be reborn as a vessel of new value through Kintsugi, rather than lamenting its breakage, the way we perceive it will change. Having the mindset that someday it will break makes me more attached to the vessels I use every day, and I treat things with more care. Through kintsugi, we can experience the spirit of wabi-sabi values, in which things are constantly changing and we try to enjoy them without being pessimistic. Kintsugi is a very profound process, and just like life, we can learn through the process that nothing is constant.

What Wabi-sabi brings to our lives

Understanding Wabi-sabi and incorporating it into our daily lives can enrich our lives. In fact, I have been practicing this way of thinking, and I have realized that there are many scenes in which I feel happier than ever before. The following is a list of what such a wabi-sabi mindset can bring to our lives.

Mentality of valuing things

We throw things away when they break, we throw away clothes when they are torn, and we buy a lot of low quality items, which are very common behaviors in today's mass-production and mass-consumption society. However, when one acquires the wabi-sabi spirit, including kintsugi, one feels that one acquires the spirit to treat one item with care for a long time. We buy things because they are cheap and disposable. When buying things, it is important to choose things based on whether they can be used for a long time, whether they are environmentally friendly, and whether they embody the SDGs. I feel that it is very important to acquire a mentality of taking good care of things because it enriches our lives.

Mindset that accepts everything

Change is stressful for some people. However, if we have a mindset that change is natural, we can tolerate it. In the same way, when a vessel is broken, you will be able to accept it, and you will feel less sad. If a vessel is broken, you can cherish it as a new vessel by kintsugi, and if you can accept other things without rejecting them, you will feel much better mentally. It may seem like a technique for spending one's life, but in our stressful modern society, I believe that the mindset of accepting everything is actually a highly important way of thinking.

Sensitivity to feel happiness in daily life

Every day we spend is an accumulation of miracles. We never take it for granted that tomorrow will come. It can be said that today's self and tomorrow's self are never the same, and that we are getting closer to death each day. When we can understand the concept of wabi-sabi, we can recognize that things change and become grateful for the present moment. Happiness is not something that is given to you by external factors, but something that comes from within when you understand and appreciate your environment in the present moment. As you develop a rich spirituality through Wabi-sabi, you will come to appreciate even the most ordinary things in life, and you will be able to approach a happy life.

Calm mind reduces irritability

What are some of the factors that cause irritability? When things don't go your way, when something unexpected happens, when your partner doesn't understand you, and so on. These are emotions that the brain feels reflexively. When you have a mindset of accepting things as they are, your mind is always at peace and you are much less likely to be emotionally and reflexively irritated. We have all had the experience of emotionally speaking out and hurting others, or having a relationship deteriorate. However, when we are able to accept things as they are through Wabi-sabi values, we are able to develop a calm mind and spirituality, and thus become less emotionally involved. When you are less frustrated, you will be more likely to feel happiness.

How to feel Wabi-sabi?

Through wabi-sabi, people are made to feel that they are part of nature. We are not special creatures on the earth, but we are connected to nature and kept alive by it. The way to feel Wabi-sabi is to first calm your mind. Take a deep breath, calm your mind, and look at the world in front of you. You may hear the chirping of insects as the seasons change, or you may see a scene that you take for granted in nature.

In Japan, cicadas are heard throughout the city at the beginning of summer, but in early to mid-September, one can see a scene where a few cicadas chirp as if they have been left behind by the season. I sometimes feel a sense of wabi-sabi at the end of the season. I also feel wabi-sabi when I see nature as it is, such as when I am watching the waves on the beach, watching the flow of a river, or listening to birds singing in the forest. Even though everything looks the same, no two moments are exactly the same, and everything is constantly changing.

Kintsugi also gives us a sense of wabi-sabi

To feel wabi-sabi, it is important to look at the phenomenon in front of you with a calm mind. On top of that, the process of kintsugi is one of the ways to feel wabi-sabi. Although it is sad when a cherished vessel is broken, we accept the fact that things with a form will break someday. Broken vessels can be reused as new vessels through the process of kintsugi. While inheriting the feelings of the past, you will feel the beauty of the new pattern of the golden joints. Witnessing the transformation of this vessel during the restoration process, one can feel the wabi-sabi. Of course, it is also important to have a positive attitude toward kintsugi. It is also recommended to maintain a calm mind through meditation or zen on a regular basis.