Understanding Japanese Aesthetics

Japanese Aesthetics is a set of ancient ideals that include the words wabi and sabi and yugen. Each of these terms is very important in the understanding of Japanese Aesthetics. These ideals, and others, underpin much of Japanese cultural and aesthetic norms on what is considered tasteful and beautiful. Unlike Western societies, aesthetics in Japan is seen and practiced as a part of everyday life.

Wabi-Sabi: This term refers to a mindful approach to everyday life. Wabi-Sabi is defined as the beauty of things “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is about finding beauty in imperfection and accepting the natural life cycle of growth, decay, and death. There are seven terms that actually come from nature that help in the hopes to achieve Wabi-Sabi:

  1. Fukensei– asymmetry, irregularity
  2. Kanso– simplicity
  3. Koko– basic, weathered
  4. Shizen– natural, without pretense
  5. Yugen– subtly profound grace, not obvious
  6. Datsuzoku– unbounded by convention, free
  7. Seijaku– tranquility

I found this video while looking for more information about the Japanese term Wabi-Sabi and thought that it reflected what I have been reading about it and what Wabi-Sabi means. It is a good story that I found to be very uplifting and humbling.

Yugen: Yugen is about this world and this experience; it is not an allusion to another world. Yugen is a “profound, myseterious sense of the beauty of the universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering.” It is also interpreted as “refined elegance”.



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