Learn how to appreciate life’s small moments with the Japanese way of wabi sabi. Beth Kempton explains how wabi sabi influences all aspects of Japanese culture and how we can bring some of its benefits into our lives.
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What is wabi sabi? Beth says it’s something that the Japanese themselves find quite difficult to define. “The entire book […] was in search of the answer to that question,” she explains.
“If you go to the Japanese equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary, wabi sabi is not in there, which is so strange because if you ask a Japanese person, they will know what you’re talking about. And they will have a really an intuitive sense of what it is, but they will very likely struggle to articulate it.”
She says that wabi sabi is partly about living in the present moment and accepting it for all of its imperfections. Beth has spent many years living in Japan and studied the country’s language and culture.
“There’s a sense of calm there and a sense of appreciation of the passing of time. And a very deep connection to the seasons, which is recognised in all aspects of life, from food to festivals to the way that people start an end the letters that they write to each other. I mean, it’s completely different words that you use at different times of the year and Japan actually has 72 micro seasons, so essentially every five or six days throughout the year have a different name.
“And, and so there’s a very close attention to that. And there’s a very close attention to detail in terms of beauty. And if you walk around in Japan, and someone has often put something somewhere, almost as a gift, a little experience. A single flower placed perhaps on a on a windowsill that’s not a big show of something gorgeous, but just like a lovely little snippet of beauty to catch the corner of your eye.
“There’s all these things that I experienced in Japan over the years. And I didn’t really know where they came from, and what the connection was between these things. But it was something really particular. And in that country, and I had a feeling it might be to do with this word, what we start with that nobody could explain.”
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Beth explains that people in Japan often have a very mindful approach to life – there’s a sense of accepting that all things are impermanent and that we need to appreciate each moment.
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Beth Kempton is the author of Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life, which is published by Piatkus priced £12.99.