10 Japanese Concepts To Be Inspired And Live By

There are many things that people can learn from Japanese culture and philosophy that can help them live a happier and more fulfilling life. Japanese people are conscious about focusing on the present moment, finding a sense of purpose, cultivating gratitude or practicing self-care. In today’s article we’ll introduce you to 10 beautiful Japanese concepts that you can get inspired to embrace a happy and healthy living.

Ikigai: A reason for being

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to “reason for being” or “the thing that makes life worth living.” The Japanese concept of “ikigai” means to define and practice your purpose in life. In other words, the reason you get up in the morning. It is the idea that everyone has something that they are passionate about and that brings them joy, and that by pursuing that passion, they are able to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives. Some people think of it as their passion, their mission, their vocation, or their calling.

Kaizen: Continuous improvement

In Japanese, “kaizen” is a word that means continuous improvement or changing for the better and is a personal and business philosophy seeking to constantly improve efficiency and effectiveness in all levels of operation. It is often associated with the concept of “small steps,” as it encourages people to make small, incremental changes and improvements on a regular basis, rather than trying to make big, dramatic changes all at once, e.g. a student who sets small, achievable goals for themselves each week, rather than trying to tackle a huge workload all at once. Or, a person who commits to exercising for 10 minutes each day, rather than trying to do a two-hour workout all at once. Kaizen was first practiced by Japanese businesses after World War II, and its principles and functions came to be known as “The Toyota Way” and it was largely adapted in the business world around the world. These days, it has become a concept by which to instill desirable habits, and improve efficiency and functionality in our own personal lives.

Oubaitori: Not comparing oneself

The ancient Japanese idiom oubaitori comes from the kanji for the four trees that bloom in spring: cherry blossoms, peach, plum, and apricot. Each flower blooms in its own time, and the meaning behind the idiom is that we all grow and bloom at our own pace, so we should never compare ourselves to others.

Wabi-Sabi: Admiring imperfection

wabi sabi japanese nature

The Japanese aesthetic of “wabi-sabi” means finding beauty in what is impermanent and imperfect. In other words, it is the Zen Buddhist concept of beauty seen through appreciating the imperfections in nature in which everything is impermanent. The philosophy nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three basic tenets: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect. In a personal sense, it means graciously accepting your own and others’ flaws.

Mottainai: Not being wasteful

The Japanese term “mottainai” can best be translated as being too good to waste and refers to the belief, that everything deserves respect and gratitude and thus it is important to use its full potential.It is a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of not wasting resources, whether it is food, water, energy, or time. It is often used to express a sense of regret for not using something to its full potential or for not taking good care of something.  The concept is well welcomed by environmentalists as it helps people recognise the value of resources and thus not wasting them and the notions of reducing, reusing and recycling.

Mono no aware

sakura cherry blossom

Literally translated, Mono no aware means “the pathos of things,” or  “the poignancy of existence, but it is also translated as having empathy toward things and ephemera – in other words, what is fleeting. It is a feeling of bittersweetness stemming from passing of time and the impermanence of all things. Mono no aware is often used to describe the experience of seeing something beautiful, such as a flower in bloom, and recognising that it will eventually fade and die. Mono no aware is a concept around mindfulness and appreciation, as it encourages people to be aware of the fleeting nature of life and to cherish the beauty and joy that can be found in the present moment.

Kintsugi: The art of golden repair

wabi sabi kintsugi japanese philosophy

The Japanese art form referred to as “kintsugi,” which means golden journey and “kintsukuroi,” referring to golden repair, is most commonly correlated to the mending of broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer. The result is a stunning object due to the celebration of its flaws. The practice of kintsugi stems from the concept of wabi-sabi in which imperfections are considered admirable. The name itself refers to the golden journeys we all have thus this perspective can help us embrace our own flaws as embellishments that make things and people even more beautiful. Many artists have been inspired by the concept and have channeled this art form in their work. We’ve also been inspired by this beautiful concept and decided to design a contemporary tableware porcelain Kintsugi Collection to bring a functional reminder of the fragility of life and beauty of imperfection.

Gaman: All about endurance

Gaman is roughly translates to “endurance” or “perseverance.” It is often seen as a key virtue in Japanese culture, and is often associated with stoicism, resilience, and determination. It refers to the ability to endure challenging situations without complaining or giving up. Gaman is often used to describe a person who is able to withstand hardship or adversity without losing their sense of purpose. In this sense, Gaman can be seen as a form of mental and emotional strength, as it allows people to keep going even when things are tough.

Shikata ga nai: Acceptance and letting go

Shikata ga nai is a Japanese phrase that roughly translates to “there is nothing to be done.” It is often used to express a sense of resignation or acceptance in the face of a difficult or frustrating situation. It is similar to the English phrases “it is what it is”. The phrase is often used when a person recognises that there is a problem or challenge that cannot be changed or fixed, and that the best course of action is to accept the situation and move on. In this sense, shikata ga nai can be seen as a form of acceptance and resilience, as it encourages people to let go of things that they cannot control and to focus on what they can do to move forward.

Yuugen: Beholding beauty in the unseen

Yuugen is a Japanese concept that roughly translates to “mystery” or “depth.” I’s a feeling of wonder or awe that is experienced when encountering something that is profound or deeply moving. Yuugen is associated with the idea that there is a hidden or unseen dimension to the world, that is beyond our everyday understanding. By being open to this mystery, we can experience a deeper sense of connection and meaning. Yuugen can sometimes be seen as a form of spiritual or emotional depth, as it encourages people to look beyond the surface of things and to seek out deeper meaning and understanding.

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