Understanding Japanese Aesthetics

Courtney Ledford

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–…

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