A beginner’s guide to wabi sabi


You’ve probably heard wabi sabi strewn across the design / art / lifestyle world. Whilst it seems to be trending at the moment along with concepts such as Hygge, to me it goes beyond the trend and deserves a humble introduction. I have tried my best to break it down into simpler yet tangible ways to give you the full essence of the concept.

What is wabi sabi? Have you ever wondered what it actually meant? Click here to find out more.
Translation is treason
— Part of an Italian proverb

The meaning of wabi sabi

To fully translate wabi sabi is a difficult task as it has deep meaning with a rich history behind it. It’s more of a collection of feelings and nuances and has no direct translation. I decided to asked my Japanese friends how they would define wabi sabi. Similar to Hikarui, two words make up this one philosophy giving it greater meaning, which I outline below. Originally used separately, now it’s more common to see them combined together.

わびさび (wabi sabi) comes from わびしさ (wabishisa) and さびしさ (sabishisa), but with an artistic twist that represents Japan’s perception of beauty and art.


わびしさ (wabishisa)

Lonely, forlorn, desolate. Symbolises the inner side of





わび (wabi)

The attitude of seeking beauty and inner contentment in simplicity and imperfection, said to have developed alongside the tea ceremony during the Muromachi Period (1335-1573).*

  1. a quality of emotion or mental state that expresses extreme simplicity and enjoyment of a quiet life

  2. the richness in ones heart to appreciate external beauty

さびしさ (sabishisa)





さび (sabi)

The attitude of seeking beauty in physical things that are withered where its internal essence is seen on the outside, such as that of a moss covered stone.

  1. a physical state of wear that comes from time / outer beauty which over time ages and gradually gets impaired

  2. rust(y) / a symbol of the appearance of something


わびさび (wabi sabi)

Wabi sabi is: the appreciation of the transient beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete in the physical world,

わび is said to accept that rusty and negative appearance with a positive heart. So together, the two words わび (wabi) and さび (sabi) are a form of yin and yang and often used as one word but actually they contradict each other, creating a wonderful concept where two opposites work together in harmony for a greater and more positive meaning.

What is wabi sabi? Have you ever wondered what it actually meant? Click here to find out more.

Funnily enough in the midst of writing this post, I broke this Muji Found teacup that I got in Japan only 2 months ago. I have put it aside to fix using the art of kintsugi (I will do a blog post about this soon) when I get round to it. It’s appearance may have changed, but I still find it beautiful therefore it still serves a purpose for me as it did when it was whole.


Chikae O.H. Hanko Name Seal

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