The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi

Posted on

Wabi-sabi is a delightful Japanese philosophy which concentrates on the beauty of imperfection and of broken things.

Wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is the beauty of things modest and humble.
It is the beauty of things unconventional.

I grew up in Switzerland, Europe. In Europe we still are ingrained with western values of everything having to be perfect and spotless.

This is not only visible in buying new things when the old ones break, but also in our relationships with other people and our own failures.

We think that if something stops working that it is broken and has to be replaced with something new. Instead of repairing it and reflecting on our faults.

We do this because society, which still pressures us into certain forms, has a unhealthy relationship with failures and openness about them. Beginning in the early childhood we get ridiculed if we fail at something and making errors is a opportunity for others to pull us down into their own insecurities.

I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things human make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.

― Yohji Yamamoto

Instead of trying to cover up our faults and failures we should proudly stand beside them and present them to the world.

Because by hiding our failures and maintaining the attitude of having to be perfect we pull ourself down in a quest for perfection.

Instead of looking at them as failures we should try to learn from our errors. Because failing means that we try to grow no matter what the result is.

Another marvelous example from the Japanese philosophy is kintsukuroi.


“to repair with gold”; the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Instead of throwing away broken pottery we should repair them with gold or silver which makes them more beautiful than before.

With this we can accept our failures as a natural part of life and of learning something new.

So if you failed before in a area of life be it in romantic relationships, at work, at learning new skills or in other parts of your life, you shouldn’t look at it as a failure.

But as a natural part of our experience in life and a way to improve yourself and try again.

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms


  1. Don’t see failures as something bad and rather as a possibility to learn something
  2. Don’t hide your failures but stand proudly beside them
  3. Don’t ridicule others for their failures
  4. Don’t throw broken stuff away immediately, but rather try first to reflect on it and fix it.


Leave a Reply