Coming to Japan in 1987, I sat in wonderment, amazement, and sometime dismay about these strange new things and customs that have now surrounded me for decades.

I was never consciously aware of wabi-sabi, but like many unspoken mysteries of Japan, awareness of wabi-sabi is an innate trait in the spirit of the Japanese.

In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

wabi-sabi-aestheticsWabi-sabi is derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence:

(三法印, sanbōin), impermanence
(無常, mujō), suffering
(苦, ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, kū)

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetics include:


And once one has recognized and understood wabi-sabi, one gains the deep and meaningful appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily.

Wabi embodies rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object.

wabi-sabi-bamboo and water

Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its tear and wear, or in any visible repairs.

With its roots in Buddhist influences from China, wabi-sabi has now evolved into a distinctly Japanese ideal.


From around 700 years ago, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honoured as tantamount to the first step to “satori”, or “enlightenment”.

In modern Japan, the meaning of wabi-sabi contains the meaning of “wisdom in natural simplicity”. It can also hold the connotation of “flawed beauty” in particularly in the sphere of art.

One can see wabi-sabi in certain styles of Japanese pottery.

In the Japanese tea ceremony, the pottery items used are often rustic and simple-looking.


Hagiware is an example of this, with shapes that are not quite symmetrical, and colours or textures that appear to emphasize an unrefined or simple style.

It is up to the knowledge and observational ability of the observer to notice and discern the hidden signs of a truly excellent design. One can see wabi-sabi in many things, if one opens the eyes (and heart).

Wabi and sabi both suggest sentiments of desolation and solitude. In the Mahayana Buddhist view of the universe, these may be viewed as positive characteristics, representing liberation from a material world and transcendence to a simpler life, or what is know in Buddhism as “satori” or “enlightenment”.


Keep in mind as you ponder this dear reader, a genuine understanding of wabi-sabi cannot be achieved through words or language.

Therefore, one must accept wabi-sabi on nonverbal terms and this may be the most appropriate approach to understand the meaning of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi describes a means whereby one can learn to live life through the senses and better engage in life as it happens, rather than be caught up in unnecessary thoughts.

In this sense wabi-sabi is the material representation of Zen Buddhism. The idea is that being surrounded by natural, changing, unique objects helps us connect to our real world and escape potentially stressful distractions and one’s noisy “monkey brain”.


In wabi-sabi, one learns to find the most basic, natural objects interesting, fascinating and beautiful.

Looking more deeply and pensively at the world around and one will have begun the wabi-sabi journey, wherever one may be on our shared earth.


Miraculous Rock Art

Miraculous Rock Art

Miraculous Rock Art

Miraculous Rock Art

You could consider Akie Nakata to be a rock star of sorts, but not the one that usual comes to mind. 

Akie Nakata is a self-taught artist creating realistic animal designs using small stones and pebbles to make incredible art which you can hold in the palm of your hand.  She started this quirky journey as a stone artist in 2011, while taking a walk along a river bank, she came upon a particular stone that looked like a rabbit. In true Japanese spirit, she is inspired by the natural shapes of each stone and chooses ones she believes already have their own destined characters. “Stones have their own intentions, and I consider my encounters with them as cues to go ahead and paint what I see on them.”  From cats and dogs to owls, mice, and even an entire opossum family, each of Akie’s stone animals look remarkably lifelike. Painting the eyes last, Akie considers her work complete when she sees “the eyes are now alive” She continues on, “To me, completing a piece of work is not about how much detail I draw, but whether I feel the life in the stone.” As you view these magnificent pieces, you can understand what the word “Mastery” means. Currently she lives in Sayama Saitama. 

Check out her Instagram here

Connect with her Facebook page which has 75,000 followers.

Incredible Paper Octopus

Incredible Paper Octopus

Incredible Paper Octopus

Incredible Paper Octopus

What can you do with a single sheet of paper?

Plenty when your name is Masayo Fukuda, who, after seeing her art I now refer to her as Sensai Tensai or “delicacy genius”.

The Japanese are know to be extremely diligent and exceptionally dexterous.

Looking at Masayo Fukuda incredible art work, I would have to say the above statement to be so very true.

The art of paper cutting requires a high degree of patience and a steady hand, and the Japanese artist Masayo Fukuda has undoubtedly mastered this extraordinary skill.

In Japan it is called “kirie” or simply “cut picture” and this traditional practice involves cutting out intricate shapes from a single sheet of paper, placing it in front of a black background to highlight the drawing by contrast.

Ms. Fukuda has been practicing kirie for 25 years and recently showed what she believes to be some of her best work.

This octopus kirie is a most impressive piece of artwork.

Made from a single large sheet of paper, its details reveal the true skill of the artist, which is both astounding and breathtaking, if you even could describe this masterpiece into words.

This incredible artist has the following to say “For me, cutting pictures has become a way of dissipating all the stress of my daily life, and if you want to get started, all the basics you need are tant paper, a cutter, matte, and a good light source.

Fortunately for me, I happen to live just an hour just outside of Tokyo and was able to see the prodigious artwork of Masayo Fukuda at Mason de NEKO on February 21.

Sensai Tensai Masayo Fukuda’s art was everything and more when seen with ones own eyes. The extreme attention to detail of each piece was simply sublime!

Sensai Tensai Masayo Fukuda, was very down-to-earth and truly happy to see us at her exhibition.

Also, thank to Mr. Kentaro Kashimura who is the President of Kabushikigaisha Kazaana, for holding this event and giving Sensai Tensai Masayo Fukuda inspirational art the exposure she deserves for creating such incredible art.

I hope to have featuring Sensai Tensai Masayo Fukuda on a Hidden Gems segment as she talks about her amazing journey and her inspiration to become a master of kirie.

Heartfelt thanks to Land Of The Rising Son web developer Victoria Gazeley of Cabin Design Studio for suggesting Masayo Fukuda and this extraordinary art.

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