The art of Japanese Living

February 28, 2019

The art of Japanese Living

For those of us that visited Japan (or in a ‘light’ version Japanese shops) must have noticed: cleanliness, attention for detail and simplicity seem to be Japan’s driving values. 
And interesting to see: these Japanese style signature and esthetics are slowly taking over the planet. Japanese shops and brands pop-up in every major city and a lot of (design) brands hint towards Japan in their designs, materials, prints and marketing campaigns. When we zoom in on the philosophy behind these esthetics it is no surprise that in ‘these modern times’ everything Japanese strikes a chord…

A little less perfect, please
Wabi-Sabi has one basic principle: imperfection. Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese philosophy of accepting your imperfections and making the most of life. Besides that, in today's Japan the meaning of wabi-sabi is often translated to "wisdom in natural simplicity”, while in art and design it is typically defined as "flawed beauty”. 

That this flawsomeness is a trend (in design and communication) is easily to be explained by seeing the change of mentalities in the Western world. This need for imperfection is something a lot of people living in a highly stressed-out and under-pressure society are yearning for.

When our lives can be easily directed and filtered to that perfect (fake) story, expectations of ourselves and each other rise. When every human and every brand has a perfect ironed-out brand-story (that with a bit of research usually can be debunked easily) it is that imperfect story that is in the end more relatable because it is simply more human. We in the end all have our flaws…

Why not celebrate those flaws like the Japanese do? The most telling example for this is the art of kintsugi in which broken ceramics get repaired with gold to make it even more beautiful. These golden breaks and repairs are treated as part of the object’s history. 

Wabi-Sabi brand: HK Living

HK Living products during our New Collection Launch
That in nature not everything is exactly the same but is perfect in its own way is something that HK Living really embraces in all their collections: they make use of natural materials and hand-made finishings. In this way not one of their products is exactly the same as the other. Think of hand-painted ceramics, hand knotted and printed textiles and other artisanal techniques that go way beyond mass-production. 


Just a little less, please
One part of ‘Wabi-Sabi’ is ‘Kanso’ (簡素):‘Kanso is simplicity or elimination of clutter. Things are expressed in a plain, simple, natural manner. Reminds us to think not in terms of decoration but in terms of clarity, a kind of clarity that may be achieved through omission or exclusion of the non-essential.’

We can take the need for imperfection a step further and see another ‘soft spot’ that especially emerged for millennials: the need for ‘less’. Less clutter, less branding, less everything. Something Marie Kondo with her decluttering philosophy easily sparked; we all seem to start getting rid of stuff now.
In a sense we are getting more and more back to the essence of every product we own and with that to the essence of ourselves. Space in your home means space in your head!  


Japanese environmental awareness

But just mindlessly throwing out stuff isn’t the best thing for the environment, you might think. That is even more true when you decide to buy new stuff when you finally have that space back in your closet. That is why it would be wise to add a bit of ‘Mottainai’ to your living. Mottainai expresses a feeling of regret at wasting the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and can be translated as both 'what a waste' and 'don't be wasteful’. It focuses on the 4 r’s” reduce, reuse, recycle and respect. 

Besides focusing on what you own, Mottainai also focuses on your behavior: start appreciating the empty spots in your closet instead of wanting to fill them in again. Furthermore we should try to break our linear way of consuming: we now usually buy to throw out later, but why not buy to own for a lifetime? More and more brands and designers design quality products that promise that lifetime ownership and with that, make a fist against the ‘fast-design’ and ‘fast-fashion’-industry that works with trends, fads and seasons.

And one step further than consuming quality products: bring back the golden cracks in the ceramic Kintsugi-bowls; the practice suggests that repair can make things better than they were when brand new. So: get creative!
 And if you really, really want to get rid of some stuff; maybe someone else might be happy with it…

Japanese living at Urban Nest

Although we mainly sell Dutch and Latin-American brands, we do feel close to the philosophy described above. We select our brands and products with care: besides affordability sustainability is our key factor. The quality of the products we sell needs to be high for the opportunity of lifetime ownership. We select unique products that tell a story so we will always stay away from big brands and mass production.
This Japanese philosophy of digging to the essence of every product or thing and deciding what it adds to your life is what we do when we curate our collection. We are always on the lookout for products with a nice story that sticks, products you want to and can own for a lifetime. 

So what could this mean for you?

  • Look for handmade and authentic items or at least stay away from mass production. Try to find products with a story that stick to you
  • Use natural products and look for natural materials
  • Embrace imperfection (true authenticity)
  • Don’t fall for a brand but for a specific product
  • ‘Marie Kondo’ your home: declutter
  • Find your own personal style in stead of getting it dictated by others
  • Quality over quantity: buy for life not for one season
  • There’s nothing wrong with second hand goods
  • Don’t buy if not needed
  • Don’t mindlessly buy and throw out: repair or give away

    Still want to own some new 'wabi-sabi' products? Find some products with Japanese esthetics from our collection here. 



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