Japanese Wisdom to Live By

Do you want to live a happier and more harmonious life? Consider incorporating bits and pieces of Japanese wisdom into your day-to-day.

Japanese wisdom has long been recognized as a daily practice that inspires us to find purpose and live mindfully. And although Japanese wisdom is slightly confusing to Westerners, remarkably, there seems to be a concept to suit every stress or struggle in life. From Aikido to Wa, we explain seven unorthodox concepts of Japanese wisdom that will certainly bring you harmony, love and joy.

1. Ikebana 

More than a flower arrangement, ikebana is a Japanese art form that intertwines nature with creativity. Thought to be introduced in the 6th century by Chinese Buddhist missionaries, ikebana is closely related to the philosophy of zen. The aim of this practice is not only to appreciate the beauty of flowers, but to learn how to calm your mind. Japanese wisdom here is revealed through the concepts of peace, harmony and respect.

2. Itadakimasu 

While similar to the French phrase “bon appétit,” itadakimasu translates as a humble form of the verb to receive. The custom of saying this phrase before eating shows a deep appreciation for the food received. You are expressing gratitude to the other person, yet also to the entire universe.  

3. Kikubari 

There’s no exact English definition of kikubari, although it is often referred to paying attention to others. This concept is an integral part of being Japanese. It implies that when you pay attention, you are more likely to understand other people’s needs without them having to say anything. This doesn’t mean you have to be intuitive or that discussing one’s needs isn’t important. It’s just another tool for better communication and connection with others.

4. Mushin

Commonly called “the state of no-mindedness,” mushin is the practice of engaging in something so fully that you leave all thought of anything else behind. It is about trusting your next move, no matter what that is. Mushin is used a lot in martial arts. The purpose is to help your mind flow like water and empty it of emotion—making sure that nothing can disturb it while you’re doing your task. 

5. Aikido

They say that those who fully embrace the philosophy of aikido—the art of peace—will practice for life. Aikido is one of seven of Japan’s martial arts and the only one that is non-aggressive and non-competitive. The practice goes beyond class and flows into everything, if you let it. 

In aikido, you learn to strengthen your spirit, to never run away from a challenge, to stand firm and to know that your spirit helps protect you. It is a metaphor for disarming the enemy or attacker, which might be your thoughts, life challenges or people. 

6. Kintsugi

The practice of kintsugi stems from the concept of wabi-sabi, which means to embrace imperfection. The name refers to the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold lacquer. When something or someone is viewed as flawed (cracks of imperfection), it makes the object or person even more beautiful. Think of this as a way of learning to find beauty in mistakes and flaws instead of hiding them. 

7. Wa

Wa is about conscious living and making sure that you contribute to the harmonious flow of life around you. It is a core value that drives Japanese people: harmony that stretches from personal interactions to nature and energy. Your conscious energy—both verbal and non-verbal—contributes to the space you are in. No matter if it is at home, at work or at the park. 

Big in Japan 

By integrating Japanese wisdom into your day, you may just find that you bring happiness and harmony into your life. Remember that the art of mastery and patience is what leads to success. And if you stick to one practice, respect it and give it your full attention—you will see results in your everyday life. 

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