Wabi Sabi…what?

wabi sabi

Wabi Sabi took the interior design community by storm in 2020, and endures in 2021. But what is it and does it even relate to Feng Shui? Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept, roughly translated as seeing beauty in imperfection. When I lived there, I saw effortless examples of this in pottery, furniture, tea ceremony and flower arranging.

It’s a concept that really can’t be forced, and I think, in that way, it relates to Feng Shui. Wabi Sabi is not cluttered, or austere- it’s real and you can see the human touch. I think in Feng Shui, there is almost always imbalance and constant change and there really is no such thing as perfect Feng Shui or perfect chi. 

There’s a transience to Wabi Sabi as there is in a Feng Shui; it does not sit still. Both Wabi Sabi and Feng Shui are intrinsic to Japanese life. Japanese do not talk about things being Wabi Sabi, and don’t try to make things Wabi Sabi- it just is. It is the same for Feng Shui; it is practiced when choosing a home, remodeling, and location, but it is so woven into their lives, they don’t recognize either concept as things.

If you want the Wabi Sabi design aesthetic and you want that as an example of good Feng Shui, here you go…

Image Credit: VanSeo Design
Crab Plate from Japan


shoganai – It can’t be helped; unavoidable; accepting one’s fate; accepting a situation with stoicism and dignity; moving on with acceptance and without drama or a meltdown. 

Twenty-five years after leaving my 2 year stint in Sendai, Japan, my recollection of the language is limited to a few odd, unrelated phrases. 

One of my favorites is Shoganai-it doesn’t translate neatly into English, but this is part of what I love about it.

It indicates that “it can’t be helped” whatever the situation; delayed deliveries, lost packages, anything that a person would argue the contrary. At the same time, Shoganai indicates that there is to be no more discussion on whatever conversation, argument or tantrum preceded-that’s it, that’s life, it’s done. 

In Feng Shui, this philosophy is adopted for many life events. The balanced approach is to move forward from where you are with the knowledge you’ve acquired prior. Shoganai embodies the spirit in which Feng Shui is meant to function-in Harmony.