looking at life through a unique Japanese lens

forest therapy

When I left Japan for good, I knew something inside me had shifted and that I was not the same person anymore. 

When I first set my foot in Japan, I knew nothing about the country and its culture. To be honest, I was forever reluctant to visit it, let alone live there. But destiny had other plans, all I had to do was follow the path to discover the undiscovered, both inwards and outwards.

Wabi-Sabi | Beauty in simplicity, impermanence, imperfection

I was in Imbe, a small town popular for its unique pottery style Bizen-yaki. While I was admiring the unconventional beauty of the expensive ceramics, the owner of the shop, very politely, offered to help. He coined the phrase Wabi-Sabi (I didn’t understand much) while showing me a pack of 4 ceramic glasses. None of them was the same, they had charred spots and lacked shine. I found them unpretentious and basic but bought them anyway. My family mocked me. Many years later I read a book on Wabi-Sabi and the Imbe memories flashed back accompanied by a sweet smile and a deep satisfactory sigh.

Bizen yaki pottery
Raw and earthy, unique they are

Rustic over urban, earthy over polished and pensive lustre over shallow brilliance, Wabi Sabi is the feeling of contentment attained by recognising and appreciating simplicity and imperfection in a place, an object or a moment. Below is the picture of a small floating temple, Ukimido on Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. In its simplicity, the patina of ageing wood and transforming waters of Biwa Lake, I lived a Wabi-Sabi moment.

Serene and humble Ukimido

Kintsugi | The art of repairing broken ceramics with golden lacquer

I was browsing gorgeous ceramics in an exhibition in Umeda when my eyes caught a mended yet bizarrely beautiful looking bowl. “Why would someone mend a broken piece of ceramic and display it?” I said to my friend with a sloppy shrug. Exactly after 20 minutes, I had a lightning bolt moment; my pupils dilated and my lips formed a big O.

In those 20 minutes…………
My friend said “There is a bowl sitting in your kitchen right now, completely ignored, a bowl that has served you well for some time now. Suddenly it breaks. Now there are two options, whether to discard it or embrace it. Kintsugi teaches the latter. Bringing the pieces together, highlighting and filling the cracks with gold lacquer will not only give the bowl an aesthetic beauty but will also celebrate its rebirth with flaws. 
“How powerful”, I said.

She continued “Our lives are like the broken bowl. It is not perfect, its not always the way we imagined it to be. But, acceptance of change, finding beauty in imperfection and celebrating the flaws is Kintsugi.
“How divine”, I said.

Gifted by a dear friend’s mom, this waits a trip back to Japan

I was in my prime 30s’ when I had two major surgeries and a cancer diagnosis. The scars from them and the loss of hair could have shattered me but who knew the knowledge of Kintsugi I rendezvoused years ago will play an important role in this phase of my life. These scars are my storytellers, they boast about my voyage and the sailor I have become. 

Shinrin Yoku | Forest bathing

I was a disconnected soul, never a party to the enthusiasm my friends had for weekend hiking to mountains or forests. They said spending time in forests relaxed their mind. Well! my first hike was difficult, mucky and full of swear words.

Minoo Japan
My face says it all..

I connected with nature during my cancer treatment. The chemotherapy punctured not only my body but my soul too. I found refuge in my husband’s arms, my mother’s love and TREES of Hampstead Heath (gorgeous wilderness amidst the concrete London). Since I was asked to avoid crowd due to my compromised immunity, Heath became my go-to place. I started spending time admiring, sniffing, sitting or just lying under the trees. Every time a leaf fell from the tree, I smiled. Every time the branches swayed on a breezy day, my heart danced. I surrendered myself to the supreme healing power and will be forever grateful.

I was thrilled the day I found out about Shinrin Yoku ( Ah, finally I knew there was a term for forest refuge). I also came across the term “Komorebi” which means the scattered sunlight that filters through the trees. Doesn’t it sound poetic? Komorebi reminds me no matter how dense the obstruction is, the light will find its way through it.

Completely unaware back then, who knew me living in Japan and learning these life lessons will later fill colour in the picture which was yet to be painted. I still make mistakes, forget things, panic at times but have learnt to gradually accept the way the things are. All I CAN do is keep weaving my Ichigo Ichie moments to the best I can because they will make me smile when I’ll look back. This is what I have become. 

Isn’t life all about becoming rather than being?

5 thoughts on “looking at life through a unique Japanese lens

  1. Preetie,You are truly an inspiration to all of us n many more.how beautifully described! Loved it!!!! I can feel the emotions behind each n every word.We are proud of you brave girl😙lots of love🥰

  2. I definitely loved the way you explain how simple things can bring happiness to life . Reading this blog made me emotional as I was completely unaware about your health conditions but also happy at the same time that you emerged as a fighter and is completely fine now.Stay blessed ❤️

    1. Hello Parul,
      Everyone faces challenges in life. Mine were not unique. We all need to find ways to hang in there and have faith. Japan unknowingly gave me those strings to hold on to. I wish to pass these strings to the world 🙂

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