Searching for Wabi-Sabi in Japan

Tina of the Lens-Artists Challenge introduced me to a completely new word/concept this week:

Wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection.

When I thought back to the times I had spent in Japan I have to say that my overall impression was that the country was anything but wabi-sabi.

There were many temple gardens in Kyoto and we visited a lot of them. All were obsessively controlled; not a speck of foreign material allowed to sully the perfect velvet of the moss, nor a misplaced pine needle allowed to exist.

But then I remembered the Kyoto Botanical Garden. After all the perfection of the temples this had to be one of the messiest botanical gardens I have ever been to.

The trees were not overly interesting and the ground patchy, fall of bare spots and masses of weeds. Yet an artist sat there painting the scene. There hadn’t been a single artist in any of the perfect gardens.An artist painting trees in a park in Osaka, JapanThe lotus pond was a tangle of brown and decaying leaves, and again, someone was painting it.Painting messy lotus pads in the Kyoto Botanical Garden in JapanLooking through our photo album I see that in most of our photos we were searching for the perfect. Only one actually captured the beauty of imperfection.  Lotus reflection in a pond in the Kyoto Botanical Garden run through the photo app PixlromaticI even tried to capture it in my journal. Well, talk about imperfection. lotus drawing in my Japanese journalSo with this is mind I went out searching for imperfection and wabi-sabi. We don’t have any Lotus plants growing in Vancouver – it’s too cold. But near the duck pond was the visual equivalent of dying lotus pond – some sort of large-leafed plant curling in and around itself. I immediately wanted to draw it.large-leafed plant curling in and around itselfAnd then I knew why no one was bothering to paint the perfect gardens of the temples – the gardens themselves were the artwork. Why duplicate someone else’s vision when with these very imperfect plants you could create your own. Big leaves curling up for the winter on Granville Island in Vancouver's NovemberBig leaves curling up for the winter on Granville Island in Vancouver's NovemberThe pencil drawing….large-leafed plant curling in and around itselfMore of the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick Your Own.

13 responses to “Searching for Wabi-Sabi in Japan

  1. Elizabeth, I loved your story this week, it’s a wonderful perspective on the art and discovery of Wabi-Sabi. Loved the subject you chose, its photo, and the drawing as well. Terrific response.

  2. Pingback: Lotus of Ueno Park, Tokyo – Ruth Rosenfeld·

  3. Pingback: 2020 Photos in Review | Albatz Travel Adventures·

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