What's new

Wabi Sabi - Sakura


Mar 20, 2018
Hey everyone,
I have a question about wabi sabi and symbolism. I hope this is the correct place for my question. I want to get a tattoo done with this wabi sabi idea in it. If I got the idea right, wabi sabi stands amongst other things for the beauty and acceptance of imperfections. I've read that the sakura or cherry blossom kind of symbolizes this phenomenon. I don't know much about this and am hoping someone could verify this and maybe explain more about it. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Thanks for the help!


Staff member
Feb 22, 2008
2 1,537
As listed in the wiki page I linked in my previous post, rock garden at Ryōan-ji, Ginkaku-ji or Shino ware, for instance.


Oct 24, 2017
There are a handful (if even that) decent books on the subject that will give you the information you seek ...
Feb 15, 2018
Hello Lizet,

There is a big problem with "wabi sabi", as it appears to be a simple concept. I am humble enough to recognise that I only have a very basic understanding of wabi sabi despite study over several years, but I am sure that it is not something that can be created! Wabi sabi is the result of cirumstance and not that of planned action. It is a fascinating subject as it is one of those in-built aspects of Japanese culture that has no simple equivalent in the West, and its true meaning gets lost in translation. I'll try to explain.

Wabi sabi is about the patterns formed in paint that cracks because the wood beneath it has expanded and contracted over the years - not crackle varnish applied to make it look that way; a cup that has an imperfection caused by a firing accident and not something deliberately mishapen or glazed incorrectly... So, would a wabi sabi tattoo be one that has an unintended mistake in it, or colour that isn't even? I'm not sure you'd want that! I'm not one for tattoos, but I'd avoid trying to be "wabi sabi"; real plum or cherry blossom is wabi sabi, but I'm not sure a tattoo of it ever could be. Toritoribe is spot on with mono no aware (explained in one of the books I have recommended above, I'm sure, plus on the internet of course!), but a tattoo is permanent and mono no aware refers to impermanence; therein lies a contradiction!

Be very careful of books that claim to guide the reader towards integrating wabi sabi into their lives (I naively bought a few at the start of my research). Books I'd recommend include The Book Of Tea (Kakuzo Okakura), In Praise Of Shoadows (Junichirō Tanizaki) and A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics (Donald Richie); almost everything with Wabi Sabi in the title is a "lifestyle" book that more often than not (I believe) communicates a shallow and superficial understanding of wabi sabi and the idea that it is a decorative style to create or, worse, buy ready made. I have also found a large number of essays online that have really helped.

As for sakura, how about using the ukiyo-e woodblock prints of Hiroshige or Hokusai etc. for inspiration? Enjoy the beauty of the flowers in the tattoo, but also plant a tree in your garden to enjoy the real thing!