Wabi-Sabi and Understanding Japan
Originally, wabi’s main feeling was of loneliness. The Japanese have a
knack for thinking up words that describe specific feelings, and this
is one of them. What distinguishes wabi from standard loneliness is this
feeling comes from living in nature, far away from society. Imagine a
sad, solitary hermit, and you’re on the right track. A hermit’s life even used to be called wabizumai.
Sabi, on the other hand, is a bit simpler, It has been described as “chill,” “lean,” or “withered.” It shares a pronunciation with (to rust), and this connection with degradation is not coincidental.
The WaniKani elite (Level 56, to be precise) will recognize the kanji
from sabishii (lonely).
In the 14th Century, these connotations began to
change. The hermit was no longer a sad outcast, but a wise man freed
from the trappings of an increasingly decorated and artificial Japanese
society. The words drifted closer together until they became
interchangeable or, more commonly, combined. Wabi-sabi began to imply
rustic simplicity in a positive light, or the grace that comes with age