Wabi sabi – Beth Kempton



Wabi sabi is a powerful Japanese concept that guides us to the deeper meaning of life, whilst simplifying and appreciating what is readily available to us.

Beth Kempton, Japanologist and award winning entrepreneur, links this concept with the answer to life’s biggest questions. Discussions with numerous Japanese people; including a Zen monk, architectural historian, ikebana teacher, kimono designer, a descendant from a famous samurai warrior, all emphasise the way in which wabi sabi is felt, rather than physically viewed. These conversations provide raw and true teachings from Japanese society. Deep exploration of Japanese culture, use of proverbs, personal experiences, Japanese language, historical research and daily lessons further reveal the tools for contentment in a ‘perfectly imperfect life’.

My review

I laughed, I cried, I felt my heart soften. This book truly spoke to me.

Beth Kempton delves into the Japanese way of thinking in a manner that translates to the western world, through the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. I found the book beautifully written, humble and thought provoking. It is not merely a motivational book; it provides insight into the Japanese culture from the perspective of a woman who has lived and breathed the Japanese way of life. Cultural elements are gently touched upon via personal experiences of the author, linking each moment with the idea of living a ‘perfectly imperfect life’. This wisdom is refreshing, as is the comment that ‘we are all works in progress.’ I let out a sigh of relief as I read these words.

The summaries and questions at the end of each chapter offer meditations and statements to focus on. I loved that there were ideas to get back to nature and a wide range of topics to inspire everyday living; simplifying and beautifying the home, cherishing relationships, taking notice of the seasons and encouraging the creative mind.  Reading this book for a second time, I began to diarise, meditate and in course, include these teachings in my everyday life. The book can be helpful read cover to cover or by turning to a random page and learning something new.

Have I learnt something? Yes. Am I inspired? Yes. This book encouraged me to come home to myself… relaxing into what is and what will be. As a Japanese teacher, I adored the exploration of Japanese language and culture. I hope to read more of Beth Kempton’s time in Japan. I would recommend this book for people from all walks of life. I think that there is a life lesson in here for all of us. Thank you Beth Kempton for your wisdom and transporting me to Japan in an instant. This is truly one of my favourite books and if you have the opportunity to read Wabi sabi, treasure the moment, sit with a cup of tea and embrace the teachings.


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