Seven Japanese concepts for the New Year


Follow your passion. Life is about living, not surviving. What’s that something special you that aligns your needs with wants? That ‘something’ that would make you jump out of bed in the morning, with a smile on your face. Passion is energy. Focus on the positive energy that fuels you. Change your thought process, change yourself, and maybe  improve the world at large.


Always seek to improve. Even small changes can add up, and deliver significant positive results. Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple learning, planning, doing and improving. It is a personal mandate to detach from the norm, and embrace the possible. ‘The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” -Albert Einstein


Find peace and beauty in imperfection. Like is not about appearance, or what others might think of you. It’s about embracing your true self. Our life is full of imperfection, impermanence, and wonderful simplicity. There is beauty in an old piece of furniture, like an old dining table, because it reminds us of wonderful people, food and times we enjoyed. There is beauty in arthritic fingers, that may not be straight, but created so much goodness over the years. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shōgun of Japan wisely stated; ‘Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair.’


An often repeated term of Zen Buddhist origin which means “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”. The term is generally translated as “perseverance”, “patience” or as in Fudo-dachi, rooted like a mountain, no matter what comes.

You might feel a bit tattered and tested, but what comes next, after the storm… Shan-gri-la, a place or well earned feeling of beauty and tranquillity. Bliss, 至福, Shifuku or beatitude, blessing, beatification. Maybe, just acceptance.

Shikata ga nai

Simply, it just cannot be helped, or changed. This concept known as ‘shikata ga nai’ in Japanese society is a reminder that we just need to let go. Accepting what you cannot change and doing your best to let it roll off your back. Easy to say, sometimes difficult to do. The sage Laizi 老子 who lived 2500 years ago was fond of sayings to his students; ‘the world belongs to those who let go’. Without a leap of faith, letting go of the secure edge or attachment, how can we get to other side.


On comparing oneself, that often results in jealousy.  The Japanese term “oubaitori” means to never compare oneself to others. Consisting of the kanji characters from four iconic trees, the cherry, plum, peach and apricot, the concept refers to the different ways each tree grows. In other words, it is the idea that like flowers, everyone blossoms in their own time and individual ways. So maybe soon it will be … your time.


The concept of not being wasteful

The Japanese term “mottainai” could best be translated as meaning being too good to waste and refers to the belief that everything deserves respect and gratitude and thus it is important to not be wasteful. The concept refers to respecting and recognizing the value of resources and thus not wasting them and the notions of reducing, reusing and recycling have been connected to the term by environmentalists. We hold on to worn gis with holes here and there. Still lots of use from this. Personally I am guilty of not opening packages, like Shureido purchased uniforms for years. I have gifted bo that are so nice, that cannot be used. Just look, and put it back.