10 Beautiful and Meaningful Japanese Expressions to Live By

If you are hoping to travel to Japan, or you just want to appreciate Japanese culture, then we have gathered 10 beautiful and meaningful Japanese expressions for you to learn, and live by.

These phrases all have beautiful meanings behind them, but also really roll off the tongue, and are easy to learn. With such wonderful and deep meanings behind them, these are some words that you will want to learn about, and to express. 

For instance, some of the phrases relate to how we enjoy fleeting beauty, the relaxing feeling of the clouds above us, or the rays of sunshine filtering through the trees. These phrases can help us describe the natural beauty of the world, along with some words to live by.

These expressions are actual words and phrases used in the Japanese language, and are deeply rooted within Japanese culture, so remember to use them in the correct manner and respectively.

10 Beautiful and Meaningful Japanese Expressions

  1. Ikigai (生きがい)
  2. Natsukashi (懐かしい)
  3. Wabi-Sabi (侘寂)
  4. Shouganai (しょうがない)
  5. Shinrinyoku (森林浴)
  6. Kanbina (甘美な)
  7. Kogarashi (木枯らし)
  8. Unkai (雲海)
  9. Komorebi (木漏れ日)
  10. Kintsugi (金継ぎ)

Ikigai (生きがい)

Our first word to learn is ikigai. The basic meaning of this is that it is your reason for being or living. Ikigai is the reason you get up every morning, and why you do everything that you do.

Within Japanese culture, your ikigai describes your reasons for being, and you will have to find your ikigai. To find your ikigai, you will need to find the things that you are passionate about, or the things that help you express yourself, and your ikigai can help you do this.

With your ikigai, you will need to find that perfect balance between the spiritual and the practical.

Natsukashi (懐かしい)

The term Natsukashi is a Japanese phrase for the feeling of nostalgia. However, in the Western world, and in the English language, the word nostalgia refers to feelings of longing for the past, or waves of sadness when thinking about the way things used to be.

The difference between Natsukashi and nostalgia is that when you think about the past, you are reflecting with only positive feelings and happy thoughts. Therefore, Natsukashi refers to the feeling of reliving old times, and old memories, without yearning or pining for what used to be.

Wabi-Sabi (侘寂)

Another favorite phrase on this list is wabi-sabi, which is a wonderful Japanese phrase. This is used to describe something that is beautiful but imperfect. This originates with Buddhist teachings, and as a reminder that life is not perfect, but it is fleeting and you should appreciate what is beautiful about it.

For example, you may see a vase that is slightly cracked, or discolored, yet it is filled with beautiful flowers and is still attractive and stunning to behold.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that is deeply rooted in the culture, and how Japanese people view aesthetics and beauty. In Japan, there is still a lot of value found in imperfections, and objects are viewed as a whole, as beautiful despite their blemishes or imperfections.

Shouganai (しょうがない)

This phrase is a way to express that sometimes, things happen that are out of our control. Instead of being upset about how a certain situation has panned out, Shouganai means to accept it for what it is.

The term Shouganai is basically a way to understand that there is a bigger picture, and you should accept that some things will not go the way you wanted to, and move on. It is a way of showing great resilience to your problems, and facing them head on.

Shinrinyoku (森林浴)

This phrase is another fantastic one to live by. The literal meaning behind Shinrinyoku is forest bath, which is a Japanese act of self care to take a long walk through a forest. This can give you time to reflect and clear your mind, as a sort of therapeutic experience.

The notion of Shinrinyoku is meant to have very relaxing and restorative power, and almost feeds the soul. This can help you to gather your thoughts, relieve some of your stress, or just give you some peace. If you plan a visit to Japan, then you will want to make sure you visit one of the many forests there to experience Shinrinyoku.

Kanbina (甘美な)

Kanbina is a way to describe a word that is pleasurable and enjoyable to hear, much like many of the phrases on this list! The term kanbina is perfect for describing a word that seems to roll off the tongue, or just sounds enjoyable when someone speaks it.

In addition, this Japanese phrase can be used to compliment another person, or can be utilized in poetic and emotive sentences to describe feelings or romantic notions.

Kogarashi (木枯らし)

Kogarashi is a word to describe the feeling of the first wind during the last few days of autumn. This wind signifies that winter is coming, and the term Kogarashi is used to talk about that wind. The actual translation for Kogarashi is for a leaf to shake, or wilting wind, which is why it is used as a signifier of upcoming colder, wintry months.

If you are more of a summer and fair weather person, then the beauty of the meaning behind the word Kogarashi will not be appreciated by you. However, that feeling of the first kiss of coldness, wind or wintery weather, can wash over you, and remind you of the changes yet to come.

Unkai (雲海)

Unkai is another Japanese word that describes the beauty of nature. This word is used to describe the beautiful images of a sea of clouds ahead of you.

However, Unkai refers to the view when you hike up a long mountain, and look out to all of those fluffy, light clouds as far as the eye can see!

Many people in Japan love to hike up the mountains to see this glorious picture at the peak, and many of the mountains in Japan are high enough that once you reach the top, Unkai is what you will see.

Komorebi (木漏れ日)

Komorebi is another phrase to refer to the beauty behind nature. This term refers to that feeling of sunlight filtering through the trees and onto the face.

There are few things as wonderful as the sun pushing through the leaves above you, and shining down onto everything below.

In other languages, there are not any specific words to describe the phenomenon, but in Japan, there are so many forests where this can happen.

Also, Japanese people have a deep respect and connection with nature and their country, and so this appreciation for the beauty in nature is shown through Komorebi.

Kintsugi (金継ぎ)

This is one of the more popular phrases that has made its way into Western culture as well as being a great part of Japanese culture.

The term Kintsugi refers to the practice of mending broken pottery to make the object completely whole again. Sometimes, people will use gold or silver to mend the object, making it beautiful again despite its imperfections.

This practice is also an example of wabi-sabi that we mentioned earlier, where you find the beauty in broken things. Within Japanese culture, it is more prominent to mend broken items instead of just disposing of them straight away.

By fixing the item, and putting it back together, it becomes more valuable and beautiful than it once was, and now has a unique history of how it came to be.

Kintsugi has now become a trend across the world, where people find happiness in fixing, mending and repairing items to give them a unique look.

Summary

There are many words and phrases in the Japanese language, that are so unique that they cannot be found anywhere else.

For instance, in the Western world, and in the English language, there is no word for instances where you eat yourself into bankruptcy (kuidaore) or if you buy books and leave them pile up unread (tsundoku), but there are words for this in Japanese.

With such a unique and inspiring culture, and many phrases to learn and live by, it comes as no surprise that the Japanese culture is one of the most popular to learn about, appreciate, and a country that many people want to visit.

If you have a trip booked to this incredible country, then you will want to remember some of our favorite Japanese phrases, but if you just want to appreciate and admire the culture, then why not learn some of them?

You can also incorporate many of these words into your everyday life, and learn to appreciate nature, the beauty of imperfection, and how life is fleeting, and we should accept it for what it is!