You may have heard about the famous Japanese art form of Kintsugi, but what exactly is it? Kintsugi is derived from the Japanese words kin (金, gold) and tsugi (継, join), meaning joining with gold. Kintsugi is also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い), which means “mending with gold.” You’d be surprised to know how applicable this ancient Japanese art form is to the modern world.
Kintsugi: Beyond Aesthetics
The purpose of this advanced repairing technique is not just repairing broken items with some fancy gold finery. In reality, the items in question are first glued back together using a substance called lacquer, after which gold dust is powdered on top of it to give it a magnificent finish.
Upholding the spirit of wabi-sabi, Kintsugi’s primary purpose is to highlight that broken things can be repaired, and on top of that, the aftermath of the mending makes the object more valuable, thereby making the end product more hauntingly beautiful than the initial one, with all its scars and supposed flaws accentuated and enhanced.
Kintsugi highlights some of the core tenets of human existence – healing, resilience, and acceptance. We tend to associate broken things with weakness, irreversibility, or hopelessness. Yet, this art form teaches us that the cracks that we have suffered are a part of our history and should not be disguised. With proper care, effort and hard work, we can paradoxically make a broken thing far more beautiful than it used to be in its original unbroken form.
How it Can Help You Tackle Post-Pandemic Life in Japan
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that life can turn upside down in the blink of an eye, forcing us to uproot our reality as we know it, and destroying our understanding of the current world. Many of us have lost loved ones, taken significant hits in our businesses, jobs or educations, suffered declining mental health and faced a host of other debilitating effects due to the pandemic.
Thousands of people have not been able to enter Japan due to lengthy border closures over the last two years. Whether you have been forced to do online classes for the last two years, have been separated from your spouse due to visa restrictions, or even had to cancel the travel plans you’ve been looking forward to for ages; the anxiety and hopelessness have most likely fuelled many rounds of despair, anger and frustration towards the world.
Even though things are looking more hopeful now as the Japanese borders have reopened, many of us still feel broken, torn down and still carry the weight of the last two years on our backs. The process of having your plans repeatedly thrown away due to circumstances that were out of your control can do that to a person, and it can be both physically and mentally draining, to say the least.
But what can we do about it? Kintsugi shows us that broken things aren’t ugly or incomplete. Our power to heal ourselves, bounce back from dreadful times and recover with grace is unparalleled. History teaches us that humans have always found a way to see the silver lining in the most unlikely situations. Whether it’s creating gardens out of destructive old mine shells that were made to wreak havoc or even artists channelling their grief and frustrations into their art so the rest of the world finds some comfort in it – we have always managed to find beauty in the most unexpected places.
Coming to Japan will be much different now than it would have been two years ago before the virus fundamentally changed the way society functioned. We are collectively more wary, weary and exhausted of and from life. Instead of wishing for our lost time to be returned to us, or for normalcy to settle back into our lives, it is more important for us to realize that the paradigms have permanently shifted, and it is our job to fill in the cracks created in the new world with the gold we all possess.
Applying Kintsugi to Every Situation
The pandemic is far from over, but it is high time that we learn to accept that we must continue to live alongside this virus, instead of away from it. The numerous delays and detours in the past two years have been tiring, but perhaps there is some good to be found in every delay.
Humans are highly adaptable to change – and when we realign our perspectives and reframe the way we see hardships, we can mobilize ourselves to think beyond the anxieties that constantly plague us. Kintsugi teaches us that we need to acknowledge our flaws instead of pretending they do not exist, and that healing and resilience can fundamentally change us for the better.
During such a time, instead of falling into despair, we can only be hopeful for the future and hope that in the end, that is enough. Many of the hardships we have endured cannot be hidden; often they become a part of us, and like Kintsugi, the brokenness becomes part of our permanent history, and the cracks that we repair can leave us more experienced, valuable and resilient in the end.
Written by: Afia Ibnat from Bangladesh
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