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Exploring the Japanese Concept of Yugen | Mysterious Beauty

One of the things that has always drawn me to Japanese aesthetics is their appreciation of beauty. Japan has shown me that it’s ok to create spaces in your life, like in your home and garden, or your artistic endeavors, places where you can allow yourself to appreciate beauty.

All of these photos were taken near our home in Fukui, Japan. The countryside here is filled with what I would consider Yugen Landscapes.

The world tells you to always be hustling, always be productive and efficient, but Japanese aesthetics allow you to slow down and take time to appreciate what’s in front of you, it gives you the breathing room to bring this space, or philosophy, into your everyday life.

Although Yugen is interconnected to some of the other concepts like wabi sabi and shizen, it does have its own meaning, even though the meaning can depend on context, and words don’t always convey the true meaning of it.

In its traditional philosophical definition, yūgen meant "dim", "deep" or "mysterious." In Japanese poetry it was used as a way to describe something that was subtly profound from things that were vaguely suggested.

It isn’t something otherworldly though. Yugen uses suggestion and imagination to take you beyond what can be described with words.

Zeami, the creator of the dramatic Noh theater, often used nature as metaphors for Yugen:

“To watch the sun sink behind a flower clad hill. To wander on in a huge forest without thought of return. To stand upon the shore and gaze after a boat that disappears behind distant islands. To contemplate the flight of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds…” ~Zeami Motokiyo

Yugen is experiencing the world we live in, in the moment, with the aid of a cultivated imagination.

I want to encourage you to create that space where you can take time to appreciate beauty. Think about how you can add yugen and its ‘hidden beauty’ to whatever you are creating, whether it be a garden or landscaping, a painting, your photography, music...

Where do you find beauty in the indistinct?

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