Summary: On my recent trip to Japan I came across many, beautiful and intriguing Japanese expressions that have no direct English translation and it actually should. I’ve listed my favorites in this blog post and I share the meanings too. All of these words help us to find quiet inner peace and balance in our lives.

Japanese words connecting mindfulness, health and nature

During my recent trip to Japan, I’ve become aware a few expressions that were hard to translate into English. The more my Japanese friend tried to explain what some of these words meant, the more intrigued I became. None of these were explained in one simple English word, but rather with a curious and beautiful, lengthy explanation. In the core of all is the inter-connectedness of nature, human beings, and the Universe. The Japanese culture is built on beliefs of the yin and yang, and that all aspects of balance must be preserved.

Here are a few of my favorite Japanese words:

1. Fuubutsushi

“The things – the feelings, scents or images – that evoke memories of the coming season.” This term is used to describe things like the smell of an Autumn rain, the fondness of running free through a Summer meadow or the freezing appendages brought on by snow.

2. Yugen

“A profound and mysterious sense of the beauty of the Universe, and the sad beauty of human suffering.” This is the feeling that we get when immersed in a forest or when climbing a mountain range. The feeling that you are so small and the Universe is so very large. The deep, emotional and yet often indescribable sense of connection with the Earth.

3. Ikigai

“A reason for being: the thing that gets you up in the morning.” The mixed sense of excited longing, satisfaction, and accomplishment that comes from having a daily goal or task. It can range from a person to a job and everything in between.

4. Wabi-Sabi

Finding Beauty within the imperfections of life and peacefully accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay.” The calm sense of peace that can wash over you, even when in the middle of chaos. The acceptance that, no matter what you personally contribute, the world will still turn without you. Having wabi-sabi in your life doesn’t require perfection, training, money, or any special knowledge. A quiet mind appreciates bare beauty and accepts its bareness without any decoration, just as they naturally are. Wabi-sabi encaptures the ability to slow down, and to shift your balance from doing to being.


5. Boketto

“The act of gazing vacantly into the distance.” Perhaps an approximate translation might be ‘gazing enigmatically’. This term describes the look on your face while you are daydreaming or allowing your mind to wander.

6. Ukiyo

“The floating world.” Ukiyo is the word used to describe the act of living in the present, a mindful word because it is a state best achieved through meditation. When you empty your thoughts of worries from the past and the future that is the state of Ukiyo.

7.  Komorebi

“The sunlight that filters through the Leaves of a tree.” This word expresses appreciation for nature and its beautiful elements such as the leaves dancing in the sunlight and the changing of the seasons embodied in Japanese culture.

8. Shinrinyoku

“Forest Therapy” or “Forest Bathing”, means the healing effects of simply being in a forest. This expression apparently became the cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

These Japanese words are just a few of the many that have no direct English translation. These words all connect to mindfulness, positive, calm thinking and life appreciation. It is good to slow down in our busy and always rushing world and be thankful for simple pleasures of the nature as well as our every day lives.