5 Tenets of Japanese Culture That Have Influenced Modern Holistic Beauty

While J-Beauty ideals might seem new and trendy, Japan's relationship with self-care is as old and strong as the culture itself. Here are 5 ways that influence has touched modern holistic beauty.
Japanese culture

About Japan's Beauty Influences on Holistic Wellness

In 1639, Japan enacted a policy of sakoku, or “closed country”, which strictly limited trade and relations with the rest of the world. It remained isolated for 215 years, during which time Japanese art and pottery became rare, highly sought-after luxuries in the west. In the 19th century, when sakoku ended and trade resumed, interest for all things Japanese intensified—so much so that the French coined the term Japonisme to describe the influx of Japanese culture and its influence on western arts.

Today, Japanese culture is experiencing a new wave of western popularity in the form of its ideals regarding beauty and wellness. Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, making its culture a focus of health-conscious people everywhere. But much of what gets picked up in the media are fragments which barely scratch the surface of Japan’s centuries-old wisdom and practices; in fact, much of it has little to do with what holistic beauty truly represents at all. The truth is that Japan’s relationship with holistic wellness has roots that run deep.

This relationship is connected to the concept of ikigai, or finding one's purpose in life. In Japan, it's understood that ikigai doesn't come consciously; it's slowly revealed over time, in meaningful moments of self-reflection that shape a person into their full potential. While the pathway to ikigai varies from person to person, it’s essentially influenced by five tenets, which touch Japanese culture in all its forms and provide a roadmap for personal evolution. These same tenets apply to transformational self-care and serve as the foundational principles that have shaped our perspective of holistic beauty today:

Tenet 1: Look to Nature

In Japan, nature provides everything you need for physical and spiritual wellness. In terms of J-beauty, we often think of this as a focus on ingredients. Premier J-Beauty brands, like warew, for example,  know that quality ingredients are essential for effective, nourishing self-care—that’s why selecting the best natural ingredients is such a priority. However, while nature does provide remedies that can soothe, heal, or nourish your body, the very act of being in nature is also good for you. Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, involves immersing oneself in nature and experiencing it with all the senses.

This communion requires a slow pace that calms the mind, and inspires feelings of renewal and clarity in body and spirit. Onsen culture also promotes this idea of total body healing. Not only do natural hot-springs have therapeutic waters rich in beneficial minerals, they are also centerpieces of natural beauty whose peaceful settings create an immersive, serene environment for relaxation and reflection—treating the mental and physical all at once, which is the ultimate in self-care. 

These 5 tenets apply to transformational self-care and serve as the foundational principles that have shaped our perspective of holistic beauty today.

Tenet 2: Embrace Imperfection

Japanese culture is all about finding the charm and grace in imperfection. Wabi-sabi and kintsugi are two concepts that embody this. Wabi-sabi is the philosophy that everything around us is always changing, impermanent, and imperfect—and that’s what is beautiful. Kintsugi is the artform of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver embellishments, which enhances the flaws of a piece to celebrate its history and truthful beauty.

Both wabi-sabi and kintsugi are echoed in holistic beauty today, where enhancing one’s natural beauty (rather than covering or “fixing” flaws) is what leads to an overall mindset of wellness. Once you let go of the distraction of striving for perfection (something that’s unattainable) you can focus on doing the things that give you the greatest sense of satisfaction. This mentality empowers you to pay attention to what your body, mind, and spirit truly need, so you can devote your energy to providing those specific things. 

Tenet 3: Eat Well, Live Well 

Ishoku-dogen is the concept that food and health are interconnected. Being mindful of when, what, and how we eat—and the overall effects—is a fundamental part of holistic self-care. Green tea, for example, has been prized in Japan for centuries as an essential daily habit for good health and longevity. It contains polyphenols that are packed with antioxidants, as well as theanine and caffeine which can provide a calming effect. Green tea and its many health benefits are so important to Japanese culture that an entire ritual was created to celebrate it.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony exemplifies how treasured ingredients are honored in Japan. Both formal and informal ceremonies are centered around creating a structured moment for participants to properly appreciate what nourishes their bodies. This concept underscores the fact that everything we consume has an impact, and our awareness of it leads to a better understanding of how to best maintain our health from the inside out. 


Tenet 4: Keep It Simple

In 2014, Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was published in the U.S. and received near-instant acclaim for its insights about how simplifying one’s life could impact happiness. This concept, while seemingly revolutionary in the west, is fundamental in Japanese culture and traces back to principles in ancient Buddhism. Japanese culture tells us that beauty lies in simplicity and finding what’s truly important in everyday things and moments.

For J-Beauty, it means you don’t need rigid systems with dozens of steps and products to achieve self-care zen. Instead, holistic self-care can be achieved by doing simple things thoroughly and very well, so that they can become sustainable, nourishing moments in your daily routine. 

Tenet 5: Cultivate Respect 

Etiquette and ritual aren't just quaint concepts for Japanese people, they're a way of life. The term teinei refers to showing respect by being as mindful as possible. This applies to respect for others, places, situations, traditions, craftsmanship, artistry—anything that requires you to be aware of the details of your surroundings to ensure that you behave appropriately, with the utmost purpose and consideration of everything you do.

Respect paid to self-care is no different; it’s about respecting yourself enough to focus on your own wellness, and realizing that all your actions are connected and have impact. Developing this reverence for actions and moments ultimately leads to a greater respect for your body, mind, and spirit—and provides the foundation for a mindset of respect in all other aspects of your life. That is the real key to holistic beauty. 

These five cultural tenets create moments and pathways for the clarity and self-reflection that fuels holistic wellness. It's this comprehensive, conscientious care of your total self that ultimately helps you realize your purpose so you can pay it forward in everything you do. That's the power and potential of holistic beauty—an open secret which Japanese people have known for centuries. 

And now we’re pleased to share that you know it, too.

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