How to adapt the Japanese way of living to Philippine homes

Japanese culture has been a source of inspiration globally for its unique mix of culture and modernity. Aside from our love of Japanese destinations, films, food, and pop culture, many Pinoys aspire to bring the Japanese design aesthetic into their homes.

In recent years, more homeowners have embraced the principle of minimalism, a key part of traditional Japanese design. Using natural materials and incorporating plants, typically seen in Japanese design, has also become common in many households.

Want to bring the Japanese lifestyle into your homes? Here are some Japanese design principles to serve as a guide.

Eliminate the clutter

Enter any Japanese home and you’re sure to notice how everything is clean, simple and in neutral tones. Ryokans, traditional Japanese inns, are decorated with tatami-matted rooms, low chairs, futon beds, sliding doors and dividers. This embraces the “less is more” approach and the principle of Kanso, which refers to simplicity or the elimination of clutter within a personal space. 

Remove unnecessary objects in your personal space and focus on creating a simplified environment. Let go of everything that doesn’t serve a practical or emotional purpose and focus on functionality.

Maybe it’s about time to get rid of all the broken appliances, clothes that don’t fit, unwanted gifts, and other unused items stashed away that serve no purpose. At any rate, clutter should be organized in storage boxes and kept out of sight.

Providing a separate space to keep clutter in check could also help. Consider creating a genkan, a small recess adjacent to a home’s entrance, to store shoes neatly and open up your main living space.

Be in harmony with nature

Japanese design is known for letting the outdoors in, with airy windows that let in the fresh air, and lush garden views. The principle of Shizen refers to being natural and encouraging natural creativity through intentionally created spaces.

Bring nature-inspired elements to your home by adding plants and greenery through indoor gardens with succulents or herbs. Keep white-painted walls blank and use objects to reflect the natural sunlight. Pick furniture and decor made of natural raw materials like wood, sand, stones, straw, and paper to foster a tranquil atmosphere.

Find beauty in imperfections

Wabi-sabi refers to finding beauty in imperfection. It encourages people to embrace authentic design and find value in what is weathered and imperfect. For instance, vintage items such as old wooden chests used as coffee tables or weathered baskets to keep umbrellas out of the way can add a bit of character to one’s home. It’s possible to upcycle or repurpose old items or restore handed down or previously owned objects to serve a different purpose and embrace their unique history.

Embrace open spaces

Japanese homes always feel airy and spacious regardless of size, which goes back to the principle of Seijaku, a sense of tranquility or an energized calm (quiet), stillness and solitude. 

Aside from decluttering, you can create more open space by swapping bigger furniture items for smaller and more open pieces. Invest in multifunctional furniture that can be folded or stowed away when not in use to increase your living space and provide that sense of calm. Instead of decorating every single wall, you can leave some blank and choose just a few meaningful pieces as a focal point.

Opt for understated pieces

Shibui/Shibumi is a design principle that refers to being beautiful by being understated. Items that are direct and simple, without being flashy can appear elegant. This is sometimes used to describe something “cool and beautifully minimalist,” including technology and modern consumer products. 

Many modern Japanese companies sell home products that don’t bear flashy logos or brand names. Modern appliances typically sport sleek designs that blend seamlessly in one’s home. Take inspiration from Japanese appliances by replacing old electric fans with air coolers and bulky vacuum cleaners with small, robotic ones.

Redesigning your home with Japanese principles in mind can bring a sense of tranquility and simplicity to your living space. By selecting furniture with clean lines, sticking to a neutral palate, using natural materials, and avoiding overdecoration, you can foster a serene atmosphere and use your living space more efficiently.