What is kintsugi and how the philosophy can help with stress

The Japanese artform highlights the beauty in imperfections.

Matthaeus Choo

Published: 8 December 2021, 12:39 PM

Nowadays, it’s not really in our culture to repair broken items. 

Constant online sales have made replacing everything so much cheaper and more convenient. It has become a world where perfection not only comes easy but is also expected of everything — and, perhaps, also of everyone.  

Here in Singapore, we are inculcated with the idea that there should be no room for failure even as early as 10-years-old with Primary Four streaming. 

One misstep and lives could be practically over — or so parents would be told and repeat to their children. The stakes only grew higher once we left the education system. We grew up in an environment unkind to failure and wonder out loud why mental wellness is at an all-time low. 

Thus, there might be something that we could learn from the Japanese art of kintsugi, with how its philosophy could possibly offer some solace in our stress-filled lives.




With a history of over 400 years, kintsugi is the art of repairing shattered ceramics. Broken pieces are first rejoined together using lacquer before being painted over with gold. It’s a process that can take months to complete; waiting for the lacquer to dry and harden can already take weeks. 

You might be asking: Why would anyone spend so much time repairing something broken when a replacement could be ordered and shipped over in a quarter of the time? Well, it’s certainly an art form that is easy on the eyes. 

Kintsugi has enjoyed steady popularity throughout the years and has enchanted artists from all over the world. Yet, it isn’t all about aesthetics either; the symbolism and philosophy behind Kintsugi have been equally alluring.

It’s an art form that is almost the antithesis of perfection, where flaws and cracks are not only mended but highlighted as the defining characteristics of the repaired ceramic. Likewise, Kintsugi is a reminder that all of us are a sum of all the mistakes in our past. 

Whether it be with school or work, we can get extremely stressed out from the threat of failure; that we are only one wrong move away from the end of the world. Yet, it is perhaps with all the broken pieces that make us stand out and glow even brighter — as long as we put in the time to piece everything back together again and learn from them.

Kintsugi is part of the Japanese worldview of wabi-sabi, where beauty is found in the fleeting, imperfect and impermanent. 

Everything will have an end eventually; all things in life will change. If we are fixated with only one or a few ideas of what we imagine success to be, anxiety will come with every hint of change. No two pottery repaired through Kintsugi is the same, likewise to how there is no singular idea of how and where we can find our meaning of happiness. 

Kintsugi can be a form of therapy as well. 

Creative outlets such as Gold & Behold offer workshops featuring modern interpretations of kintsugi. For the adventurous, Etsy is also home to a few Kintsugi DIY kits to try your hand with the artform.

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