I’ve spent ten years, ten years in a bitter chemical haze.

That’s the chorus of Fall Out Boy’s “The Kintsugi Kid”.
I’ve had the topic of Kintsugi in my back pocket for a while now and I’ve even written up a draft or two over the past few months only to ultimately decide there wasn’t much substance there. Listening to their song with a similar topic has given me some inspiration about how to present this interesting artform. So let me tell you what Kintsugi is, where it came from, and most importantly what it represents.

Kintsugi ((金継ぎ) or golden joinery, is a Japanese artform in which broken pottery gets repaired by mending the cracks and chips with lacquer that is mixed with golden dust. This results in pots that have golden cracks and chips on them where they were once broken. It’s theorized that the tradition started in the 15th century when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs. The tradition is also commonly found in other Asian countries like China. 

The philosophy behind this tradition is that broken objects are marks of their use. Japanese society values broken and damaged things a lot more than we do. Highlighting the flaws in something and its functioning despite its flaws is a big thing in the culture which is why they sometimes even use the art of Kintsugi to justify not throwing things away. I have a similar mindset when it comes to books, funnily enough. I’ll gladly admit I like having nice and shiny new things, like a new computer or a clean desk without dents or scratches. But when it comes to my collection of books I actually quite like the fact that you can clearly see they’ve been read. You can never trust someone whose books look pristine, they probably can’t read.

Now, with the Kintsugi Kid as a song we have a nice accompaniment to the deeper sentiment behind this art. You see, when you talk about mending broken things and making them better by acknowledging the things that make them unique without seeing it as a flaw, we can dive straight into positive mental health. If you accept your flaws as your personal cracks and then learn to deal with those flaws as your golden lacquer, then suddenly you’re a distinguished person who’s gone through tough times in life and has come out different but stronger on the other end. You’re not permanently damaged, but you’ve been enhanced by the things you’ve learned and the people you’ve interacted with. In a strange way it’s a similar sentiment to “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That’s what the song is about as well, so it fits nicely.

As someone who grew up with a very western, hyper individualistic, consumer focused upbringing it’s really nice to learn about the philosophies of a culture that is so far removed from my own. When a place is chipped I get the urge to replace the entire set, and I probably would if I had the money. But a chipped plate is far from useless and fits just as much food as a completely new plate. Maybe just don’t touch the chipped part so you don’t accidentally hurt yourself. There’s no need to always have the newest, shiniest things, because just like people, objects can be flawed and still function. And who knows, maybe if you hold your things dear enough, a spirit will take it as their home. But that’s a topic for another day. If you enjoyed this little dive into the art of Kintsugi, please leave a like as it would make my day. As always, thanks for reading!

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