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Lessons in life from 20 years in Japan Ganbaru philosophy

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Lessons in life from 20 years in Japan Ganbaru philosophy

Three years ago, I moved from Japan back to Canada. After 20 years in Japan, relocating brought with it all the expected (and some unexpected) challenges. I needed to find and set up a studio, build a business, and create a line of wearable art. What helped me with this transition, and continues to impact my life today, is the Japanese philosophy of Ganbaru; which is a term unique and essential to everyday Japanese culture. You’ll hear it everyday, and in just about every possible aspect of life—at home, in school, at work, when playing sports, when pursuing passion projects. 

What is Ganbaru philosophy and how does it affect my craft?

Japanese temple Kokedera (“Moss Temple”), Kyoto

Ganbaru has various translations, I always took it to mean to “do your best”, “to persevere”, or “to go for it”. Essentially, it means to see things through, and to continue to overcome obstacles, even if success is not achieved. This idea of doing complete work affects every aspect of my life today. When I first started acclimating to Japanese life and culture, and learning the craft of metal smithing, it was my teacher Rie Sasaki who would often say “ganbatte kudasai”—which means “do/try your best”—when I was struggling with a particular project. 

Years later, little interjections of ganbatte still run silently in my mind. I like to create jewelry that I consider to be wearable art—each piece tells a story and is inspired by natural forms that are often asymmetrical; nothing is perfectly round or even. I find this to have a very appealing aesthetic effect, but makes the creation of these pieces all the more challenging. When soldering I need to find the centre point for the asymmetry of the earrings; a balance must exist to make these wearable art pieces natural and pleasing to the eye, a complexity that can frequently evoke ganbatte moments. Moments when I must persevere and just keep going. And it is these moments that nudge me along until I get it just right. 

Jewelry created in moments of ganbatte


an asymmetric brooch created with the Ganbaru philosophy

There are many memories from my time in Japan that I hold dear, but the memories of my teacher and learning of the Ganbaru philosophy are ones that touch every corner of my life. When creating jewelry in my studio, I strive to create pieces of art that can inspire and connect with their wearers, and it is the Ganbaru philosophy that helps me accomplish these goals. However, it is important to remember that it isn’t always appropriate to say “ganbatte”; when people are going through a tragedy or crisis, it is as if to say they are not doing enough. Ganbatte kudasai is best used for encouragement of daily work and life–like crafting jewelry! To view my current collection, browse my online store here. Or, come say “hi” at one of my next events, which are listed here. I look forward to sharing more of my stories and my musings with you here on my website in the future. 

Until then, all the best, 

Suzanne Squires of SuzuAn Jewelry