When the term “zakka” first came into usage following WWII, it described simple household objects such as brooms and buckets. However, by the 2000s, its meaning had evolved to indicate a more sophisticated type of good. While zakka objects do not necessarily need to be fancy -- mundane things like scissors, containers, and can openers can all fall under zakka -- they should be attractive and expressive. Zakka aims to communicate something about the person who owns it, whether it’s something as simple as their preferred color palette, or something more revealing like the social circles they belong to.
At its core, zakka is about improving one’s life by curating a functional environment that is also aesthetically pleasing. The idea is that through attention to detail, one can create a space that mirrors and encourages their desired lifestyle. Beyond merely being practical, objects can also provide elements of decoration, playfulness, or personality. To borrow the words of organization expert Marie Kondo, good zakka should spark joy!
Zakka-ya, or stores that focus on selling zakka, can be found in every neighborhood in Japan. Some have a specific focus such as accessories, apparel, or interior design. Zakka can be kitschy or refined, colorful or monochromatic, vintage or brand new! Simply, zakka is about choosing objects that appeal to each individual person, transforming “boring” purchases into opportunities for whimsy, satisfaction, and sensory pleasure.
About the author:
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.