What is ikigai (生き甲斐)?
Pronounced ick-ee-guy, ikigai roughly translates to ‘reason for being’, and is essentially your true passion and calling in life—what gets you up every morning. This age-old ideology offers the answer to the one question that has been on our lips since the beginning time.
What is my purpose in life?
The fundamental truth of ikigai is that nothing exists in a vacuum—everything is connected—and having a strong sense of ikigai is living a perfectly balanced lifestyle.
It’s a little easier to understand if you look at the diagram below.
Basically, your ikigai is a mix of:
- Your passion
- Your purpose
- Your satisfaction
- Your fulfilment
- Your calling
- Your true self
- Your values
- What’s good for society
Where all of the above perfectly align, there you find your ikigai, and with it, fulfilment, longevity and the true definition of happiness!
Get lost to find your ikigai
“What if I haven’t found my ikigai yet?”
Fear not, it’s ok—you are definitely not alone. We all know that one person who was born knowing what they were destined to do. However, in reality, ikigai is something most of us need to diligently work towards—often over a lifetime.
The question of ‘how’ to find your ikigai can be a little daunting. So to get inspired, how about starting with ‘where’
And where else, but where it all began?
Whether you’re already on your way to centring your ikigai or you still have no idea where to start, Japan is filled with endless passions for you to pursue. Here are three examples:
If cooking is your passion, then follow your nose to Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku Island. It is renowned for producing the country’s best tasting thick wheat noodles with over 800 noodle shops to choose from. You can even take part in udon-making classes from local masters!
Oss! If you’re a karate enthusiast, then you have to visit Okinawa—the birthplace of both ikigai and karate! There are over 300 dojos (schools) for you to perfect your roundhouse kick. There’s even a famous bar dedicated to karate with rare memorabilia, exhibits and plenty of Japanese whisky.
For the curious creative, the Setouchi region has your name written on its canvas. The island of Teshima is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in the world such as the Teshima Art Museum, while the nearby island of Naoshima is studded with modern art museums designed by the likes of Tadao Ando, artworks from Monet and Matisse, and iconic outdoor sculptures.
With an open mind and open heart, your true passion is certain to reveal itself in the land of endless discovery. Apart from a passport in your pocket and a delicious Japanese street snack in your hand, the only other thing you need in order to find your ikigai in Japan? Your curiosity.
Ganbatte! がんばって! Good luck!