Meaning of Ikigai

Picture for Ikigai

Actually I was very surprised to know that Ikigai is now becoming one of the famous Japanese words in overseas.

I knew Wabi Sabi, Omotenashi, Mottainai, etc. are famous words even in overseas but I think most Japanese surprise like me if Ikigai is also becoming famous word in the world.

But actually I understand why this word has been focused on.

Because, especially nowadays, I feel like many of us are becoming isolated.
This is not the matter of only in Japan but I feel it from people from overseas, too.

Now there are many tools to connect each others compared to when I was a little child.
But somehow I feel like people are more isolated nowadays.
People are looking for Ikigai.


I explain what is Ikigai here.

What is Ikigai?

Picture of Night Sky (Image of Ikigai)

There is no English word to which corresponds Ikigai.
But if asked, I would say “Something to live for”.

“Iki” of Ikigai is to live.
“Gai” of Ikigai is worth.
So I can say Ikigai is something you can live for.

If you have something you really into, I can say that’s your Ikigai.

You devote yourself to your job?
You live for your family?
You can say that’s the reason I live for in this world?

If so, that’s your Ikigai.

Difference of Ikigai and Target

Difference of Ikigai and Target

Thinking from above, Ikigai seems to be a target but it is not technically speaking.
Because target has a goal.
You do your best to achieve a certain goal.
There is an end.

But Ikigai has no goal.
Because it is something you do through whole your life.
There is no end.

You keep living for that.

Public Opinion Poll of Ikigai in Japan

This public opinion poll was conducted by Central Research Services, Inc. in 2010 in Japan.
The target is 2000 men and women in total over the age of 20 in Japan.
It is about 10 years ago so the rate is a bit different now.

The question is “What is your Ikigai?”

Public Poll of Ikigai in Japan
Source : Central Research Services, Inc.

“趣味・レジャー” on the top is “Hobby and Leisure”
“家族やペットのこと” the second from top is “Family and Pet”
“仕事・学業” the third is “Business and Study”
“友人等家族以外の人との交流” the fourth is “Relationship other than Family such as Friends”
“自分自身の健康づくり” the fifth is “Fitness for Oneself”
“社会活動” the sixth is “Social Activity”
“総数” is “in Total”, “男性” is “Male”, “女性” is “Female” (On the bottom of Graph)

It was an interesting result even to me.
I did not imagine “Hobby and Leisure” is the top.
I imagined either “Family and Pet” or “Business and Study” is the top.

But I understand the result in a way.
Because Hobby and Leisure is the things you can really into without any care of others.
No one tie you down so you can do anything you like from the heart.

It was also interesting to see the rate of male and female.
While “Hobby and Leisure” is the top for male, “Family and Pet” was the top for female.
I understand how much female take care of family and pet.

For male, “Business and Study” is the second over “Family and Pet”
Well, I see.

You might think “What?” but I understand this situation.
Because if you do not your best in your job you can not support even your family.
Happiness of family breaks down without job.

But I can also say “if they can devote themselves to the business without family?”.
So my opinion is fifty fifty.
Both of them are very important.

How to Find?

Forest (Image of how to find Ikigai)

I think some people already have Ikigai but some others are not.
If you don’t have Ikigai, here are the tips I can think of!

Look Back your Past

You must have had something you are interested in if you look back on the past.
No need to be big one but even small one is fine.
You also must have had wish and dream when you were a child
It might be good to write down all the things and you can check which one attracts you even now.

How about challenging it again, it might become your Ikigai.

To Meet New People

Needless to say, meeting people is very important.
Sometimes it changes your whole life.

Here what I say is not meeting your friends since old days but to meet new people.
Certainly meeting your friends is very comfortable because they are your friends but if you want to find something new like Ikigai, it’s important to plunge into new water.

It serves as a great incentive.
You might find something new which you never imagined in your brain by the talk and meeting with people.

It sometimes takes courage to meet with new people but I can say meeting people, that’s the thing which always effected our lives deeply.

Challenge Something New

All of us have daily life and it might look sometimes like routine.
Tomorrow is just another day.
It is certainly comfortable because we can imagine what’s going on tomorrow or day after tomorrow.

But do you think you can find Ikigai just keep living in comfortable zone?

If you still don’t find Ikigai and boring ordinary days, challenge something new.
It might becomes breakthrough of your life.

You might find things which you devote whole your life.

Marriage and Family

Are you single?
Then how about finding someone special?

She or he becomes reason you live for.
If you get married you have baby and the baby becomes the reason you live for.

To live someone special, it will be Ikigai of you.

The Biggest 5 Regrets People Have Before They Die

Flower (Image of Regret)

I felt like Ikigai and regrets are set because I think people lived their life without Ikigai tend to regret before they die.

Here is “The Biggest Regrets People Have Before They Die”, which was told by Bronnie Ware who worked in palliative care in Australia as a nurse.
She talked with many old people at their last stages.

I wish I pursed my dreams, not the life others expected

Yes, I understand this.
We all had a dream and our eyes were shining once.

But we come to know the real.
It is not the world like anime or movie.

Once we were main character of our lives but came to become supporting role of our lives.


Because we come to know risk and we care how we look like.
Stepping off the track is very dangerous and there is no guarantee you can come back again.
People might think you are idiot.

So we choose safe trail by holding our real feelings.

But before you die, most people regret saying why I did not purse my dream.

Still if I add my personal opinion, yes that’s certainly true people should purse their dreams.
You have to be main character of your life.

But we also have to understand there were also many people who challenged but died without any success.
They could have lived an ordinary life without poverty if they had not challenged.

I understand people really regret not pursing their dreams but they were also protected by the choice of not challenging at the same time.
There was also a chance of regret by the challenge.

So I say it all depends on you.
Which you take.
There is a safe life but regret if you don’t pursue your dream while there is a happy life or a hard life if you challenge.

I wish I did not work so hard

Some people work so hard.
I live in Japan and worked for a company once so I understand it’s sometimes too much.

I do not say working hard is bad, it all depends on you.

What’s your priority?

If your top priority is family, you need to treasure time with your family.
Don’t you put the cart before the horse?

If you have something important other than work, you should spare time for that.

Just working hard is not your life.
But if your job is what you really like, yes that’s your Ikigai, go your own way!

I wish I had the courage to express my feelings

To care about others or think about how you look like is important.
I do not deny all of that.

But who are you?

Do you think that always make a good relationship?
How many people can you express your real feeling?

You have to be “You”, remove the mask put by others.
The people who are with you even if you show your real feelings are the people who really understand you.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

Yes, many of us know how important friendships are.
But as we grow up, the chance of we meet becomes less.
After all, we lose chances to meet our friends completely.

If you have great friends around you now, please treasure them.
As for me, friends around me is more than money.

I wish I had let myself happier

I feel like this is the summary of all above things.
To be happy, that’s the most important thing.

No one tells you you should not be happy.
But somehow we are bound by many things in this world and forget how to live happily.

The life is only for you, not for others, so use the life for yourself.
You have right to be happy definitely!


I think people who have Ikigai look very happy.
Because that’s something they live for.

Even if you don’t have Ikigai, that’s all right as it is not the thing like you are forced to do or have to do.
In the future you might meet it naturally.
Until then, you just focus on small things around you that leads you to find your Ikigai.

Or the small things themselves might become your Ikigai like happiness can be found in small things in daily life.

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