Hygge was last year’s trend, this year it’s Ikigai. It’s a concept that the Japanese roughly translate as “a reason to get up in the morning”. Supposedly it’s the secret to their record-breaking longevity, sensory beauty and mindfulness, too. It’s impossible to describe ikigai in just one sentence because it means so many different things and is likely to be interpreted a little different by every single one of us. However, there are five foundational pillars that are key to ikigai:
Pillar 1: Starting small
Pillar 2: Releasing yourself
Pillar 3:Harmony and sustainability
Pillar 4:The joy of little things
Pillar 5:Being in the here and now
It’s not hard to see the connection between ikigai and the growing trend of “mindfulness”. What is interesting, however, is that this concept has existed in Japan for centuries and centuries and is ingrained in their very culture. Having just visited Japan, it was fascinating to learn more about what makes Japanese people tick. Many of the things Mogi explains are things that I noticed myself in Japan, but couldn’t understand. For one, they are the most polite nation of people I have ever encountered. Another thing is that they keep their country incredibly clean – despite the lack of bins! Knowing that the five pillars ikigai drive most Japanese people, I now understand how these things may have come to be.
I didn’t expect author Ken Mogi to give us such a detailed and intricate insight into Japanese history and culture. All of the examples he uses are deeply rooted in Japanese culture from sumo wrestling to Comiket, a Japanese comic book convention. He uses examples from the present day and from the 17th century, showing how the concept of ikigai is seeped into every aspect of Japanese life throughout history. This only proves that ikigai is for everyone. For every single person on this planet, regardless of age or gender. It’s a movement that transcends time and I hope it is something that we in the West can learn from and adopt ourselves.
Ikigai will remind you to enjoy the little things in life. To really think about what it is that makes you happy and encourage you to work on it, little by little, with no expectation of reward. This is the true path to being happy with oneself. Many people find Ikigai leads them to success, but many will not. No matter what though, we are all equal. All aspirations are given equal importance whether it is creating a leading global business or drawing a picture that pleases you. Mogi’s book reminds us that success and money aren’t everything and that if we appreciate the here and now, the small moments that make up the bigger picture of life, we can find our own purpose in life and be happy.
All in all, The Little Book of Ikigai: The Essential Japanese Way to Finding Your Purpose in Life is a really insightful and motivational read. It’s quite short so you’ll zip through it in a couple of hours and if you don’t feel like your perspective on the little things in life has changed then go back and read it all again. For fans of Japanese culture and those that know it well, this may just give you a fresh perspective on the things you already know and love about Japan. For those that know nothing about Ikigai or Japan, this should be an enlightening and eye opening read about how others live across the seas.
Have you heard of Ikigai before? What’s your reason for getting out of bed in the morning? Let me know in the comments below!
Many thanks to Quercus for providing me with a copy for review! All opinions are my own.
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