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Ikigai (生き甲斐, Japanese pronunciation: [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being". The word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, that which makes one's life worthwhile, and towards which an individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.[1]


The word consists of 'Iki' (to live) and 'gai' (reason).[2] The term ikigai compounds two Japanese words: iki (生き) meaning "life; alive" and kai (甲斐) meaning "(an) effect; (a) result; (a) fruit; (a) worth; (a) use; (a) benefit; (no, little) avail" (sequentially voiced as gai) to arrive at "a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living; a raison d'être".[3]


Ikigai can describe having a sense of purpose in life,[4][5] as well as being motivated.[6] According to a study feeling ikigai as described by Japanese usually means the feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment that follows when people pursue their passions.[7] Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are perceived as being spontaneous and undertaken willingly, therefore they are personal and depend on a person's inner self.[8]

According to psychologist Katsuya Inoue, ikigai is a concept consisting of two aspects: "sources or objects that bring value or meaning to life" and "a feeling that one's life has value or meaning because of the existence of its source or object". Inoue classifies ikigai into three directions, social ikigai, non-social ikigai, and anti-social ikigai, from a social perspective. Social ikigai refers to ikigai that are accepted by society through volunteer activities and circle activities. An asocial ikigai is a ikigai that is not directly related to society, such as faith or self-discipline. Anti-social ikigai refers to ikigai, which is the basic motivation for living through dark emotions, such as the desire to hate someone or something or to continue having a desire to revenge.[9]

National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner suggested ikigai may be one of the reasons for the longevity of the people of Okinawa.[10] According to Buettner, Okinawans have less desire to retire, as people continue to do their favourite job as long as they remain healthy. Moai, the close-knit friend group is considered an important reason for the people of Okinawa to live long. In the year 2016, a book based on the Japanese concept 'Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life' was published by Penguin Books, it was authored by Hector Garcia Puigcerver and Francesc Miralles. [11]

Early popularisation[edit]

Although the concept of ikigai has long been in Japanese culture, it was first popularised by Japanese psychiatrist and academic Mieko Kamiya in her 1966 book "生きがいについて" (ikigai ni tsuite, On the Meaning of Life).[12] The book has not yet been translated into English.


In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, ikigai was thought to be experienced towards either the betterment of society ("subordinating one's own desires to others") or improvement of oneself ("following one's own path"). In the 21st century however, ikigai's focus has shifted towards the self; instead of "self-sacrifice", the focus is on developing oneself.[13]

According to anthropologist Chikako Ozawa-de Silva, for an older generation in Japan, their ikigai was to "fit this standard mold of company and family", whereas the younger generation reported their ikigai to be about "dreams of what they might become in the future".[14]

A 2012 study in the Global Journal of Health Science suggested that having the feeling of ikigai influenced the functioning of the frontal lobe.[15] Some studies[vague] showed that people who do not feel ikigai are more likely to experience cardiovascular diseases. However, there was no evidence of any co-relation with development of malignant tumors.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kotobank 生き甲斐とは. The Asahi Shimbun
  2. ^ Mogi, Ken (2017). The little book of Ikigai. Great Britain: Quercus Editions Ltd. pp. 5, 6. ISBN 9781787470279.
  3. ^ Watanabe Toshirō (渡邊敏郎), Edmund R. Skrzypczak, and Paul Snowden, eds. (2003), Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary (新和英大辞典), 5th edition, Kenkyusha, pp. 127, 459, 130. In the game go, iki especially means "alive" (able to remain on the board indefinitely): "in go normally a situation in which a connected group of stones of any size contains at least two independent liberties [me] and so cannot be captured by an opponent".
  4. ^ Schippers, Michaéla (2017-06-16). IKIGAI: Reflection on Life Goals Optimizes Performance and Happiness. ISBN 978-90-5892-484-1.
  5. ^ Mathews, Gordon (1996). "The Stuff of Dreams, Fading: Ikigai and "The Japanese Self"". Ethos. 24 (4): 718–747. doi:10.1525/eth.1996.24.4.02a00060. ISSN 0091-2131. JSTOR 640520.
  6. ^ Schippers, Michaéla C.; Ziegler, Niklas (2019-12-13). "Life Crafting as a Way to Find Purpose and Meaning in Life". Frontiers in Psychology. 10: 2778. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02778. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 6923189. PMID 31920827.
  7. ^ Kumano, Michiko (2018-06-01). "On the Concept of Well-Being in Japan: Feeling Shiawase as Hedonic Well-Being and Feeling Ikigai as Eudaimonic Well-Being". Applied Research in Quality of Life. 13 (2): 419–433. doi:10.1007/s11482-017-9532-9. ISSN 1871-2576. S2CID 149162906.
  8. ^ Nakanishi, N (1999-05-01). "'Ikigai' in older Japanese people". Age and Ageing. 28 (3): 323–324. doi:10.1093/ageing/28.3.323. ISSN 1468-2834. PMID 10475874.
  9. ^ Inoue, Katsuya (2000). Psychology of Aging. Chuo Hoki Shuppan. pp. 80–99, 144–145. ISBN 978-4805818954.
  10. ^ "How to live to be 100+".
  11. ^ Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Penguin Books. 2017. ISBN 978-0143130727.
  12. ^ Kamiya, Mieko (1980). "『生きがいについて』 ("On the Meaning of Life" in Japanese)". Japan: Misuzu Shobo. ISBN 4-622-08181-4.
  13. ^ Manzenreiter, Wolfram; Holthus, Barbara (2017-03-27). Happiness and the Good Life in Japan. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-35273-0.
  14. ^ Ozawa-de Silva, Chikako (2020-02-11). "In the eyes of others: Loneliness and relational meaning in life among Japanese college students". Transcultural Psychiatry. 57 (5): 623–634. doi:10.1177/1363461519899757. ISSN 1363-4615. PMID 32041496. S2CID 211078070.
  15. ^ Ishida, Riichiro (2012). "Reducing Anxiety in Stutterers through the Association between "Purpose in Life/Ikigai" and Emotions". Global Journal of Health Science. 4 (5): 120–4. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v4n5p120. PMC 4776915. PMID 22980384.
  16. ^ Sone T.; Nakaya N.; Ohmori K.; Shimazu T.; Higashiguchi M.; Kakizaki M.; Kikuchi N.; Kuriyama S.; Tsuji I. (2008). "Sense of life worth living (ikigai) and mortality in Japan: Ohsaki Study". Psychosomatic Medicine. 70 (6): 709–15. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e31817e7e64. PMID 18596247. S2CID 10483513.
  17. ^ Tanno K.; Sakata K.; Ohsawa M.; Onoda T.; Itai K.; Yaegashi Y.; Tamakoshi A.; et al. (JACC Study Group) (2009). "Associations of ikigai as a positive psychological factor with all-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality among middle-aged and elderly Japanese people: findings from the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study". Journal of Psychosomatic. 67 (1): 67–75. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.10.018. PMID 19539820.

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