Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life


I don’t go in for self-help type reading all that often, but this book was sitting there on my desk all pretty and inviting  – that gentle blue and the blossom, it would take a harder woman than I to leave it un-picked up – so I tucked it away in my bag, had a little look through on the train home, then read it cover to cover in the bath later that night. I liked it, and think there are some genuinely good and useful life tips between its covers that I have determined to incorporate into my everyday life.

Ikigai is this year’s hygge (unless that’s lykke, in which case ikigai might be next year’s lykke). It’s a Japanese word that’s translated in the book as roughly equivalent to ‘the happiness of always being busy’. It’s about finding your passion, your raision d’être, and incorporating it into your whole life. It’s about being fulfilled, being part of society, making and maintaining strong personal bonds, being active, caring for body and soul. It’s about waking up each morning and bouncing out of bed with purpose. Sounds great.

The two authors, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, spent time interviewing the inhabitants of Okinawa, a Japanese island that is one of Blue Zones – one of the areas where longevity far outstrips any average. The book incorporates words of wisdom from many of the people who live on Okinawa as well as research pulled together by Garcia and Miralles. The book is an interesting mix of personal testimony, practical advice and academic research, and one that appealed to me. It’s written in approachable chunks and it’s set out to make it easy for the reader to focus on the bits that most interest them. It’s one of those books that’s good to read through once, then go back to areas that struck you as worth closer attention. For example, for me the idea of finding flow in your work and daily life is very interesting.

Ikigai chart from the book (lovely high-res image from @ikigaibook)

I really like this chart, featured on the back as well as inside the book. It distills the essence of ikigai into visual form and lets you (me) think about where these aspects of my life collide, and what I can do to move further towards the golden centre spot. Food for thought, indeed.

There’s a nice blog over on Foyles website by Garcia, with some top ikigai tips and great photos from Okinawa.

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