The Japanese Secret of a Long and Happy Life

The Japanese Secret of a Long and Happy Life

To live longer it is important not only to do physical activity, eat healthy food and have a good sleep, but also significant to have your own Ikigai. Let's figure out what does it mean.

Japan is a country with the biggest number of centenarians in the world. Most of them live on the island called Okinawa that is located in the south of the state. Some researchers studying the reason why the inhabitants of this island live longer than people in other parts of the world believe that one of the keys in addition to physical activity, healthful diet, and favorable climate is the Ikigai that shapes their lives.

For the first time, I got to know about the term from the book "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life" that my Japanese friend gave me when I was an exchange student in Japan. In Japanese "Ikigai" is written as 生き甲斐 and translated as "purpose in life" or "something one lives for". It is the internal reason that makes you get up in the morning.

The authors of the book state that Ikigai unifies your passion, mission, profession, and vocation. In other words, it is a balance between what you love, what you are good at, what you can be paid for, and what the world needs. It is hidden inside each of us and differs from person to person. Finding and understanding your own Ikigai brings satisfaction, happiness, and meaning to our lives. It gives a sense of purpose to every day and decreases stress because you are sure of who you are, what your mission is, what you like to do, and what gives you enjoyment and satisfaction.

If you are a little familiar with Japanese culture or have ever watched films about the Japanese people, then you could notice with what passion and responsibility they do their work whatever it is. I would like to share an example with you.

When I studied in Japan, I attended a masterclass related to making traditional Japanese wagashi sweets which looked more like works of art than just the food. The sweets were devoted to the theme of four seasons, and they represented various natural motifs like flowers, animals, snow, etc. The movements of the master were soft, confident, and filled with love. There was no doubt that he loves his job.

There are a lot of stories about Japanese people who devoted their lives to doing one thing which may not have brought them a lot of money, but which brought them satisfaction and recognition, and later fame. For example, the documentary called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" tells the story of an 85-year-old chef who devoted his life to making sushi and became one of the most famous chefs in the world. He spends every day making sushi since it brings him satisfaction, enjoyment and makes him happy. As a result, his restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars.

I think these two cases represent the most striking examples of the manifestation of Ikigai. When a person finds his goal in life and does his work with love, he/she manages to bring his business to perfection and create something that will impress people all over the world. And even at the age of 85, he/she will have power and desire to continue doing things since they bring him/her enjoyment and satisfaction.

The authors of the book "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life" do not just describe the basic principles of the Ikigai concept but also introduce the main characteristics of Japanese culture and philosophy and give examples of scientific research by other authors in the field of psychology. The authors of the book also mention the importance of a healthy lifestyle, meditation, and physical exercises.

Below I would like to share main rules and principles that are included in the Ikigai concept except the finding purpose in life. I hope you find them interesting and want to follow them in your daily life.

Be always active

Even if you do not find an activity that you love, do not give up, continue to search trying different things.

Take it slow and enjoy the moment

What we have here and now will never repeat. So, there is no reason to regret the past and fear the future. Do what you can now, and then you will see what to do next.

Surround yourself with good people

Social life is very important for all human beings. Friends can help us to cope with stress and worries. They support us in difficult times and make us feel better. Communication is a basic need for all of us.

Smile and give thanks

A cheerful attitude can help us to make new friends and have good relations with other people, while a grateful attitude lets us appreciate what we have in our lives.

Spend time in nature

It is a great possibility to recharge our batteries and get inspiration and energy for further work.

In my opinion, in modern life, most people try to reach success and earn more money selecting a job that is more prestigious rather than attractive and giving them enjoyment. People often compare their lives with the lives of others, try to copy and imitate the success of other people thinking that it is the right way. However, over time they understand that they are not happy, they do things that they do not like and they want to do different things.

Therefore, it is very important to hear your own heart carefully, aim to find your own Ikigai, and do things that are meaningful to you, not to others. To do so, it necessary to spend some days alone without communication with anyone, switch off all telephones, computers, TV, and just spend time with yourself. Your intuition helps you to connect with your Ikigai. And it is not necessary to do a big thing: you might find meaning in being a good artist, designer, gardener, or chef. Just do what you love and love what you do, and try to be the best in this field.

In this article, I wanted to introduce and briefly describe an interesting concept of the Japanese culture as Ikigai. If you want to know more about it and deeply study the Japanese secrets of a long and happy life, I highly recommend reading the book "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life", and wish you to find your reason in life to jump out of bed in the morning!

Text by

Vlada Pivovarchuk