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Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being." The word "ikigai" is usually used to indicate the source of value in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile.[1] The word translated to English roughly means "thing that you live for" or "the reason for which you wake up in the morning."[2] Each individual's ikigai is personal to them and specific to their lives, values and beliefs. It reflects the inner self of an individual and expresses that faithfully, while simultaneously creating a mental state in which the individual feels at ease. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are never forced on an individual; they are often spontaneous, and always undertaken willingly, giving the individual satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.[1]


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'etre".[3]

In the culture of Okinawa, ikigai is thought of as "a reason to get up in the morning"; that is, a reason to enjoy life. In a TED Talk, National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner suggested ikigai as one of the reasons people in the area had such long lives.[4]

One of the five areas Dan Buettner has examined and presented in his book is Okinawa. He studied ikigai philosophy of the inhabitants and mentioned that the Japanese don’t have the desire to retire, people continue to do their favourite job as long as possible if their health is good. Moai, the close-knit friend group is considered an important reason for the people of Okinawa to live long.[5]

The word ikigai usually is used to indicate the source of value in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile.[6] Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable. It's not linked to one's financial status[6]. Even if a person feels that the present is dark, but they have a goal in mind, they may feel ikigai. Behaviours that make one feel ikigai are not actions one is forced to take—these are natural and spontaneous actions.

In the article named Ikigai — jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei ("Ikigai: the process of allowing the self's possibilities to blossom") Kobayashi Tsukasa says that "people can feel real ikigai only when, on the basis of personal maturity, the satisfaction of various desires, love and happiness, encounters with others, and a sense of the value of life, they proceed toward self-realization."[7][8]

Influence on wellbeingEdit

There is a probable influence of having the feeling of ikigai on the functioning of prefrontal lobe[9]. It was statistically proven that presence of ikigai is correlated with a lower level of stress and an overall feeling of being healthy. Some studies showed that people that don't feel ikigai are more likely to experience cardiovascular diseases, however, there was not found any relationship with the development of malignant tumors.[10][11]

Feeling of ikigai balances out the secretion of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and β-endorphin.[9] Some studies demonstrate that a sense of purpose (goal) in life/ikigai is negatively correlated with a need for approval from others and anxiety[9]. Studies also found that ikigai is associated with longevity among Japanese people[11].

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ "The Japanese Concept 'Ikigai' is a Formula for Happiness and Meaning". Better Humans. 2017-11-30. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  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. ^
  5. ^ Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. Penguin Books. 2017. ISBN 978-0143130727.
  6. ^ a b "Ikigai – What makes you come alive?". Chaaipani.
  7. ^ Mathews, Gordon (1996). What Makes Life Worth Living?: How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds. University of California Press.
  8. ^ Kobayashi, Tsukasa (1990-04-04). "Ikigai — jibun no kanosei, kaikasaseru katei". Nihon Keizai Shinbun. Tokyo.
  9. ^ a b c Ishida, Riichiro (2012). "Reducing Anxiety in Stutterers through the Association between "Purpose in Life/Ikigai" and Emotions". Global Journal of Health Science. Vol. 4, no. 5.: 120. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v4n5.
  10. ^ 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. Vol. 70, no. 6. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e31817e7e64.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b Tanno K., Sakata K., Ohsawa M., Onoda T., Itai K., Yaegashi Y., Tamakoshi A.; JACC Study Group. "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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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