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Ikigai (?) (pronounced [iki?ai]) is a Japanese concept that means "a reason for being". The word refers to having a meaningful direction or purpose in life, constituting the sense of one's life being made worthwhile, with actions (spontaneous and willing) taken towards achieving one's ikigai resulting in satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.


The term 'ikigai' compounds two Japanese words: iki () meaning "life; alive" and kai () meaning "(an) effect; (a) result", (sequentially voiced as 'gai', resulting in "a reason for living [being alive]; a meaning for [to] life; what [something that] makes life worth living.


Ikigai can describe having a sense of purpose in life,[1][2] as well as being motivated.[] Psychologist Michiko Kumano describes ikigai as eudaimonic well-being, as it "entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment".[3] The word ikigai is also used to describe the inner self of an individual, and a mental state in which the individual feels at ease. Activities that allow one to feel ikigai are not forced on an individual; they are perceived as being spontaneous and undertaken willingly.[4]


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, the focus of ikigai has shifted towards the self; instead of "self-sacrifice", the focus is on developing oneself.[5]

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".[6]

Women who did not feel ikigai were reported more likely to experience cardiovascular diseases, but there was no evidence of any correlation with the development of malignant tumors.[7][8]


The concept of ikigai has been purported to have influence in extending life expectancy of the Okinawan people, but due to many birth and death records perishing in WWII,[9] early studies claiming longevity in Okinawa can not be substantiated. Recent data reflects that there is no exceptional extended life expectancy of Okinawan people compared to people living in Japan or in other developed countries globally.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Schippers, Michaéla (2017-06-16). IKIGAI: Reflection on Life Goals Optimizes Performance and Happiness. ISBN 978-90-5892-484-1.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Nakanishi, N (1999-05-01b). "'Ikigai' in older Japanese people". Age and Ageing. 28 (3): 323-324. doi:10.1093/ageing/28.3.323. ISSN 1468-2834. PMID 10475874. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Manzenreiter, Wolfram; Holthus, Barbara (2017-03-27). Happiness and the Good Life in Japan. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-35273-0.
  6. ^ Ozawa-de Silva, Chikako (2020-02-11). "In the eyes of others: Loneliness and relational meaning in life among Japanese college students". Transcultural Psychiatry: 136346151989975. doi:10.1177/1363461519899757. ISSN 1363-4615. PMID 32041496.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Tanno K.; Sakata K.; Ohsawa M.; Onoda T.; Itai K.; Yaegashi Y.; Tamakoshi A.; 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.
  9. ^ "(PDF) Exceptional Longevity in Okinawa:". ResearchGate. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Hokama, Tomiko; Binns, Colin (October 2008). "Declining longevity advantage and low birthweight in Okinawa". Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health. 20 Suppl: 95-101. ISSN 1010-5395. PMID 19533867.

External links

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