Man in prayer.

Ikigai: Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is the Japanese theory that means “a reason for being.”  The island of Okinawa in Japan is said to have the largest population of centenarians in the whole world, where the origins of the concept of ikigai is said to have come from.

Elderly couple in the streets of Japan.As of 2015, the World Health Organization  ranks Japan as the number one country in the world for longevity. Women have a life expectancy of 90.1 years and men live as long as 85.4 years. Over four more years than the second highest ranking country, Switzerland.

Longevity among the Japanese is said to be contributed to several factors such as a healthy diet, daily exercises, an efficient health care system. Having a great philosophy in life could also be a contributing factor for having a long lifespan. Could ikigai possibly play a role in longevity among the Japanese?Ikigai diagram.

Ikigai diagram. | Alex Tanchoco

The ikigai concept

In Japanese philosophy, ikigai, pronounced as ick-ee-guy, usually refers to what makes one’s life worthwhile or the source of value in one’s life. The term ikigai stems from two Japanese words, iki (生き) meaning “life” or “alive” and kai (甲斐) meaning an “effect” or “result”, when put together, “makes life worth living”.

When translated in English, it means, “the reason for which you wake up in the morning” or “thing that you live for”. Every person is said to have their own ikigai. An ikigai is personal and specific to each individual’s life, beliefs, and values. It should reflect one’s inner self.

Man in prayer.

Ikigai should be expressed faithfully, creating a mental state where one feels the most at ease. Activities that a person enjoys must never feel forced, it should be spontaneous and always done willingly. This gives the person satisfaction and a sense of meaning in life.


Four primary elements of ikigai

In the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, ikigai is seen as the convergence of four primary elements:

What you love (your passion)

What the world needs (your mission)

What you are good at (your vocation)

What you can get paid for (your profession)

They say that discovering your own ikigai will bring fulfillment, happiness, and make you live longer.

Perhaps by answering these questions we find our purpose in life and as we find out, life is a constant learning experience. Our experiences shape our decisions and make us who we are. A constant evolution, more purpose, more meaning and a longer life.