In recent years, we have seen a variety of lifestyle trends that originate from different regions, cultures, or religions. In the midst of the lifestyle transitions we have been going through, Japanese concepts and philosophies have been gaining international popularity. For instance, Konmari, a Japanese organizing consultant has affected people around the world since the early 2010s. Her philosophy of deciding what to keep and what to get rid of in life based on a simple question, “Does it spark joy?”, caused a considerable stir and her method was even featured in the Netflix series. Likewise, there are also other Japanese life philosophies that have spread to other countries.
We wanted to dive deeper into the two world-known Japanese concepts,ikigai and ichigo ichie, and consulted our dear Japanese friend and business professional living in Finland, Daiki Yoshikawa. In this article, Daiki will shed some light on the Japanese secret to a happy, simple and meaningful life based on his own experiences. Happy reading!
Japanese Secret To A Happy Life
Ikigai - the purpose of life
Ikigai is a Japanese concept that is usually translated as a purpose of life, meaning of life or something worth living for. In recent years, the concept has been attracting spotlights internationally and there has even been an academic study that defines ikigai. The previous research argues that the concept of ikigai consists of 4 elements, namely, 1) what you love, 2) what you are good at, 3) what you can be paid for, and 4) what the world needs. However, in my personal opinion, ikigai for many Japanese people is something that can be more casual and it can be missing one or two of the elements.
I think we can see ikigai in a simpler way. So when you sleep in the evening, you would be looking forward to doing something on the next day or in the near future, that might be your “ikigai”. Or when you wake up with motivation for something, that can also be your ikigai. In order to have your own ikigai, I believe it’s necessary to know that you are the hero of your own life story so that you can lead an active life and feel a sense of fulfillment in various aspects of life.
While some people know what their ikigai is, others might not. I think having a simple way of living would be one of the ways to find it out. In modern life, we can be easily busy with handling a variety of errands, invitations, information, and items, and not all of them are necessarily needed. That sort of complex life situation might make it hard to know and feel ikigai. Therefore, in my opinion, removing redundant elements from daily life helps us find and focus more on ikigai. In this sense, I believe minimalism is positively linked to having ikigai.
Ichigo Ichie - one time, one meeting
Ichigo ichie is a Japanese concept that originates from a tea ceremony. The word ichigo ichie literally means “one time - one meeting”and it can also be translated as once in a lifetime. Back in the 16th century, the founder of the tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyu, used this phrase to highlight that the essence of the tea ceremony is not just about enjoying the taste of tea but also savoring the unrepeatable moment and understanding that the moment will never come back again.
Even though the tea ceremony itself is not something many Japanese people practice on a daily basis in the present day, the concept ichigo ichie is still widely used in different situations where people meet others. Let’s take meeting your two old friends at a cafe for example. You might meet them again someday somewhere but it is the fact that the particular moment in life cannot be repeated. Furthermore, even if you meet the same people in the same place again, the particular gathering will never be restaged. Therefore, ichigo ichigo reminds you to appreciate meetings or gatherings you may attend.
All the moments where you meet others can be evolved to ichigo ichie moments easily by having a thoughtful attitude toward each gathering. Knowing that the gathering can never be repeated exactly and each moment is always a once-in-a-lifetime experience will help you cherish the moment a bit more than you usually do and meet with other people with true sincerity. Also, another important point here is that a gathering does not need to be anything special. For instance, it can be visiting your parents for the weekend, lunch with your friends from school, or a home party with your besties after work.
As a Japanese currently living in Finland, I would like to share my personal experience of how I value ichigo ichie. I visit Japan for a holiday once a year and try to spend as much time as possible with someone important, including my family, some relatives and close friends. Seeing them was one of the regular daily events when I lived in Japan before, but now the situation is different. In addition to the fact that I’m not even living in the same country, everyone is getting old and having a change in their lives. Therefore, it could be possible that you might not see them again and it leaves no doubt that the particular meeting in the same situation will not be repeated. For that reason, I at least try to see each moment as a once-in-a-lifetime moment and behave based on the idea.
What is common in these two concepts?
These two concepts, ikigai and ichigo ichie, might look completely different from each other. However, we can see key elements that are ingrained in both of these concepts at a deeper level. For instance, if you would like to find your ikigai and create more ichigo ichie moments in life, giving meaning to your collective experiences plays a vital role. In the process of sense-making, one could decide and take actions based on observing and orienting oneself. In this way, it enables you to find your ikigai, something worth living for, as well as cherish an ichigo ichie moment and try to create it. In other words, if you can find or create a “story” in each aspect of life, it would lead to enriching your lifestyle with these concepts.
In addition, another keyword that is deeply connected to these concepts would be simplicity, which could widely vary from having a minimalistic life to simply removing redundant elements in life. It could lead to a positive change to be able to focus on what is important and have an attitude to savor every minute of a day. As a consequence of the change, you would be able to find your ikigai and create ichigo ichie moments in life.
We are sure that with these tips and perspectives are helpfull for all of us in aiming for finding the purpose in life and being more present in the now. Thank you Daiki for the article and sharing your experiences with us!
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