Simple Japanese Concept Promises to Make You Happier In Life


What is our purpose in life?

Sorry for the profound question on a Friday, but really—what makes you happy?

If I have to answer that question, I probably need help from my trustworthy friend, a bottle of Monkey 47.

I always wonder how people live life with such zest when we are constantly surrounded with melancholia, like the time when Wendy’s died three years back.

So when my editor told me about ikagi, a Japanese concept that helps you find your purpose in life—I honestly thought it was a newly-minted sushi bar—I was intrigued.


So after doing some research and by that I mean, typing “ikagi” in Google’s search bar, I was hit with a tsunami of positivity.


If you’re still convinced that ikagi is a hip sushi bar in Telok Ayer, it’s not.

There isn’t a direct English translation; it is the combination of two Japanese words—iki, which means life and gai, which describes value or worth.

The combination of those words loosely translates to “a reason for being” aka purpose.

The four elements

Before you reach ikigai, you need to ask yourself these four questions:

What do you love?


What does the world need?

What can you be paid for?

What are you good at?

Image: Toronto Star

I know, it sounds slightly mushy, something out of Chicken Soup for the Soul series, but if you manage to look past all of that, you might have to actually have to sit down and ponder for a bit before you are able to answer the aforementioned questions, at least for me.

The Venn diagram is just for you to get an idea of what ikigai is; it is not a quick-fix for your existential crisis.

In Japan, it is a way of life, which explains why the Japanese live so long; I am talking about folks above the age of 90, heck even 100.

The authors of Ikagi: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, travelled to a seaside village in Okinawa Prefecture, Ogimi—one of the “Blue Zones” in the world—to see how the people there lived.

And no, it does not involve anything grandiose, it is finding joy in your day-to-day activities such as eating slowly, smiling and being optimistic.

While the foundation of the belief is pretty basic; it was highly valued during the Heian period (794 to 1185) but it seems even more pertinent now as we are drowning in things that don’t matter.

This could be the New Year’s resolution you have been waiting for!