How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day

By: Ken Mogi

Published: 2018

Read: 2018


Ikigai is sometimes described as the reason you get out of bed in the morning. It usually is shown as being the center of a Venn diagram of four overlapping sections: (i) what you love doing, (ii) what you are good at, (iii) what the world needs and (iv) what you can be paid for.

This book takes a different approach and uses various examples from Japanese history and culture to illustrate what it claims are the five pillars of Ikigai:

  1. starting small (attention to detail, drive for perfection).
  2. releasing yourself (minimize the burden of self or status).
  3. harmony and sustainability (strong relationship with nature).
  4. the joy of little things (the importance of hobbies, etc.)
  5. being in the here and now (mindfulness, the concept of flow).

Worth Reading:

The concept of Ikigai maps easily onto some of the examples of Japanese culture given in the book, providing an interesting different perspective on some of the “good” (artisanal craftmanship) and “bad” (rigidity) aspects of Japanese society.

The book is quite short and sometimes relies a bit too much on overly familiar Japanese stereotypes.

The book doesn’t explore any linkages with the author’s field of expertise (he is a neuroscientist), which would have perhaps provided some additional interesting perspectives.

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