Creating your Ibasho – a social niche where you can be yourself

Where is your place to be? 

Ibasho is another of my favourite Japanese words – one that describes the community I have built within Ikigai Tribe. Like ikigai, ibasho has no direct translation, is used in daily conversations, and encapsulates both psychology and philosophy.

A Japanese-to-English dictionary would translate ibasho as ‘whereabouts; place; location’, but in recent decades the word has been used in relation to belongingness and mental wellbeing. It is composed of two words: the verb iru, meaning ‘to exist’, and basho, which means ‘place’.

A place to be

Together as ibasho, they indicate ‘place to be’, and invite you to contemplate who is important to you and how you can find your place in the world. This may be a physical place where you feel connected with the environment around you – a regular holiday destination, the beach, a park, or your favourite local café.

On another level, the word can indicate a social niche rather than a physical one – the group of people amongst whom you can be yourself. It is also the context in which you feel your ikigai in your interpersonal relationships, a community of social connection necessary for psychological well-being, where one feels peace, security, acceptance, and belonging. 

Having ibasho endows you with the carefreeness to be yourself, allows you to experience intimacy and feel ikigai. In the first cohort of my Ikigai Tribe coach certification program, I had 6 members from all parts of the world – Dubai, France, Brussels, Germany, the UK, and the US – join me to create what would become my ibasho.

Despite being in different locations and time zones, the seven of us connected over very meaningful concepts and shared quite personal, significant stories that brought us together in both a literal and metaphorical sense, forging a close bond. 

Julie Bach

Julie, who joined us from France, told us that Ikigai Tribe had become her ibasho. On one call, she shared how she felt so comfortable with the coaching cohort that she could reveal to everyone things she couldn't even discuss with her friends or family. When she said, ‘Ikigai Tribe is my ibasho,’ it brought tears of joy to my eyes. I was overcome with emotion that Ikigai Tribe, my ‘place to be’ had also become hers, where she could be carefree and express her true thoughts and feelings.

This highlights how one’s ibasho is not limited to a geographical place but is more of a state of mind, where one can be authentic, experience connection and trust with others, and feel a sense of ease. This allows people to feel comfortable opening up and sharing personal stories and their innermost thoughts and feelings.

Because an ibasho is ultimately a place where you can safely be yourself, you will inevitably be using your own experiences as a guide and measure of success if you undertake the task of creating such an environment – but never forget that it is also about community, and will therefore inherently involve the needs and experiences of others.

Ikigai Tribe

I’d like to use my experiences with Ikigai Tribe as a case study to explore what it takes to create an ibasho that is welcoming and supportive for both yourself and others. 

When I first started Ikigai Tribe, my intention was to create a podcast and then maybe an on-demand video course. But, as I gained traction with my podcast, listeners inquired if I offered a program that wove together and contextualised the information presented across the podcast interviews.

This was not a goal I had ever considered, and I was not sure if there would be an audience, yet over the course of a few months, my program attracted people from around the world; the Ikigai Tribe quickly grew to include learners from Dubai, France, Bulgaria, India, the UK, the US, Australia, Belgium, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

The diverse locations of Ikigai Tribe members have required me to think carefully about logistical issues such as when and how often to hold events so that they are available across multiple time zones and do not exclude any potential participants.

Some of my solutions to these issues have included offering webinars and catch-up calls twice in one day at times appropriate to different time zones, creating an online forum for asynchronous discussion, and appointing other Ikigai Tribe members and special guests to host webinars to sharetheir expertise and insights or be guests on my podcast.

This last approach shows how the whole community has grown and expanded thanks to our ability to rely on each other and find unique ways to contribute and feel a sense that everyone is significant and needed.

Ikigai Tribe members regularly stay in touch not only through the weekly informal chats that I schedule via my own platform, but also directly through an app, email, social media, and virtual calls, showing that the bonds created through the program are personal as well as professional and have diverse, far-reaching positive impacts on their lives.

This dynamic has emerged because I have created a safe environment where everyone can share their ideas and thoughts within a supportive community.  This hasn’t always been easy: I have had to make the very unpleasant decision to remove members who did not engage with the community or the idea of ikigai in a respectful way – or who sought to leverage my community for their own personal gain.

How to create an ibasho

This experience offers a guide for how to create an ibasho:

Search inside yourself to find the central theme or activity around which you want the ibasho to form. You could start with an interest or passion – for example, a current hobby or one you've given up but would like to pursue again, or something you've always wanted to do. In my case, this was not just ikigai specifically, but also a more general love and respect for Japanese culture and a desire to help others.

Create a safe environment. This step involves thinking not just about location – e.g., a place in your local community or somewhere online – but also the ethos, attitude, and overall culture that will characterise that space. ‘Safe’, to me, means that it is a place where people can share their ideas and true feelings, and offer and receive support and encouragement. 

Attract and welcome others to your ibasho. This step is not just a matter of advertising; in fact, you may find that a community serendipitously coalesces, as it did for me. More important here is focusing on meeting people who share your values.

This is not to say that everyone in the ibasho needs to be just like you; indeed, your community should be inclusive and diverse, seeking to avoid becoming a closed community that excludes or discriminates against outsiders. Rather, you simply want to find the point(s) of commonality that will bind you together through shared aspirations and experiences.

Finding this shared interest can also help you protect your ibasho from those who are opportunistic and unethical; you must never put the harmony of your ibasho or its values at risk from those who seek to take advantage of the benefits it brings. 

Ensure that ibasho members have distinct roles so they have an opportunity to contribute to, invest in, and support the maintenance of the ibasho. You do not need to single-handedlydecide and do everything. One advantage of sharing the load is that it allows people in your ibasho the chance to make the most of the time you have together.

Authentic relationships

Remember that creating an ibasho comes with its challenges. While belonging to an ibasho will allow you to be genuine, carefree, authentic, and connected, these are all benefits that require deliberate cultivation and safeguarding. As we have explored, ibasho is about authentic relationships, and we all know that relationships can get complicated. Our own lives get complicated, and if we are not careful the foundations of our ibasho can become unstable if we allow life to get in the way.

Following these simple steps will allow you, like me, to create your own ibasho – an essential element of ikigai which not only can satisfy the desire to feel needed but also can give you a sense of purpose.