Ibasho as Authentic Relationships

Leisure researcher and regular Ikigai Tribe podcast guest Dr. Shintaro Kono describes ibasho, authentic relationshsips, as the social aspect of ikigai. 

While studying keiken, valued life experiences, amongst university students Dr Shintaro Kono noticed a strong effect of ibasho on the experience of ikigai-kan:

‘Our results suggested that students' ikigai was strongly influenced by ibasho, authentic relationship. In such relationships, students felt that they could be true to who they were, self-authentic and that their close others sincerely cared about them without considering personal gains. They experienced genuine care. The students felt that they could be plain and they could be themselves and carefree in what they said or shared.’

Authentic Relationships

This introduces a new definition of ibasho that is closely tied to the concept of social ibasho which I wrote on in the blog post Ibasho - a solution to loneliness. Kono’s term captures the idea that in certain relationships, you can be your true self with a feeling of total security that you will be accepted and cared for; those with whom you are interacting can be depended upon to be supportive and generous, with no ulterior motives. 

Shared and Communicating Experiences

Dr Kono’s research suggests that these authentic relationships are developed and maintained through two modes of interaction: shared experiences and communicating experiences. With shared experiences, people are engaging in events and activities synchronously – through which they discover mutual, or ‘echoed,’ values. 

This common ground leads to feelings of trust and a sense of belonging. Interactions based on communication of experience emerge when people haven’t engaged with activities together but feel a strong urge to do the next best thing: allow others to participate vicariously by describing what it was like. 

When communicating experiences, there is an excited and joyous urge to catch others up on what they missed and collectively celebrate good fortune – the sort of urge expressed by a child wanting to share a significant event with their parents, like receiving a gold star from their teacher for their homework or being named pupil of the week. Through both modes of interaction, echoed values fosters a sense of trust which, in turn, allows people to open up and enjoy a relaxed and genuine exchange with others.

Being Yourself

These findings reinforce the importance of relationships – but they build on Kono’s observations by highlighting the need to have not just any relationships, but those of particular types and qualities: specifically, those in which you have the freedom to discover and express an unfiltered version of yourself. This gives you a safe and fulfilling ‘place to be’ – in your own self and in exchanges with others. Both are satisfying and meaningful, and therefore directly linked to ikigai. Kono remarks:

‘Ibasho is the interpersonal side of ikigai that I found important. And it's about authentic relationship, where you can be who you think you really are. It's a really philosophical question about who we really are. But it's also a fact that many of us have this sense that, ‘this version of me’, whatever you're doing, whatever you're feeling, whatever you're saying, feels right to you. And to just be consistent with that. And that's very important across social relationships.’