003 – What Ikigai Means To The Japanese With Sachiaki Takamiya

Ever asked what ikigai means to a Japanese person?

Amongst the myriad interpretations of ikigai found on the web, what does it truly signify to the Japanese people?

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick explores this question with Sachiaki Takamiya. 

Podcast highlights:

Sachiaki Takamiya

Sachiaki Takamiya

Sachiaki Takamiya is a sustainable life coach and an author, best known for his book Tenjo-no-Symphony, which is a spiritual novel. He’s written several books on the topic of ikigai: Zen and a Way of Sustainable Prosperity, Ikigai Business, and Ikigai Diet. He also has a YouTube channel and creates videos related to sustainability, healthy living, and ikigai.

Sachiaki’s works

Sachiaki’s works include Tenjo-no-Symphony and Hyakusho Revolution (farmers’ revolution), which he is most known for. He also has three books written in English:

  1. Zen on the Way of Sustainable Prosperity - a book that delves into motivational success philosophy grounded in sustainability. It posits that individuals aspire not to excessive wealth, but rather to attain a level of prosperity that ensures comfort. Moreover, it emphasizes the importance of maintaining a sustainable lifestyle to safeguard the environment and foster the well-being of one's community.
  2. Ikigai Business - a shorter version of the above, which focuses on starting a business that is sustainable and helps in making society better.
  3. Ikigai Diet - a book that helps people lead a long, healthy, and happy life.
Sustainable Lifestyle

The ikigai Venn diagram

Ikigai holds great importance for Sachiaki, who embraces this concept in his daily life. However, he was perplexed when he came across the Venn diagram depicting ikigai because he felt it failed to encompass the authentic Japanese understanding of the concept.

The Ikigai framework, comprising four questions - What do you love? What does the world need? What are you good at? What can you be paid for? - has gained significant traction among many individuals. Nick and Sachiaki discuss each question to further understand if it has something to do with ikigai.

Is ikigai something that people get paid for?

Contrary to popular belief, ikigai does not solely revolve around monetary compensation. Sachiaki emphasises that he finds several ikigai in activities unrelated to financial gain, such as taking a morning walk or enjoying a cup of coffee or beer. Ikigai can be the simple things that give people joy, and not just something they get paid for.

Is ikigai what the world needs?

According to Sachiaki, ikigai holds two definitions: the value of life and the joy in life. The aspect one focuses on determines whether it can be deemed as something essential for the world.

Engaging in activities that contribute to society can provide a sense that life is worth living. Doing something that people think the world needs from them may lead them to live a valuable life and feel ikigai. Therefore, Sachiaki asserts that ikigai can indeed be something the world needs.

You may feel a lot of value in your life by contributing to society. It is possible that what the world needs from you is your ikigai, but it doesn't have to be. - Sachiaki Takamiya

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Contribution to society

Sachiaki's own writing serves as an example of this perspective. It represents one of his ikigai, which he believes is both beneficial to the world and personally fulfilling, providing him with a sense of purpose and pleasure.

Is ikigai something that people need to be good at?

Engaging in simple activities like taking a morning walk or savoring a cup of coffee or a cold beer does not necessarily demand proficiency, yet they can still serve as one's ikigai. Sachiaki believes that one's ikigai is not limited to pursuits that require specific skills or abilities. However, it is indeed possible to discover ikigai in something one excels at, as exemplified by Sachiaki and his passion for writing.

Is ikigai something that people love?

According to Sachiaki, ikigai can encompass things that people love, such as his fondness for morning walks, coffee, beer, and writing. However, for some individuals, ikigai serves as a source of motivation to navigate through challenging life circumstances. During difficult times, people seek ikigai to discover meaning within their struggles, even if it may not necessarily be something enjoyable.

Nick recalls watching a documentary about lonely death cleaners in Japan, who clean the apartments of deceased individuals. In an interview, the manager expressed conflicting emotions when receiving phone calls for their services. While it meant business, it also meant dealing with the unpleasant task of cleaning up after someone's passing.

However, the manager found a sense of ikigai in the belief that they were taking care of the deceased person's final significant issue. This means that ikigai can involve finding meaning in something, rather than solely focusing on pursuing one's passions.


What is ikigai for the Japanese people?

As previously mentioned, Sachiaki explains that ikigai encompasses two meanings: the value of life and the joy experienced in everyday life. Through extensive research, Sachiaki delved into the concept of ikigai. However, he discovered that many Japanese people have a vague understanding of ikigai, and their interpretations can vary depending on their life stage.

Some individuals struggle to identify their ikigai, while others view it as something simple, such as finding joy in everyday experiences. Nevertheless, there are those who perceive ikigai as something more profound and expansive, representing a purpose in life.

The majority of the Japanese people regard ikigai to be something simple, like joy in everyday life. - Sachiaki Takamiya

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Ikigai in the Japanese

Effects of social media on ikigai

When asked if technology makes it harder for Japanese people to find ikigai, Sachiaki explains that the influence of technology can be both positive and negative. On one hand, the internet has opened up new possibilities, granting access to information and enabling individuals to discover unique ways of living.

However, on the other hand, the prevalence of technology often results in increased screen time and diminished connection with nature. This can hinder people's ability to fully appreciate life's experiences and find their ikigai.


Social Media on Ikigai

How can people find ikigai?

Finding ikigai may vary depending on the specific factors individuals are seeking to discover. For people who want to be healthy, Sachiaki suggests finding small joys in everyday life. Creating a list of activities they enjoy and find fulfilling can be helpful in cultivating a healthy lifestyle.

On the other hand, for individuals in search of deeper meaning and purpose, Sachiaki recommends delving into the core of their life's purpose. He believes that by asking themselves important questions such as "What do I want to achieve?" and "How do I want to spend my time?", they can gain a better understanding of their true selves and uncover their life's purpose.


Sanpo yoshi

Sanpo yoshi, also known as "three-way satisfaction," is a concept highlighted in Sachiaki's book, The Ikigai Business. Originating from the practices of Omi merchants, renowned for establishing numerous successful corporations in Japan, it embodies a philosophy of conducting business that brings simultaneous satisfaction to the seller, buyer, and society as a whole. Recognizing the value of this approach, Sachiaki expands the application of sanpo yoshi beyond business and incorporates it into other realms, including happiness and health, and came up with three principles:

  1. Jibun-Yoshi (I am happy)
  2. Aite-Yoshi (You are happy -- e.g. family, friends, or co-workers)
  3. Seken-Yoshi (Society is happy)


The Ikigai Venn Diagram has often led people in the West to associate ikigai primarily with entrepreneurship, but its true essence extends far beyond that. To the Japanese, ikigai carries a profound significance beyond mere financial pursuits. It embodies a sense of life meaning, evoking joy and satisfaction.