004 – Finding Ikigai in Leisure with Shintaro Kono

Want to find your ikigai? What’s you hobby?

Are you seeking ways to experience a sense of ikigai in your life? Consider exploring various leisure activities.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick discusses with Shintaro Kono how people can find ikigai in leisure.

Podcast highlights:

Shintaro Kono

Shintaro Kono is an expert in leisure behavior science and an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada. He is known for his research on ikigai.

Why study leisure

Shintaro earned his bachelor's degree in Physical Education-Sport and Leisure Management from Tokai University in Japan. His interest in the program was sparked during his high school years when he attended an 'open campus' event, where he had the opportunity to attend presentations by different universities. It was at this event that he listened to Dr. Shin Nishino's presentation and became captivated by the subject matter. Dr. Nishino became Shintaro's degree supervisor, providing guidance as he delved into the study of leisure, sports, and tourism.

Definition of ikigai


According to Shintaro, ikigai in Japanese means two things: 

  1. A feeling that a person has that life that’s worth living; having a meaningful life.

  2. Something that makes a person feel motivated - the contributors or sources of ikigai; it can be a hobby, relationship, or even work.

Houkou-sei (life directionality)

Shintaro’s study mentioned three ikigai leisure concepts: houkou-sei, ibasho, and keiken.

The first one is houkou-sei (life directionality), which is the temporal aspect of ikigai. It is the associations that people make between experiences at different times in their lives, the way that past events in their lives contribute to who they are and what they do today, and how that leads to their future goals.

Ibasho (authentic relationships)

The second theory is ibasho (authentic relationships). Shintaro describes this as an interpersonal dimension of ikigai. It is about sharing valued experiences with close others and knowing that everyone in the group values these experiences equally.

Keiken (valued experience) 

The third theory is keiken (valued experience), which is about the here and now: the events that people personally value, and as well as their community. Shintaro identified four key types of valued experience that contribute to having ikigai:

  1. Tanoshimi (enjoyment) - not thinking about the long-term; just appreciating the here and now.
  2. Gambari (effort) - making efforts and overcoming challenges while thinking about long term accomplishments.
  3. Shigeki (stimulation) - doing something new.
  4. Iyashi (comfort) - old or ordinary things that people are used to.
According to Shintaro, the core of the three theories is keiken. The more values that people collect from enjoyment, efforts, stimulation, and comfort, the more ikigai they experience because they have more ways in which to ground their understanding of ikigai.

We found that each of these four types of experiences; enjoyment, effort, stimulation and comfort, contribute to ikigai feeling. - Dr. Shinataro Kono

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Value balancing

In his interview with 27 students, Shintaro found that they consistently talked about having different types of experiences and being able to compare and contrast values of enjoyment and effort. This led him to propose that ‘value balancing’ is a key part of ikigai: attaining a variety of the types of value provided by different experiences.

Value disengagement

Shintaro also found that students needed to disengage from their experiences. Effortful experience can be daunting, and that sometimes it is important to step away from this challenge. By doing so, people will have time to have fun. Taking a break from effortful activities gives people the comfort they need to re-engage with them later on.

Value Disengagement

Two types of ikigai perceptions

Shintaro’s keiken theory identified two types of ikigai perceptions: 

  1. Life affirmation - people’s lives are worth living because of their day-to-day valued experiences.

  2. Life vibrancy - having plentiful valuable experiences and being motivated because of this.

Finding ikigai in leisure activities

When asked about what advice he can give to help people find ikigai, Shintaro says to just try things, because people will never know the real value of an experience until they actually do it. There is value to just being spontaneous and playful; playfulness is valuable for both adults as well as kids.

Being able to play is very valuable for adults as well, not just for kids. - Dr. Shintaro Kono

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Ikigai in Leisure

Leisure is unique in terms of the flexibility with which people can value it. When people feel like something’s missing in their lives, they can go for leisure because it gives them opportunities to explore many different things that can be a great source of ikigai.

Ikigai in Leisure

Shintaro’s ikigai

Shintaro shares that he has multiple sources of ikigai. He enjoys playing badminton because it is fun and offers him opportunities for improvement; he loves being a professor because that work allows him to do different things, meet different people, and conduct research. Moreover, he enjoys spending time with his wife and being able to do things together.


Engaging in leisure activities can also be a great source of ikigai, as it provides enjoyment and opportunities to try new things that allow us to discover something new about ourselves. It is a good time for us to clear our minds, relax, and have a break from things that worry us. It gives us more valued experiences that we can use as motivation in our daily lives.