Ken Mogi, Ph.D. Neuroscientist, researcher, university lecturer, author, broadcaster and media commentator.
He has published more than 30 papers on cognitive and neurosciences, and over 100 books in Japan covering popular science, essay, criticism and self-help. His books have sold close to 1 million copies.
"Kodawari is a personal standard, to which the individual adheres to in a steadfast manner. It is often, though not always, used in reference to a level of quality or professionalism to which the individual holds. It is an attitude, often maintained throughout one’s life, constituting a central element of ikiagi. An approach whereby you take extraordinary care of very small details." - Ken Mogi
In the many aspects of the ikigai concept in Japan, there's one interesting twist which is kodawari. Kodawari is when craftsman or ramen restaurant owners go beyond the reasonable expectation of the market. They really work really hard to refine the quality of their products.
In the case of a ramen shop, the owner or chef might have kodawari- sticking to sticking a high standard and really trying to make the best of noodles and soups and ingredients and so on. And the customers might not actually notice the difference. Only the chef will notice the difference.
So in terms of market strategy, it doesn't make sense because even if you make that small improvement many customers wouldn't notice, so as a marketing strategy it is a stupid act, but many ramen restaurant owners in Japan actually do this in their spirit of kodawari.
It is a really interesting phenomenon seen in Japan. For hobbyists, making dolls, for example, they make dolls with such detailed craftsmanship, and many people don’t notice the difference but for them, it makes a world of difference
This spirit of kodawari is not something that you can expect to learn from the classrooms of MBA. It's not something that would be taught at Harvard business school.
It is something that is probably not adaptive. If you have kodawari you cannot make quick money or have super profit, but you have your inner satisfaction. That is very important because everything comes and stirs from inner satisfaction. And only you know the standard. So that is the beauty of the kodawari spirit in Japan. And, I think it is a very important element of ikigai for Japanese people.
In the Podcast:
- Cancellation of the Olympic Games 1:04
- The concept of Kodawari 5:38
- Is Kodawari unique to Japan? 8:59
- Is the Kodawari spirit exclusive to only artists or craftsmen? 11:15
- Kodawari communication: 15:32
- Stealing craftsmanship: 23:37
- Relationship between Kodawari and Flow State 25:41
- Shokunin Damashii 29:54
- Pursuing goals beyond reasonable expectations 36:42
- Japan’s amazing ability to improve the quality of products 40:14
- Starting Small 42:37
- Ken Mogi’s Ikigai - Importance of saying thank you 47:30
Nick: This is Episode 13 of the ikigai podcast and I'm back with a very special guest Professor Ken Mogi. Hi there Ken.
Ken: Hi Nick, It's really nice to talk to you.
Cancellation of the Olympic Games
Nick: Yes. It's great to have you on the podcast again. You were on episode six and we talked about ikigai and your book, The Little Book of ikigai. And today, we'll be talking about an aspect of Ikigai called Kodawari. But before we jump into that, I'd like to mention a few things that obviously the last time we spoke the world was very different. If the world was still normal, Japan would be gearing up for the Olympics. So what's the feel in Japan at the moment?
Ken: Well as you know Nick, the Japanese love the Olympics. There's something about the Japanese mindset that embraces the Olympic movement wholeheartedly. I know Australia has hosted several Olympic Games but for Japan, this would have been the first Summer Olympic Games in 56 years. So there were many people really enthusiastically waiting for this to happen. So you can imagine the disappointment and a great uneasiness because it has been postponed this year but, you never know. Nobody's sure if the Olympic Games can go ahead even next year. So you can imagine we are living in a turmoil of emotions.
Nick: Yeah, I think I saw one of your tweets where you said it's possible that if a candidate becomes the mayor of Tokyo, he was saying he would cancel the games.
Ken: Yeah, The candidate is saying that he would cancel the games. I think it's very difficult for any country but in Japan because of the Olympics, this pandemic is having a certain poignancy in people's hearts. So we should somehow carry on using our famous perseverance and resilience in the Japanese way which you might be familiar with.
Nick: Yes, I am sure you guys do have that strength and I'm sure you will. I do think back to the Rugby World Cup and how Japan was such a great host, and that was such a huge success, it was sort of the perfect lead up to the games. So yeah you're right, It is really disappointing but hopefully next year we'll be celebrating the games.
Ken: Yeah, that was the time when we saw so many Australians drinking beer in front of Tokyo Station. So that was a really special year, many Aussie people actually drinking tons of beer everywhere.
Nick: Yeah, we love our beer. As much as I like to say, yeah, we love our beer, we probably have a serious drinking problem. That's something you can do in Japan, you can drink in public and we can't do that here. You can't drink on the streets. You can only really drink in licensed places or licensed venues.
Ken: Because we have our famous Hanami Festivities every spring where we admire the cherry blossoms, drink Sake and so that's quite acceptable.
Nick: Yeah, it’s so strange to go to Japan every spring.
Now, Ken, you've been really prolific in the last few months on YouTube with an English channel sharing gold nuggets of wisdom. So I really enjoy your YouTube videos and I'll definitely link your channel. Why did you decide to start that?
Ken: I've always had my Japanese YouTube channel and posted something in English from time to time but because of this pandemic many of my travel assignments have been cancelled, so I had some extra time to do something.
The Concept of Kodawari
Nick: You seem to really enjoy sharing knowledge. So let's do that today with this concept of Kodawari. Ken you describe Kodawari as “a central element of ikigai being a personal standard to which the individual adheres to in a steadfast manner and approach whereby you take extraordinary care of very small details.” So would you like to elaborate on that?
Ken: I think the typical example would be a ramen noodle restaurant where the owner-chef has such a Kodawari about how to make the noodles and soup and ingredients, toppings and so on and you'll interestingly find out many customers might not actually be aware of the extra length that he would go to make his bowl of ramen noodle, just perfect. People don't care so much he has this really developed sensitivities of how the noodles should taste in your mouth.
"So, I think Kodawari is this idea that you have your own rules, you have your own standards and whether it's not supported by the customer or would be appreciated by the market you do your Kodawari anyway. This is something that goes beyond the market economy and something that is more individualistic and more philosophical even if other people don't notice, you do what you want to do, that is Kodawari."
"So, I think Kodawari is this idea that you have your own rules, you have your own standards and whether it's not supported by the customer or would be appreciated by the market you do your Kodawari anyway. This is something that goes beyond the market economy and something that is more individualistic and more philosophical even if other people don't notice, you do what you want to do, that is Kodawari." - Ken Mogi
Nick: I think ramen is a great example because I know that there are two elements of ramen that are really important. That's the broth and how the time and love and care that goes into making the broth and I do know that most ramen operators don't make their own noodles, probably because it's quite hard to do that in such a confined space. But obviously noodles are very important too
Ken: Yeah, there's this really heated debate about how you should boil the noodles in some reminiscence. You are asked how you would like your noodles. There are many stages of boiling the noodles, you can have a full boil when you have a really tasty, soft noodle, but you can also have a very short dip into the hot water and just put it out and some people love that way. So there are all these different approaches to noodle boiling and which I think is a great testimony of the fact that Japanese people, in general, are very particular about what they would have to eat.
Is Kodawari unique to Japan?
Nick: Yes, they certainly love food. What you're saying makes me think it's almost like when you go and order a steak at a steakhouse and they'll ask you if you want rare or medium-rare, well done. I didn't know that you could do that with noodles. Would you say Kodawari is something that you feel is generally unique to Japan?
Ken: I wouldn't say that. I'm sure some Australians would have this Kodawari. But I think you are aware that Kodawari has a lot to do with Japanese craftsmanship. Japanese craftsmen are so particular in the way they do their job. The key concept is that you do something beyond the reasonable expectations of the market. It's not about efficiency or value-added from your work or whatever, one of these reasonable considerations in the modern economy. It is something more overstate.
"In Japanese culture, I think this idea of Kodawari is always associated with somebody who is probably not so talkative, not so communicative, who might not be outgoing, who is not an extrovert, who is not really diplomatic but just sticks to his or her own way of doing things." - Ken Mogi
"In Japanese culture, I think this idea of Kodawari is always associated with somebody who is probably not so talkative, not so communicative, who might not be outgoing, who is not an extrovert, who is not really diplomatic but just sticks to his or her own way of doing things."
It is a fact that in Japan we have these kinds of people and these kinds of people have been sometimes glorified in dramas and films and novels and so on. Japan has this culture of Kodawari and craftsmanship but I'm sure in Australia, or in other countries, you do have these people who are very particular about their way.
Nick: I would think so. I know in your book you cite Steve Jobs as someone who had the Kodawari spirit, and he definitely did. And he had this vision and some of the products he produced, I guess some people would say they were perfect. They were so easy to use and that design was all about design and experience. He really did have a massive impact on the world and he was very passionate about Japanese culture and Japanese craftsmanship. So I do think there are people in all countries who probably know it or not have this Kodawari spirit. And it seems that is something very personal and almost private in a sense. They're not boasting about what they're producing and they let their work or their product express those qualities that result from the work they do or their Kodawari spirit.
Is the Kodawari Spirit Exclusive to Only Artists or Craftsmen?
Nick: Another question I did have was, is it a practice only artists or Craftsman develop? I guess the answer is anyone can have a spirit of Kodawari as long as they do have this desire to go beyond what's normal, and they do for some reason have a strong desire to pay attention to the fine details of their work and there seems to be no end. There seems to be no perfect result, they'll just keep pursuing it.
Ken: I think there's really no end to what you can do in terms of perfection and that I think is a common assumption among Japanese people, for example, Ichiro who is a baseball player and he's really originated in Major League Baseball because he moved to the US and did really wonderful stuff there at the Seattle Mariners and the New York Yankees. I had the privilege of interviewing Ichiro for a Japanese TV program several times and he's a man of Kodawari because he hit the most number of hits and he was a leading batter in some seasons. So many people think that he's batting control is almost perfect but Ichiro is never satisfied with that, he's always trying to improve his art of batting and field play and that is Kodawari and that is something really commonly accepted in Japanese culture.
This idea that even if you are a top ranker in some field, whether it's the school of artwork, craftsmanship or anything. I think the Japanese assumption is that you can improve more, there's no perfect state. You're never there and you're always on your way to be there, but you're never there in this life. and this assumption is I think what many people take when approaching these things.
Some famous manga and anime works are based on this idea, even children have this idea of never being perfect, but always striving to be perfect. It starts actually from this small age like five or six when they start to read manga and watch anime, they learn this philosophy, because it's something that runs very deep in Japanese culture.
Kodawari is Ultimately About Communication
Nick: Yeah, I think it'd be a great philosophy for the whole world to learn. I mean, for example, everyone's embraced mindfulness and a lot of people would practice meditation, but I think if we could teach children this idea of Kodawari that you can't be perfect, but you can strive to improve one aspect of something you're interested in you don't have to be the perfect person or everything doesn't have to be perfect, but if you love something, you could certainly strive to pursue that, if it's meaningful for you, and you could have this long relationship with a love of a hobby or sport. There's a quote in your book, which I think is really important, and it's
“Someone who has the Kodawari spirit that is good enough, is simply not good enough, because Kodawari is ultimately about communication."
Nick: So would you like to expand on that?
Ken: This is something very different but I have a really funny anecdote. One of the top Japanese restaurant owners, who sadly passed away last year. He was really famous, Kenichiro Nishi and he owned a restaurant called Kyoaji, which was considered by many to be the very finest in Japanese traditional cuisine.
His father was also a Chef, but his father never told him how to cook. This is the funny part whenever they cooked together in the kitchen at some crucial moment when the father did something really intricate and difficult manoeuvres. His father would say to him, bring something or you know, go and do something, his father always makes up some excuses not to let his son see this really crucial operation. So he would always prepare many things so no matter what the Father asks he can just grab it because everything was nearby.
So, in that way, his father was always trying to avoid teaching the essential tricks to him and he was responding in some very prepared way to actually keep learning, even if his father tries to stop him from learning the trick.
This I think is very Japanese because normally in the West when the father wants to share something with his son, he would be outgoing and say "hey, this is a trick and you should watch this." This is all about communication because I think great wisdom here is the craftsmanship of Kodawari cannot be told so easily in its essence. So, in order to learn it, you must really want to know it really strongly, with all your existence. The fact that the father of Kenichiro Nishi, this owner of Kyoaji restaurant learned the most essential tracks from himself for many years and the son trying to understand what his trick is and this is I think, something that is recent in many Japanese people but something probably western people would find it difficult to understand. What did you take over this anecdote?
Nick: I think on the surface or when you hear it for the first time you think "God that that's unusual why would a father do that?" But I think what really is the point is the father's saying if you want to know, if you really do care, my role as a teacher is probably to make you earn it in a sense that I need to know that you care enough about this. So I am going to make it hard for you not to be mean but to make sure that when you do focus on what I do this specific point that I have your full attention and that you care enough. That's a great way to teach because if you do make it hard for someone who wants to learn they're gonna work harder for it, and they'll respect the time when they're learning this special significant point.
Ken: I think this is really funny because I'm a scientist, so I was told the rational western way to think about things but when I read novels on Samurai Warriors, for example, this pattern of something essential, hidden, and you try to uncover what is this mysterious mastery of ancient art, this person is always there.
So this is something that is so important in the Japanese way of achieving something, and I think it's almost totally absent in the cultures of the West. I think it is a very interesting point. and as somebody who was born here, based in Tokyo I always find it really interesting. I can't explain it fully myself but it's something really interesting.
Nick: It is, I think it's quite a powerful, indirect way of communicating, but it's a very strong way to communicate. There's a good example of this, I think in the documentary, Jiro dreams of sushi. He has an apprentice who's making the egg and he's making this egg around 10 times a day or 20 times a day and every time Jiro tastes the egg, he just says it's not right. He doesn't elaborate. He doesn't say you need more sugar or you need to mix the eggs longer he gives him no guidance at all. Then, one day, he just casually says something, I can't remember but it seemed like such an insignificant comment but he was saying you got it but it was so understated.
Most people look at that and go that's a really unproductive way to help people like why would you make an apprentice go through literally hundreds of days and then when he's finally there you kind of say "Oh, you might end up being a good chef." I think he said something like that.
Nick: I probably understand it because of my experience of living in Japan but some people might think it's heartless or cruel. But if you understand Japanese culture it's the opposite. It's just a very different way to communicate it.
Ken: The interesting thing is that it's quite widespread, actually it's a default way to learn, craftsmanship and in restaurants and so on. So it's not just Jiro Ono who is a really special person. I think it's happening everywhere in Japanese restaurants. So you are told to steal craftsmanship, you must observe your master and steal it. That's what they say usually, so this is also true in traditional Kabuki play or small restaurants they train every morning in the stables, but they are never taught how to do something right. They just bump into each other and do all these things. You have to really steal it If you want to be a good small restaurant because nobody teaches you from a theoretical point of view, how you should move your arms and grip the other guy's belt and all these things. I think it's something really common in Japanese culture.
Nick: I guess it draws out the best in the apprentice or the student, and I guess it draws out the best apprentice because, in order to steal someone's craft, I guess you have to be extremely mindful and persistent. If you're waiting to be taught obviously you're not going to make any progress. That's a very unique aspect of Japanese culture. I didn't really fully understand and I obviously still don't fully understand. I didn't know there was this idea that you steal a craftsman’s knowledge or craftsman’s art.
Relationship between Kodawari and The Flow State
Nick: Moving on Ken. I've thought about this for a while, does Kodawari help you reach a flow state or is it the other way around where you need to be in a flow state to practice Kodawari?
Ken: From what I have observed from presenting some TV programs I also actually interviewed many craftsmen and they seem to be in that state of flow when they do their job, for example, Wajima-Nuri is where they produced this lacquerware, where you can have lacquerware painted in black and red and you can use it in traditional tea ceremonies and so on. They are in a constant state of flow. I think these craftsmen, the same goes for people who make traditional Japanese sweets in Kyoto, restaurant chefs, this includes chefs who are specialists on Italian and French dishes because you can have one of the best Italian French dishes in the world in Tokyo. These chefs have one thing in common which is they are always in the state of flow. They really like a magician or an athlete in motion, they never stop and are always in motion. There's not a moment when they stop and think "oh, why should I cook this meat or how should I prepare this vegetable?" They are always in constant motion.
It's really beautiful to watch and I do think that Kodawari is probably synonymous with a flow state. They achieve a certain level of mastery. I don't know when they were apprentices and they maybe had some hiccups. When they reach a state of the master being a master, they do have this constant state of flow in which they exercise their Kodawari which is very interesting.
Nick: I think I told you about my father in law in Japan, he makes Shinoyaki pottery. Actually, I think in the 80s, he was recognized as a Dentou Kouheishi
Ken: Whoa, that's a wonderful thing.
Nick: When I lived with him, his factory was two steps away. It was next door to his house, I'd often spend time in the factory and he would just seem to step into flow so easily and he would be on his pottery wheel and just two to three minutes he'll be producing a Matcha-Jawan and then move it off the wheel and make another one and another one, and then I'll leave the factory and come back 10 minutes later and be this line of Matcha-Jawans ready to be fired. I just couldn't believe how they all looked uniform and the same. And for him, it was just working, but I was just astounded how easily he could do that and I was thinking, I just don't think I'd have the mental fortitude to sit down and do that hours on end every day. I've always thought there is this aspect to Kodawari that requires flow.
Ken: And you do have a firsthand experience of that. That's great.
Nick: Yeah, it's a little bit unfortunate because I probably didn't really understand it fully at the time. But now two of his sons are making pottery so maybe they're stealing his craft.
Nick: So, touching on Craftsman, I did learn another word fairly recently Ken and that's Shokunin Damashi. So Shokunin means craftsmen and Damashii means spirit and there's not a lot of information on Shokunin Damashii on the internet. I have found a quote and it's:
"The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese English dictionaries as craftsmen or artisan, but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that Shokunin means not only having technical skills but also implies an attitude of social consciousness. The Shokunin has a social obligation to work his or her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material in that no matter what it is the Shokunin's responsibility is to fulfil the requirement."
So that sounds very similar to Kodawari. Obviously they are very similar concepts to Shokunin Damashii and Kodawari. Is there a difference?
Ken: Kodawari is a very important part of Shokunin Damashii, it's part of this whole spectrum of how people have lived and are living in Japan. I think when a typical Japanese hears this word Shokunin Damashii, I think he or she would be reminded of the thousands of people who are still working in society without actually being medicated for it, I mean without being loud in the media or without any spotlight on them, but they do what they can do and they would love to do. Making some sweets for tea ceremonies or even in the modern context like making some parts to be used in an automobile aircraft or Shinkansen and these people are all Shokunin and they have also been Damashii.
When you hear this word Shokunin Damashii, I think we are always associated with people who are doing their duty in society, without boasting about it or without speaking out about it. So it's very Japanese I think because when I go to the United States, for example, every person is boasting about what he or she is doing. I'm not saying that Americans are bad in a sense. I mean, it's a different attitude toward it. I don't think your father in law boasted about what he made.
Nick: I had no idea how important he was actually, I just thought, Oh, well, he's pretty good at making pottery, but I've sort of found out later from my wife and so she didn't even really tell me how good he was, it's just her dad.
I recently discovered a Japanese guitar company. Fuji Gen Gakki. There's a company called Ibanez which is a Japanese company. It's very well known but they don't actually make guitars so they really only do branding and marketing. There's this company in Nagano. They've been making guitars for seventy and they've made guitars for Fender for obviously Ibanez and they make a lot of guitars for artists, so they make like a signature guitar for artists. So I thought, wow, that's interesting. I always thought Ibanez was this company that made all these guitars for famous guitarists.
So I started to look on YouTube for some videos, and I found out that where most companies now use computers to cut the neck of the guitar, workers in this company still use a buzz saw but they still cut the necks by hand and there's one person in this company who can only do that and every day he would be cutting hundreds of guitar necks by hand and it doesn't take him long it only takes him a few minutes to do one neck but it's done by hand which really shocked me because I thought most companies do that with a computer and machinery. And the more I watch this short documentary on Fuji Gen Gakki you find out their whole process involves this human connection and this pursuit of making sure that each guitar attains the best possible standard they can achieve. And if there's a scratch or a dent that most people wouldn't even recognize on the guitar, when they do their quality control they won't sell it.
There are examples of this Shokunin Damashii or Kodawari spirit in all facets of Japanese manufacturing or service. I keep discovering these amazing things about Japanese culture, even living there for so long. So it is sort of like a never-ending romance for me to be learning so much about Japan.
Pursuing Goals Beyond Reasonable Expectations
Nick: There's one more thing I'd like to talk to you about Ken and this is something you mentioned in your book and you write:
"One crucial aspect of Kodawari is that people pursue their own goals above and beyond reasonable expectations based on market forces. Eventually, something miraculous happens, a breakthrough, the creation of a new genre of products resulting in a new market where people are prepared to pay premium prices for qualities previously unimagined." - Ken Mogi
So would you like to offer an example of that?
Ken: Well, something I'm familiar with is a Sake Japanese rice wine. Many rice wine producers really believe what they do is incredible. Maybe you're familiar, you know Ginjo is when you polish the rice until only a tiny fraction of the original grain remains, maybe only 10% in extreme cases 20% 30% and so that adds to the purity and resonance of Sake taste. What 's funny is that many Sake masters actually cannot drink Sake. That often happens they cannot take alcohol. So, they do not enjoy Sake but they produce the best Sake.
So, that is kind of a contradiction which is very interesting because the craftsmen do this not for their own personal pleasure, but for somebody else. Sake making and Japanese whiskey, of course I mean, nowadays Japanese whiskey is really regarded highly in the world market and you cannot really get hold of the best whiskies, like Hibiki, Hakushu, and so on because they're so rare now. Also even Japanese Gins. Gin is always considered as British I think but now, you can get a really wonderful gin from Kyoto.
Ken: Kinobi is a Japanese craft gin, and it's really wonderful. It has opened up a whole new world of what gin can be. It's something beyond belief. I would really love to give you a bottle of Kinobi. It would change your concept of Gin forever.
Ken: Do you know Kinobi?
Nick: No, I hope we can share a bottle
Ken: One of my best friends. He's based in California. Out of the blue, he sends me this email that says, "Hey Ken! Do you know this gin from Kyoto, Kinobi." Yeah, of course, I know and he says, "that's the best thing you can get in the world!" He's saying that from California. This is the kind of breakthrough that you're talking about.
Japan’s Amazing Ability to Improve The Quality of Products
Nick: That's another thing about Japan. They'll look at something outside of their culture and think okay, whiskey let's try and make whiskey. And after 30, 40 years, 50 years maybe 100 years. All of a sudden people start talking about this amazing Japanese whiskey and people are going to be talking about this amazing Kinobi gin and Japanese have this talent for taking something already I guess that's produced at a high standing but putting their own stamp on it and in the process making it perhaps more refined or better quality.
Ken: Yeah, that's one of them. Because many people don't think that's possible. Kodawari actually shatters these preconceptions about what our country is about and what our country is capable of because, I would say that probably Japanese wine would be improved so much that in a few years people would start talking about Japanese wine as well, whether it's red or white or sparkling. So it's repeated many many times. Like Wagyu beef. Beef eating was not Japan's tradition but now, people around the world are crazy about Wagyu beef.
Nick: Yes, they are. I think it's more of a marketing catchphrase now because you'll get to so many restaurants and they'll say we have a wagyu burger but it’s not really from Japan. But if you go to Japan and you do experience Wagyu beef you're going to be paying a premium price for it, aren't you?
Ken: Yeah. You should really have a premium Wagyu here in Japan because then you know it's authentic.
Nick: Yeah, let's do that when I visit you, we should go and get some wagyu and have a bottle of Kinobi gin.
Nick: So to finish, this is probably the most interesting aspect of Kodawari, is that in order to practice it, you need to start small. And there is no announcement or chest-beating or goal setting. It’s just starting small. I think I'd describe it as like a baby step to mastery but there really is no master but, it is this baby-steps approach one thing at a time trying your best to perfect it then moving on to the next step. That's something you talk about a lot and It's one of your pillars of ikigai that starts small. Is Kodawari something you can force and how can we practice Kodawari?
Ken: That's the most difficult part, isn't it? The fact is that if you go to a restaurant or any craftsmanship place you really talk about the ultimate goal or ultimate purpose. You really start from small things like Hey, can you peel this onion? Or can you make this scrambled egg? or whatever it is you always start from a specific thing and you almost never talk about the grand goal of achieving something. That is the spirit of starting small but it's not that Shokunin or craftsmen do not have any goals. They do have goals, but they do not mention it. I think this is a great way of starting things because too many times people talk about the ultimate goals.
You can even discuss it in modern settings. For example, people who make games are many kid's dream job is probably now making games and to be a game producer. You can be grandiose and talk about ultimate goals of producing really wonderful games but at the end of the day, you start from how to design your characters, how to make it playable, and so on. Nintendo is a company based in Kyoto. And Nintendo of course produced all these wonderful game characters like Super Mario and so on. I don't think people at Nintendo start from really grandiose ultimate goals they probably start from discussing how we should make the moustache of Mario. This whole attitude of starting from very specific, small things actually makes you go the longest in terms of creating something wonderful. So I think that's a really typical approach by Japanese people and I think that could be an inspiration for many people around the world because we talk too much about goals and not enough about specifics and small things.
Nick: It's almost, I think, just came to me now. It's like this love of creativity. It's this love of being creative and when you're creative you do care about these small details and you're fascinated with them. It might be really important to the person creating and to people around them. They might think why is he so obsessed with this or that? So I thought it might be a love of learning but I think it's more of a love of creating.
Ken: Yeah, I think many people around the world, especially the young generations, intuitively know what we are talking about here. For example online games where they have these characters and they discuss which character is what or whatever, these teenagers always talk about that. So they intuitively know that these details are very important in creating something so maybe all the kids in the world are becoming Shokunin or craftsmen in a sense.
Ken Mogi’s Ikigai - The Importance of Saying Thank You
Nick: I hope so, we always need more. So let's hope that's the case. I have a one really important question I forgot to ask you on our previous podcast, and that is, what is your Ikigai? I think you have several but I don't think I asked.
Ken: I have many goals, of course, I like to do something about the mind-brain program and so on. But we have been talking about the Japanese concepts and there's one concept that I really love in English speaking which is an epiphany. I really love the word epiphany. I don't think we have something equivalent to an epiphany. We do have some Japanese words for it right Keiji or Kizuki or whatever. But these words do not really mean what epiphany means.
So I think my ikigai in my life is to have Epiphanies.
Sometimes you have this moment when you realize something really important in your life. For example, think about your father. You don't say thank you enough for your parents, right? When they are alive but that is always repeated. For example, I haven't said thank you enough to my elementary school teachers although I received a lot of things. You realize and I think, Nick, you must have given many many things to other people in your life, I'm sure because you are such an inspirational person. You have given many, many things to other people. But these people don't come back to you and say, thank you. But it's a mutual thing. I realized that this world is a place where you don't say thank you to the people you've received so much from. That makes you happier because you realize that you might have given something to other people, without you knowing, perhaps and these people don't come back to you and say thank you. But when you look back on your life, all these people who have given you really wonderful inspirations and valuable teachings but you don't say thank you for these people.
So this world is full of people who do not have time to say thank you. So I had this epiphany when I was maybe 30 years old or 30 something. So just a few years ago, I'm just joking. So when I had this epiphany I think it made me really happy. So my ikigai is to have my next epiphany, I don't know when it will come or if it will come.
Nick: That's a great answer. I thought you were going to say something about butterflies or something about your work.
Ken: Of course but I just described my greatest ikigai in my life.
Nick: I was just gonna say that made me think of the word Satori, Is that close to an epiphany?
Ken: I think so. Yeah.
Nick: Going back to thanking people I think you're right. We don't think enough people and we probably never will, but I think it's important to thank the people close to you. That's something I did to my father. I did write him a long letter thanking him for everything he gave me. Before he died and that was such a healing process for me and it was a very emotional process to write the letter and reflect on the childhood and things we went through but through writing that letter I felt grateful and happier. When he received it, he was a man of very few words, but he thanked me for it and we had a moment where we did connect deeply on a phone call.
We definitely need to thank people and probably do it in a way that's meaningful not just say, Hey, thanks for helping me. But actually write a letter or something where you go into detail and say this is what you gave me and this is what it meant to me. I probably should end this podcast thanking you for all you've done for me and your books helped me understand this greatly misunderstood concept ikigai and the second podcast like the last one, has been a wonderful learning experience and very enjoyable. So thank you so much for your time.
Ken: Thank you for your wonderful podcast and It's always such a pleasure to talk to you so thank you.
Nick: Yeah, I feel like giving you a virtual hug or something. I do look forward to meeting you in person, hopefully, this year or next year
Ken: And have some wagyu
Nick: And some Kinobi. Yeah, let's do this. Again. I'll think of another subject.
Nick: So thank you so much, Ken.
Ken: Thank you very much.