61 – Friendship and Ikigai: The Shared Journey of Meaning and Connection

How often do we get a chance to reconnect with old friends and share the lessons we've learned along the way? Ikigai can be experienced through the connections we forge, and friendship is one such connection.


In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick and his good friend, Masayuki Matsubara, embark on an inspiring conversation about friendship, ikigai, and the power of shared experiences.

Lessons learned from experiences

“These challenges taught me valuable lessons and helped me grow personally and professionally. We gained a deeper understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, and we honed our problem-solving skills. Moreover, these experiences allowed us to develop a broader perspective and expand our knowledge and capabilities. We learn to adapt to new situations and think creatively to overcome challenges. We discover the significance of collaboration and effective communication in achieving our goals.” - Masayuki Matsubara

Masayuki Matsubara


Masayuki Matsubara is a musician, web designer, developer, and entrepreneur. He has a passion for designing and was awarded the iF Design Award in Germany in 2016.

Podcast Highlights

  • Learning the English language. At 1:28, Masayuki shares how he learned the English language.
  • Finding ikigai through music. At 3:32, Masayuki shares how music is a great source of ikigai for him.
  • Defining ikigai. At 4:20, Masayuki gives his definition of ikigai.
  • The beginning of a friendship and business venture. At 5:27, Nick and Masayuki recall the start of their friendship and doing business together. 
  • An ikigai experience. At 13:41, both describe their business venture as an ikigai experience.
  • Shared challenges. At 29:11, Nick and Masayuki discuss how they have grown from the experiences they have shared together.
  • Value in doing things. At 35:29, the two talk about gai (value or worth) and how it can be applied to various aspects of life.
  • Masayuki’s sources of ikigai. At 39:20, Masayuki shares what his ikigai is.

Defining ikigai

For Masayuki, ikigai is the purpose of life. He once believed that it was about reaching a specific goal. But throughout his life journey, he realised that one can find purpose even in the small joys of our daily existence.

The beginning of a friendship and business venture

Nick and Masayuki meeting each other was a chance encounter, with Nick randomly walking into Masayuki's café in Japan and inquiring about English classes. What began as a casual conversation quickly blossomed into an unforeseen friendship between the two of them.

Eventually, they decided to embark on a business venture and started an English conversation school together.

Ibasho for students

Like any other business, Nick and Masayuki experienced some ups and downs. But all in all, it was a fun and rewarding experience for them. One notable aspect is how they successfully established a sense of community at their school, making it an ibasho for some of their students - a place where they feel comfortable and have opportunities to connect with other students.

An ikigai experience

Pursuing their entrepreneurial spirit together, the two were able to come up with a language program called Sandwich Eikawa, a conversational language product for Japanese English learners. The entire journey of developing the program, including formulating a learning methodology, scripting, recording, and editing, provided them with a fulfilling ikigai experience.

“Personally, I found immense fulfilment in being a part of this project. Helping others learn and improve their English skills through our products brought me a sense of purpose and joy. It was an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of Japanese learners of English. Reflecting on our journey, I can say that it was an ikigai experience for me.” - Masayuki Matsubara

Ikigai Experience

Joining a web design competition

Another amazing experience Nick and Masayuki shared together was in 2008 when they became finalists of the Web Design International Festival, which took them to France.

To qualify within a span of 24 hours, they had to develop a website centred around the theme "water is life." Then in France for the finals, they had to develop an email web application. Despite being a two-person team, in contrast to other groups with four members, they succeeded in capturing the interest of several judges.

Shared challenges

“When I reflect now is that these were shared challenges, opening the school, creating a language product, and entering the web design competition. It wasn't always fun and easy. We had to work really hard. There were setbacks and frustrations, yet they were transformative for us. I really grew out of these experiences, I probably gained more confidence in myself.” - Nicholas Kemp


Their journey as friends and business partners served as a transformative experience for Nick and Masayuki. It wasn't always filled with fun and ease; they also faced numerous challenges along the way. However, they managed to grow and learn both personally and professionally.

They had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, they learned to work through their differences by fostering effective communication. These experiences can be connected to one of Mieko Kamiya’s elements of ikigai, ‘change and growth.’

Value in doing things

The suffix gai (value or worth) can be added to other verbs to emphasise something valuable to someone; and this applies to Masayuki’s life.

  • Yarigai (something worth doing) - Masayuki is heavily involved in his community. He has helped in creating their town magazine, organising concerts, and establishing a small art gallery.

  • Hatarakigai (work worth doing) - Masayuki also has a love for working. He gives his best in the work that he does.

“I just do what I like. That’s a good way to live.” - Masayuki Matsubara

Do what you like

Masayuki’s sources of ikigai

Masayuki finds ikigai in the small joys of his life: having a simple talk with his children, witnessing a beautiful sunset, creating captivating websites, and seeing his clients satisfied with his work.

“In my opinion, humans are designed to feel happiest when they help others and receive appreciation, as well as when they witness the beauty of nature or human creation.” - Masayuki Matsubara

Help others


Friendship is a shared feeling of ikigai, as exemplified by Nick and Masayuki, whose chance meeting led them to creating meaningful memories together.