73 – Embracing AI Opportunities for a Meaningful Life with Kouji Miki

Have you incorporated AI into your work?

AI tools have been garnering attention today due to their ability to expedite tasks. While some express concern about the rapid increase of these tools, others find them beneficial, simplifying their work and making it more efficient.

In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick discusses with Kouji Miki the significance of AI in providing more opportunities to discover meaningful ikigai activities.

Teaching people about Zen mindfulness

“When I started Zazen, it helped me a lot. So I want to help other people by doing Zen mindfulness. So I'd like to bring these people to the Zen mindfulness world as much as possible. So this is my ikigai. That's the reason I started a Zen School, which is an innovation school based on Zen philosophy. This project is really my ikigai.” - Kouji Miki

Podcast Highlights

Kouji Miki

Kouji Miki

Kouji Miki specialises in Zen-based coaching for executives and CEOs. He earned a Master’s degree in Media and Governance specialising in Strategic innovation theory from Keio University and started his career at Fujitsu Limited. 

He has been consulting small and medium-sized manufacturers in Japan for over 20 years and has over 12 years of experience in Zen meditation and over 5 years of experience in Vipassana meditation. He coaches CEOs using Zen and mindfulness-based awareness and dialogue in the VR space. 

He is co-founder of Zen2.0, a conference on Zen and mindfulness that attracts speakers from around the world. Additionally, he has authored two books: Let’s Start Micro-Monozukuri and True Innovation.


Zen 2.0 conference

After losing his job due to an economic shock, Kouji experienced poor mental health. To recover, he began practising Zen meditation. Within three months, his well-being improved, allowing him to start a business. As an expression of gratitude, he initiated the Zen 2.0 conference.

Kouji chose Zen meditation over seeking professional help for his mental illness due to a fear of becoming reliant on psychiatric medication. Interestingly, he gained a deeper understanding of meditation by watching a video created by an American individual who has lived in Japan for over 10 years.

Practising Zazen meditation

Kouji practises Zazen, a form of sitting meditation. His day begins daily at 5:30 in the morning when he lights his favourite incense and engages in Zazen for an hour. This routine helped him overcome his struggles after losing his job and provided him with the mental clarity to develop business ideas.

Values of Japan in the context of ikigai

“The Japanese definition of “ikigai” does not necessarily focus on being needed by society or earning money, but rather on an individual’s inner joy and satisfaction, where the individual is genuinely excited and wants to continue the activity no matter who stops him or her. This represents a unique understanding of ikigai that reflects the cultural background and values of Japan.” - Kouji Miki

Values of Japan

Kouji shares a story about a 95-year-old Japanese man who works at a fast-food restaurant. Despite the job's low pay and the lack of recognition for his efforts, this man shows up every day and wholeheartedly fulfils his responsibilities.

This serves as an excellent example of what ikigai means for the Japanese people. Their ikigai is rooted in pursuits that offer intrinsic motivation and satisfaction, rather than solely focusing on grand or monetary aspirations. It can be compared to shokunin damashii (craftsman's spirit) where craftsmen quietly carry out their duties away from the spotlight.

The advantages of using AI

Kouji leads the Zen 2.0 conference, with over 60 members from various companies. Accommodating everyone's schedule for their weekly meetings poses a challenge. To tackle this issue, they've begun integrating AI into their Zoom sessions to generate summaries for those unable to attend. This not only boosts productivity but also allows more free time for pursuing ikigai activities.

“This increase in productivity will bring enormous amounts of extra time to people, potentially putting workers into two categories. One is the “ikigai” worker, a traditional Japanese concept of well-being and a factor in finding joy in life. The other is the worker who has lived a life of work and has excess time on his/her hands.” - Kouji Miki

Advantages of AI

Kouji’s personal ikigai

Kouji's ikigai is to assist people through Zen mindfulness, which is why he initiated a Zen school. His other sources of ikigai include activities he engages in with his colleagues, such as:

  • Dialogue around a bonfire on the Zaimokuza beach in Kamakura

  • Sauna tent experience at Mt. Fuji.

  • Regular yoga and meditation sessions with friends at Mt. Fuji.

  • Terakoya (temple schools) experience to learn from each other.

The impact of AI on one's ikigai

Although the use of AI allows more time for pursuing ikigai activities, for some, it may be challenging to identify ikigai sources beyond work. This is why Kouji's Zen school aims to assist people in discovering their ikigai. Much like Ken Mogi's definition of ikigai as a spectrum of small things, Kouji believes that individuals should have one significant ikigai alongside other smaller pursuits.

“Having a big ikigai may mean that we have that strong sense of purpose, creative expression, and that might also involve helping other people.” - Nicholas Kemp

Having a big ikigai

The Golden Circle of AI and Ikigai

The Golden Circle is a framework proposed by Kouji. It serves as a helpful tool for discovering and achieving personal ikigai with the assistance of generative AI, enabling people to lead more fulfilling lives. It consists of four elements:

  • Maximisation - Maximising the use of generative AI in work explodes productivity and frees up personal time.

  • Expanding leisure time - Freed time becomes an opportunity to explore and realise personal ikigai.

  • Effective ikigai projects - By utilising generative AI for Ikigai projects, projects can proceed more effectively and efficiently.

  • Richer lives - The combination of these factors can help people achieve a richer life.

AI and Ikigai

Effective AI tools

Kouji shares some helpful AI tools that people can use to enhance efficiency. Tools such as:

  • ChatGPT - generating dialogue that resembles a human conversation

  • HeyGen - enables users to produce professional-looking videos.

  • DeepL Translate - provides accurate translation.

  • Midjourney - creates images based on descriptions in natural language

  • Vrew - AI-powered video editing.


Artificial intelligence has made a significant difference in our lives. When used strategically, it can help us find more meaningful activities by providing additional time to discover our sources of ikigai.