While pleasant to imagine, romanticising ikigai as a happy island lifestyle or the secret to longevity prevents us from discovering what ikigai truly is and how it plays into Japanese culture. As you will discover in this book, your ikigai can come from many areas - from the simple things in your day-to-day living, the connections in your social world, your hobbies, but also by facing and overcoming life’s most painful challenges.



The purpose of this book is to share with you an authentic perspective, the Japanese perspective of what makes life feel worth living. This book was written to help you understand that ikigai isn’t something you chase, but rather something you feel. This book will contradict most of the content you’ll find on the web and in best selling books.

As a Japanologist, I guess you could call this my dissertation on the ikigai concept, as I have taken a scholarly approach to researching ikigai and writing this book. Having lived in Japan for 10 years, been married to a wonderful Japanese woman for twenty, and formed many meaningful friendships with Japanese people, I have experienced an intimate relationship with Japanese culture for most of my adult life.  This relationship and my connections to Japan have allowed me to share several authentic perspectives and also source many of the obscure references you’ll learn about in this book, some of which I have translated myself. Researching ikigai has become my ikigai and I am grateful for the learning opportunities I continue to experience as I study the concept.

Many of the insights that you’ll discover in the following pages are from guests on my podcast, The Ikigai Podcast, who graciously gave their time to share with me their knowledge of ikigai. This includes research and theories from some of Japan’s leading ikigai researchers. Unless otherwise stated, the quotes in this book that I am privileged to share with you are from these experts. 

The Ikigai Myth

Ikigai is a greatly misunderstood concept outside of Japan. It’s not a word from Okinawa. It’s not the Japanese secret to longevity. It’s not an entrepreneurial Venn diagram framework. It is not the pursuit of one life purpose. And it is not something all Japanese have. Most likely, everything you know about ikigai are romanticised Western misconceptions. This book will clear up these misconceptions and offer you an authentic perspective of ikigai in the context of Japanese culture.