Enhancing Our Ikigai Through Authentic Relationships

The findings of his study suggest that ibasho (authentic relationship) is important to one's ikigai. Shintaro Kono shares that it is rare to find someone whom you can be your real self with. Hence, an authentic relationship is something that people do cherish and that they consider meaningful.

Having authentic relationships help in cultivating our ikigai.

Nick: I read through your paper and your study found that data indicated that close others in the student’s lives and their interpersonal relationships with them, played a key role in enhancing students ikigai.

And a word that seemed to pop up in their reports, or their conversations with you was this word, ibasho? How would you translate ibasho?

Shintaro: This is the word some other interviewee used and I kind of took it and made it the name of a sub-theory here. I would say it's an authentic relationship and what we mean by authentic you can be who you are, and they are true to you too.

As in the close others, maybe they're friends or family members or whoever that might be, they're also true to you too. Whatever they're doing for you, whether it's something that they're saying to you or you guys are doing something together or whatever that might be, their intentions are genuine, rather than a bit of superficial, ulterior motive. 

I think that's one thing that I should have mentioned in terms of Japanese culture and ikigai that would have unique cultural components. This is not that I have researched on it, but I read something, and pop culture and my anecdotal experiences to that.

In a collectivistic culture, I think sometimes relationships are not like we're all together and peaceful and friends but, Nick, probably you can speak to that too, sometimes there are politics, there are ulterior motives in a relationship, there are compromises, and negotiations, and passive negative interactions. 

There are so many things that are more complicated in those collectivistic cultures because there is more emphasis on the relationship. You cannot screw up some important connections because that matters in terms of your success.

So whatever that might be, you cannot basically say "oh, I'm awesome. I can do whatever” that's just quite not like that. So in those situations, a lot of relationships are not genuine, in a true sense at least in people's minds.

I think that's something that young adults and us also potentially many other people are feeling. And in those cultures and social dynamics, I think this ibasho, an authentic relationship really shines as something that people cherish.

Nick: Yeah, it's interesting what you've just said because it reminded me of the Japanese concept of the phrase of honne and tatemae. Where tatemae is a false self you present to the outside world.

Shintaro: Honne is your true self, true sound. The tricky part is in Canada and the US a lot we consider that type of, sometimes lip service and double standards as a negative thing, we consider that as not a good thing. 


In many collectivistic cultures, including Japan, it's just taken for granted, you cannot just believe in face value of what people are saying, or what people are doing depending on a social context like business or whatever that might be. 


You would usually assume that there are some double standards, and that's just okay. So in that kind of culture in this situation, it's important and sometimes rare to have a person with whom you can be real.

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