Ikigai-9: The Nine Items

Ikigai-9 is a psychometric tool published and validated by Japanese researchers Tadanori Imai, Hisao Osada, and Yoshitsugu Nishimura; this is what Dr. Dean Fido and his colleagues used in their study to measure ikigai that will allow them to make direct comparisons with Japanese culture.

Nick and Dr. Dean Fido discuss the items under ikigai-9.

Nick: Well, we should probably introduce the nine items. I guess, as someone who's not a researcher, I would see them as statements.

Then the participants were asked to see to what degree each statement applied to them from one to five with one being does not apply to me, and five applies to me a lot. So I'll just read out the nine statements that the participants read and wrote their corresponding number: 

  • I believe that I have some impact on someone 
  • My life is mentally rich and fulfilled
  • I am interested in many things
  • I feel that I am contributing to someone or to society
  • I would like to develop myself
  • I often feel that I'm happy
  • I think that my existence is needed by something or someone
  • I would like to learn something new or start something
  • I have room in my mind

And I'm assuming that last one is for me, in my mind to think or contemplate.

Dean: The last one, which you read out, and the reason it's at the bottom of that list is that the way we've presented them in the paper is the degree to which they strongly tap into ikigai.

Okay, so the first one being, I believe that I have some impact on someone, and also my life is mentally rich and fulfilled, they kind of epitomize what ikigai is or how somebody might start framing their experiences of ikigai.

As we go down the list, the statements become weak, still valid, but weak, and the last one is something which caused quite a lot of contention, both at the translation stage and also in some of the new research, which I'll talk about later. 

So I have room in my mind very much tapped into, I have the mental capacity to take on new things, to learn new things, etc...  to kind of add to society, to add to my life.

But the purpose of this kind of translation was that it was a direct translation, both text and meaning. So Yasu and Kenichi, they kind of cross translated. So one of them had to go translate, the other one tried to read, translate it back into English.

Then we looked at the disparities between the translations, and really boiled those down in terms of both text and then meaning to make sure that the true impact came across. 

The ‘I have room in my mind’, when that was said to me the first time, I really did have no idea what that meant. So it took a little bit of back and forth, and that's what we settled on, we've since talked to Japanese co-authors on different projects.

For them, they do understand what that means, but in UK samples, there is a little bit of disparity, because that could be taken in many different ways. And just a quick preview to some kind of research, which we're doing in the future, we've recently undergone a validation of this in a Turkish population for reasons which I'll talk about later. 

And this same item came up again, where the Turkish translators also had difficulty and we're translating it in a completely different way.

So ideally, there is actually scope for removing that item from the questionnaire. It wouldn't have any sort of meaningful impact on the data. But it does mean that ikigai-9 would then become the ikigai-8.

Nick: Now it stands out for me. I lived in Japan for 10 years. So I think I kind of knew what it meant, but at the same time thinking okay, that's interesting how that's been translated because it's not as specific as the others. It could be open to interpretation.