Is Ikigai a Spectrum or Self-Actualization?

Ikigai can be perceived differently even among Japanese people. For author Kobayashi Tsukasa, he sees ikigai as self-actualization. However, neuroscientist and author Ken Mogi defines ikigai as a spectrum of all things.

Nick Kemp shares his thoughts on what he thinks ikigai is.

Ikigai, asobigai, manabigai, hatarakigai, and yarigai. So we know that ikigai is made up of the verb ikiru, which means to live, and the suffix gai, which means worth, value, or result. Ikigai: what makes life worth living. 

But do you know that gai can be added to many other Japanese verbs? For example, the verb hataraku which means "to work" becomes hatarakigai: work worth doing, or perhaps a challenging work or a rewarding job. 

Then we have the verb manabu which means “to learn.” So with the suffix gai, it becomes manabigai: something worth learning. Then the verb play, asobu, it becomes asobigai: worth playing. 

What’s interesting is how even among Japanese, ikigai can be perceived differently. I look to quote from this book by Gordon Mathews, What Makes Life Worth Living?

He references a newspaper article way back in April 1990. Written by Kobayashi Tsukasa. The newspaper was the Nihon Keiza Shinbun. This is Gordon Mathews’ translation:

“Some people say, ‘My work is my ikigai.’ But these people are confusing hatarakigai [the sense that one’s work is worth doing] with ikigai [the sense that one’s life is worth living]. Some people hold that getoboru [“gateball,” croquet, the stereotypical pastime of old people in Japan] or raising chrysanthemums, or writing haiku is their ikigai; but that’s just asobigai [play that is worth doing], not ikigai [life that is worth living]. Real ikigai is more than that…”

So Kobayashi believes that ikigai is self-actualization. So that’s an interesting perspective. He believes that it goes beyond your work, beyond your play, and it’s self-actualization.

Where Ken Mogi, one of Japan’s leading neuroscientists and a prolific author, and who has written a book in English on ikigai: The Little Book of Ikigai. He believes that ikigai is a spectrum of all the things. 

The small joys or the pursuit of life-defining goals, he believes that they all are sources if ikigai. So what do you think? Do you think ikigai is self-actualization? Or do you see ikigai as a spectrum of the things that make life worth living? 

I see ikigai as a spectrum because I think there are many things in our life that can make us feel that life is worth living. So let me know what you think. Is it s spectrum or is it self-actualization?

IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living

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.

This evidence-based book clears up the misconceptions of Japan's most misunderstood word and culturally appropriated concept and offers an authentic perspective of the concept in the context of Japanese culture.

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