Not All Japanese Have Ikigai

Nick Kemp explains one of the misconceptions about ikigai -- that all Japanese people have it in their lives. Unfortunately, many Japanese suffer from a lack of purpose; one common condition is hikikomori (acute social withdrawal). Hikikomori is a condition where men lock themselves in their bedrooms for years, causing them a lack of ikigai.

For many Japanese, ikigai is elusive.

Nick: This month I’m launching my book, Ikigai-kan: Feel A Life Worth Living. Now, in this video I’d like to bust a myth with you that I wrote about in my book. That myth is that all Japanese have or can easily identify their ikigai.

Tragically, there are millions of Japanese who don’t feel ikigai. So let’s dive in and take a look: So many Japanese suffer greatly from unwanted loneliness, experience of feeling of not being needed, and lack a sense of purpose in their lives. 

Their suffering can manifest in a variety of societal problems, some of which are unique to Japan. One of these problems is hikikomori. Hikikomori is a form of severe social withdrawal syndrome, where adolescent and young men, mostly men, basically lock themselves in their bedroom for years and even decades. 

They don’t work, they don’t go to school, they don’t go to university. They really venture outside. And it has become quite a serious problem. 

An expert on this problem, Dr. Tamaki Saito, who is a psychologist and a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, says that the Japanese hikikomori population could be as high as 2 million, with the average duration that hikikomori shuts themselves in, being an astonishing 13 years. 

Could you imagine locking yourself in your bedroom and doing nothing but playing computer games and surfing the net? Dr. Saito has grave concerns that the hikikomori population could eventually reach a staggering 10 million people. 

This is a tragedy, and highlights that for many Japanese, ikigai is elusive and it’s something they don’t often feel in their day-to-day living, and for some, they don’t feel for many many years. 

If you would like to learn more about ikigai in the context that’s accurate and respectful to Japanese culture, visit and check out my new book that will be released this month.