Questions to Ponder During Hard Times

In her book, Kamiya mentions two questions people can ask themselves during tough times to feel more ikigai in their lives. However, Kei Tsuda believes that asking those specific questions is not essential today. Instead, simply spending some time, especially in the morning, contemplating what gives us ikigai can be enough to help us get through the day.

What makes us feel that life is worth living?

Nick: So let's move on to the introduction in her book. So in the introduction of her book, Kamiya presents the theme that there is suffering with people all over the world, and people who sort of wake up dreading the thought, and act of just waking up every morning—doesn't sound too good.

And then she prompts the reader with two questions to consider: what makes us feel that life is worth living each and every day? And how do we find a new ikigai if we have lost our reason to live? So that's quite a powerful opening to say, look, millions of people are waking up, dreading just the thought of waking up and facing each day.

And then these two questions of what makes us feel that life is worth living each and every day and how do we find a new ikigai if we've lost our reason to live? Yeah, I remember first reading the book and sort of translating and working out those two questions. I thought, wow, these are profound sort of significant questions. Do you think Japanese contemplate these questions when they think of ikigai?

Kei: Probably not. Generally speaking, in today's Japan, I mean, much as the rest of the world. It's important to also highlight the timeframe when Mieko Kamiya was asking this question was the mid-1900s. And after the war, economy is growing, especially in Japan, things are getting busy.

I mean, we have a number of ups and downs, but with all the technology and other advancements that we made, we are still in a same situation. Or, in some cases, we may be in worse situations when it comes to this point. Like, when you wake up, ‘what is the first thing you do’ is the question.

So we already touched on some people having that, you know, addicted to devices, but if you go reach out for your smartphone and start checking for the what kind of notifications you received, the previous night, while you're sleeping, I don't think you will have the mindset to ask these questions.

So the only people who ask these questions regardless of them being Japanese or where they are, other people who were able to develop that habit, maybe having the morning rituals to have somewhat of a meditation session, or stay away from those devices.

In my case, I try to prepare my coffee. And as I prepare it, you know, preparing the coffee doesn't take much effort for me. But then I spend that time thinking, what do I need to accomplish today? And how does that relate to my ikigai? Or how does that kind of align to what I'm trying to accomplish in the future? And even then, I don't do that every day.

Nick: Yeah, that's really important to make that time for ourselves, either in the morning or evening, or, ideally, both times of the day to think that I have another day to do something. But we seem to live on automatic, and technology's everywhere. I don't think it's just young people who go to bed with their phones. Everyone now does this.

Kei: I think so, too. Yeah.

Nick: That’s certainly not healthy.

Kei: The problem is, the phone also act as a lot of people's alarm clock nowadays. So you have to reach to it to stop it. But now, you have to fight against your urge to look at the screen and start checking the push notifications.