Recognizing Mieko Kamiya’s Works

Nick and Kei Tsuda discuss how Mieko Kamiya, a researcher on ikigai, hasn't received the recognition she deserves for her contributions to the concept.

Respect towards strong women

Nick: As you know, one particular lady, whom we’re both big fans of, Mieko Kamiya, who I like to think of as the mother of ikigai, was this amazing research pioneer. And I know you have read her book Ikigai-ni-Tsuite. Would you like to touch on her and your thoughts of her? Do you think she gets enough recognition in Japan?

Kei: I say no. I think her work was, I'm not sure if I'm using a too strong a word, but I think it was revolutionary at the time. I mean, I was awed by the content that she captured in her book, and it was published, I believe in 1966.

So what is it? Is it more or less 50 years now? And all those, you know, the characteristics and descriptions that she gave, starting with the fact that, I think she's the one who coined the term ikigai-kan, I believe. And that is the title of your book, too.

And yet, her name does not come up too much. Going back to the search discussion earlier, when you search ikigai, again, I know it is bias towards the English language, if you type in ikigai in romaji. Even when I typed it in Japanese, I noticed that the her book and article does not come towards the top. So that means the popularity isn't still there.

Nick: I was just gonna say it's unfortunate because she really predates this positive psychology movement by 35 years.

Kei: Right. She was already having the idea at that time.

Nick: It's a male dominated, I guess, area of research. So few women get recognized as much as men. And yeah, she really does predate the positive psychology movement. And no one knows about it, even in Japan. So it's crazy.

Kei: Yeah, I agree. Speaking of mother of ikigai, or this, you know, male dominated nature of the world. This could be a little bit of a sideline here. But I think Japan does have, even though Japan is also known for not doing great in terms of, again, giving equal rights to women.

At the same time, culturally, and historically, there are leaders, women leaders in the history; you probably know about Himiko, it's way back when Japan was ruled by a woman leader. Also in the recent years, and it this is how I grew up, and actually probably my kids are impacted by it as well.

What’s famous is like the the movies made by Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. And I think everybody knows or recognizes that the protagonist in his movies are typically women. And there are stories about you know, why that is, and so on, so forth.

So there is this respect towards strong women in our culture, and yet, it hasn't really become like a prime time, or has been showcased as much. And it seems a similar thing I did observe here.