The Suffix “Gai”

Some people mistake their ikigai for their work. However, in Japan, they have another term for this: hatarakigai (the sense that one's work is worth doing). The suffix gai (value or worth) can be applied to other verbs to emphasize something of value to someone.

Dr. Yasuhiro Kotera explains how the word gai indicates intrinsic satisfaction or contentment.

Nick: And of course, there's that word hatarakigai from hataraku. So I guess if you want to find meaning and purpose in your work, you really shouldn't relate it to ikigai. You should relate it to hatarakigai. Would that be fair to say?

Yasuhiro: I think so. Yeah. That kind of split or knowing that it is hatarakigai. Yeah. I think it is helpful. It's safer, you don't have to violate your mental health as much like knowing that this is in the work context. Yeah, I think that's a good distinction.

Nick: So do I. I'm sort of going off track but the gai from ikigai can be applied to all these different verbs. I think it makes sense.

We can say things like asobigai, the value of playing, and in Japan, the verb play is not restricted just to children -- adults play when they go out or do things. So I think sort of breaking it down by saying ikigai is what's important to your life, not just your work.

It can be your work, your work can be a part of it, but as Ken Mogi describes it, it's the spectrum of things. We can find value when you.. You touched on oshiegai on our last..

Yasuhiro: Yes.

Nick: This purpose you find in teaching or you have students who are worth teaching, are they what you would say as oshiegai

Yasuhiro: Oshiegai. Yeah, very true. I think psychologically, when you feel this gai, sense of gai, for example oshiegai, you feel that you are already paid off; internally you're satisfied or content.

So when I feel oshiegai, I'm more than happy, I don't need anything more, anything extra, I don't need a payment or anything. This experience satisfied me now -- teaching this person this. Yeah. So that kind of like intrinsic satisfaction or contentment, this word gai means. 

Nick: Well, I'm sure your students when they learn from you, Yasu, have this feeling of manabigai.

Yasuhiro: Thank you. Yeah. I hope so.

Nick: There's value in learning. Because I guess a teacher or a lecturer would make a difference in how they teach. I guess if you have someone inspiring and who has oshiegai that would inspire you to learn.