What About Ikigai?

Nick and Kei Tsuda talk about Mieko Kamiya’s ikigai for writing—her love for writing that led her to publish her book, Ikigai-ni-tsuite.

Kamiya’s passion for writing

Nick: Now writing was a lifelong ambition for Kamiya, but one that she was unable to pursue until the later years of her life. On September 7, 1961, upon completing the first draft of her book, she wrote in her diary:

I have been feverishly writing for 10 days. I have more or less finished writing the first draft. All that had been bottled up in my mind is now out, and I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel that I could die without regret. I'm so grateful for the health of my family and body.’

This is quite a powerful diary entry. Do you think this indicates that writing was her ikigai, Kei?

Kei: More certainly. I think that's her way of expressing what was coming to her mind. She has such an intricate mind, I think. To go into the details of ikigai in such a very expansive, in terms of the topic coverage. And I believe that this book only covers a portion of what she was planning to share.

Nick: But you kind of feel the excitement from this quote, and how satisfied she is. And as we know, from the previous episode, she had all these health problems. So I guess at the time of writing the book, she must have felt she was in good health.

So with the title, let's touch on it. In Japanese, tsuite means, about, concerning, as to, regarding. So a literal translation of her book title would be ‘About Ikigai’ or ‘On Ikigai.’ How do you think the title of the book would be translated today?

Kei: I think the title is quite effective even today. We both know, we've read a number of her publications, and it kind of represents her style of writing and the position she takes in in a dialogue that she has with the readers.

It conveys the notion that this author wants to keep the interpretation to be kept open or up to us. And also the ‘About Ikigai’, it kind of tickles your mind, right? It's like, what about ikigai? So, I think there's shortness to the point, and openness for interpretation. That's something quite effective even today.