What is Ikigai?

What is ikigai? When you search the word ikigai, the first thing that might pop out is the Ikigai Venn Diagram. But if you research thoroughly, you will know that this beautiful concept of ikigai is more than that.

Dr. Katharina Stenger shares the first time she encountered the term ikigai and her discovery about the real definition of ikigai.

Nick: One thing I learned from working with you is, your knowledge of psychology, science, and truth really mattered to you. And I know, as we've just touched on Japanese culture is something you love. And you also have this love of learning.

And I think, is that what led you to discover ikigai? Your love of learning? And obviously Japanese culture?

Rina: Yes, absolutely. I remember the first time I heard about ikigai, I read about ikigai, it was in a random magazine about personal development, and it caught my eye immediately. So I got excited to find out more. I was hooked from the very beginning because there was this word from Japan.

I thought, "Oh, I want to know more about that!" And the scientist in me, she was on fire, and she started researching it. Of course, I found this Venn diagram, based on the work of Andres Zuzunaga, right? This was the first thing I encountered on the internet.

I also started asking my friends in Japan about ikigai, and I was surprised by their answers. So they said, "Oh, my family is my ikigai." or "Classic cars are my ikigai", like dinner with friends or my dog and stuff like that. This was not really fitting, this diagram I was seeing online.

And what was also surprising to me was how quickly they knew the answer to this very important question, "What is your ikigai?" And so they didn't overthink it. And so I started to realize, okay, there's more to it than just this diagram. And luckily, I did more research, and I stumbled upon your podcast, and then your website.

Then I finally realized that ikigai is a whole philosophy and wonderful tradition from this country that I love. And it's not a diagram.

IKIGAI-KAN: Feel a Life Worth Living

Ikigai is a greatly misunderstood concept outside of Japan. It’s not a word from Okinawa. It’s not the Japanese secret to longevity. It’s not an entrepreneurial Venn diagram framework.

This evidence-based book clears up the misconceptions of Japan's most misunderstood word and culturally appropriated concept and offers an authentic perspective of the concept in the context of Japanese culture.