IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret To a Long and Happy Life

The book “IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret To a Long and Happy Life” by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, is more of a case study on the lives of the long-living residents from Ogimi, a small village in Okinawa, than an in-depth explanation on the concept of ikigai. In fact, the author states in the prologue; "The purpose of this book is to bring the secrets of Japan's centenarians to you and give you the tools to find your own ikigai."  

The book is well worth reading and will definitely give you advice for enjoying life more and wisdom for living longer. While the book doesn’t really explain the concept of ikigai in great depth, it does offer ikigai from the perspective the centenarians of Ogami. This theme has resonated with many of the four million plus readers of the book. A quick search on Amazon.com reveals that over 70% of the twenty one thousand reviews are 5 stars. Many people love this book.

The book delves into anti-aging secrets, Viktor Frankl's logotherapy,  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow concept, healthy eating, light exercise, resilience and wabisabi and interrelates them under the theme of ikigai. While these subjects are interesting, I think the book is more inspired by the concept rather than an authentic representation of it.

For me personally, as someone who has lived in Japan, is married to the Japanese, and has always sought to understand Japanese cultural concepts deeply, Iain Maloney's review published on November 4th 2017 on the Japanese Times while blunt does reflect my thoughts on the book.

"Curious whether ikigai and longevity have a causal connection, software engineer Hector Garcia and writer/translator Francesc Miralles set out to interview the residents of Ogimi, Okinawa, the so-called Village of Longevity. Their resulting book claims that ikigai is “The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.

It’s an assertion the book fails to live up to: They don’t connect ikigai with longevity in any convincing way. Instead the book is a patchwork of platitudes about diet and exercise, broken by interviews with centenarians and discussions of trends in psychotherapy. Their conclusion is correlation passed off as causation; the book is self-help painted as pseudo-philosophy.”

While the book didn't provide the answers I was hoping for, it did inspire me to seek them out, eventually leading me to interview Japanese and non-Japanese experts and authors on the concept. And now, I am writing my own book on the concept.

If you are looking to understand what ikigai means in the context of Japanese culture this book will provide few answers and does misinform the reader on several points. And, I feel it does romanticise the concept by relating it to longevity and the lifestyle of Ogami centenarians.

Overall, the book is an inspiring read and I would like to end with a quote from the author, Hecter Garcia, which perhaps best encapsulates his perspective of ikigai.

There is a passion inside of you, a unique talent that drives you to share the best version of yourself until the very end. If you don't know what your ikigai is yet, as Victor Frankl says, your mission is to discover it.

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