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 explanation or guide to understanding Ikigai.

The book is well worth reading and will definitely give you a framework for enjoying life more and hope for living longer, but it doesn’t really explain the concept of ikigai in great depth. In fact, the authors make the mistake of including Marc Win’s Ikigai Venn diagram, which is a misinterpretation of the concept.

I have a few problems with the book that Iain Maloney's review published on November 4th 2017 on the Japanese Times website best explains: 

"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.”

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. Ikigai is not a special word from Okinawa and Japanese themselves certainly don't relate the word ikigai to longevity. According to Dan Buettner of Blue Zones fame, Okinawa is now the least healthy prefecture in Japan. 

It seems the authors failed to do their research on both the origin of the word and what it means for everyday Japanese. I guess connecting ikigai to happiness and longevity makes the concept more appealing and marketable.



"Ikigai-kan consists of a challenging spirit with purpose and motivation toward everything one does and having the self-awareness of making a contribution to others."

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