Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It is similar to the French phrase Raison d’être. Everyone, according to Japanese culture, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is important to the cultural belief that discovering one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life.
First of all, I wish I had enjoyed this book more since it was one of my most anticipated read for this new year. I had this idea in my head that this little book would be a life changing one and that I will be able to learn a lot of useful things. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. The book’s title is a little misleading: while it does talk about ikigai, it also talks about what things are connected to it, and the main point is on having a long, happy, healthier life, as seen from the Okinawan way of life. The authors traveled to Ogimi, which is in Okinawa, Japan, and spent time there interviewing and observing the oldest people, who all seemed to have this ikigai (the reason to get up in the morning), a joy of life and very active daily activities.
The chapters talk about things like the state of flow, logotherapy and morita-therapy which both can well connect to the ikigai-concept, on being active, what one should eat, exercises, and facing problems and change. Each chapter seems to add and/or comment something to the main idea, and one chapter focuses on the people of Ogimi itself.
The three stars were mainly because I didn’t agree with everything, but then not everything needs to be agreed on. Also many of the things were familiar to me already. I expected more but this book disappoints. It doesn’t seem to follow a clear thread but rather jumps randomly around from one fact to another such as stress and what it does to the body, and then short profiles on some of the longest lived persons on the planet. I appreciate the smatterings of references to more dense material but felt that it was haphazardly weaved together. These don’t have much to do with the Ogimi folk of Okinawa that the researchers were going to visit and interview. I though they were going to write about them and their entire time spent with them, but this is only a small feature in the book. The other thing that annoys me is when scientists try to interpret something abstract and philosophical using an outsider’s point of view and quantitative methods. This isn’t a bad book but it’s not as informative as I hoped it would be. I didn’t feel that an adequate job was done of fleshing out the titular concept.
It’s insipid, tedious and misses the point entirely.
My rating : 2.5/5