Lessons from Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

A cover page of the book Ikigai: the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. PHOTO/Courtesy.
A cover page of the book Ikigai: the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. PHOTO/Courtesy.

For those who are looking for a heroic book to read right at the advent of 2023, I recommend Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. 

It is a true treasure trove for readers with a deep desire for healthy, happy, and long life.

Foremost, I learned about it when I visited Kapsabet Girls in Nandi County. After addressing the 2022 candidate class, we ambled to the office with the Chief Principal, Mrs. Mary Kiprop. 

Our chat with that wise woman revolved around what, as a scribe, I can describe as a candid conversation concerning classics. She implored me to read Ikigai.

Therefore, when I zoomed back to the trendiest town, I searched for it with zeal and zest. 

Unanticipatedly, I got it, bought it and read it for the umpteenth time, lending credence to the wise words of Nassim Taleb, “A good book gets better at the second reading, a great book at the third reading. No book is quite the same when you read it again.” 

Actually, I longed to know the meaning of Ikigai. I thought about it as I started reading the prolegomenon. 

I realized that in the Japanese tongue, ‘iki’ means life, while ‘gai’ means value or worth. Ikigai is a profound Japanese philosophy, leaning on a life rife with worth; life replete with purpose. 

Ikigai oscillates around four fascinating factors.

One, what you love (passion). Two, what the world needs (mission). Three, what you are good at (profession). Four, what they can pay you for (vocation). 

Moreover, the heroic book talks about Blue Zones, logotherapy, tai chiyoga, flow and resilience, or anti-fragility. 

Above all, the central plank is the sweet secret to a long and happy life. 

There are five regions in the world where people live long: Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Loma Linda in California, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and Ikaria in Greece.

In a broader sense, flow is a state in which we are deeply involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it, even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

Aptly put, Yoga in Sanskrit is ‘yoke’, which refers to the crosspiece that binds draft animals to one another and to the cart they are pulling. 

Tai chi, also known as t’ai chi chuan or taijiquan, is a Chinese martial art connected to Buddhism and Confucianism. It is an internal martial focusing on personal growth, self-defense, agility and alacrity. 

In addition, the Japanese rank second in the world on matters life expectancy. 

Most women live up to 88 and men 81. Okinawa Island, South of the mainland, has the highest proportion of people who live beyond 100 years. Ikigai plays an integral role in their heroic culture. 

To augment the argument, spiritual disciplines such as meditation contribute to longevity. Apart from being a source of spiritual strength, wit and wisdom, it strengthens the immune system and promotes the natural production of insulin. 

It also prevents body weakness, sickness and osteoporosis – feebleness of bones. 

Again, there is Morita Therapy, which focuses on training patients to accept their emotions without trying to control them since their feelings will change due to their actions. 

Consequently, there is logotherapy, a psychological concept whose proponent is Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning

In logotherapy, patients sit straight and listen to things that are, on occasion, hard to hear. Through it all, they find reasons to live, re-discover the purpose of life and confront their neuroses.

Additionally, there is the healthy eating habit as a secret to happy and long life. There is a sensible saying in Japan “Hara hachi bu”, repeated before or after eating. 

It means, “Fill your belly to 80 per cent.” Avarice, or extreme greed, is a vice. 

This is why Okinawans stop eating when they feel they are 80 percent satiated. They do not over-eat because it weakens bodies with long digestive processes, which in turn accelerates cellular oxidation. 

They know melatonin enhances youthfulness, although its production decreases after age 30. 

People compensate for it by eating a balanced diet, getting more calcium, soaking up a moderate amount of sun each day, getting quality sleep, and avoiding stress, alcohol and tobacco, eating plant proteins and vegetables. 

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Okinawans consume at least seven types of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Keeping the mortal mind agile is an anti-aging secret. Neurons start aging in our 20s. 

However, intellectual activity, curiosity and ravenous desire to learn enhances longevity.

The writer is an avid reader, editor, author and public speaker. 

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Mr. Ochieng' is an editor, orator and author. His contact: vochieng.90@gmail.com


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