How did you come up with the title of your book?
I thought long and hard about it.
And then realised it presented an exciting opportunity. There are so many books using the title Ikigai, with clichéd subtitles such as ‘The Japanese secret to a long and happy life’, or ‘The Japanese Life Philosophy to Finding Happiness and Peacefulness’.
I was lucky in that I had done a lot of research.
The Mother of Ikigai
My book title was inspired by one of the most remarkable women of twentieth-century Japan, Mieko Kamiya. I like to think of her as the Mother of Ikigai. She was a pioneering researcher, who wrote the seminal book on the concept, Ikigai-ni-Tsuite (About Ikigai), that is still considered a standard reference by contemporary Japanese researchers, professors, and psychologists, despite it being published over a half-century ago, in 1966.
Ikigai & Ikigai-kan
In her book, Kamiya provides a two-part definition of ikigai — her most recognised contribution to ikigai literature:
‘There are two ways of using the word ikigai. When someone says “this child is my ikigai,” it refers to the source or target of ikigai, and when one feels ikigai as a state of mind. The latter of these is close to what Frankl calls “sense of meaning”. Here I will tentatively call it “ikigai-kan” to distinguish it from the former “ikigai”.’
The word ikigai, in other words, indicates the sources of meaning in your life: experiences, people, relationships, dreams, hobbies, and even memories that make your life worth living. Ikigai-kan, on the other hand, represents the emotions and feelings that these sources provide you that make you feel that life is worth living.
Taking the example Kamiya uses in her book, as a father, I can identify that my son is a source of ikigai, giving me ikigai-kan feelings of love, joy, pride, hope and connection, as well as a sense of purpose in my role as a father.
According to Kamiya, the power of ikigai lies in the positive and satisfying emotions that result from being able to identify your sources of ikigai and, subsequently, experience a deep and genuine sense of meaning associated with your existence.
As the most genuine thing about ikigai are our emotions, I wanted to use that title to highlight the theme of the book, but also to pay homage to Mieko Kmaiya, an amazing woman who was ahead of her time, contemplating purpose and life meaning decades before the positive psychology movement of the early 2000s.
This is how I came up with the title of my book, IKIGAI-KAN Feel a Life Worth Living.