Blue Zones and the Japanese Concept of Ikigai

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One of my favorite TED talks is Dan Buettner’s How to Live to be 100. In this talk, he introduces us to places where a relatively high number of people live to be a hundred years old and more. He and his team, in cooperation with National Geographic, went to find out why these areas they called Blue Zones had more centennarians than others.

One of these places is Okinawa in Japan. One reason why people live longer and happier lives, supposedly, are their ikigais. Dan Buettner describes an ikigai as ‘a reason to wake up every morning’; i.e. having something you look forward to, something that gives you a reason to live. He shows several examples like e.g. the black belt karate master who still enjoys pursuing his passion at the age of over 100, or the great great grandmother who happily cradles her great great granddaughter (I’m not sure how many ‘greats’ exactly).

I recently had the fortune of having a Japanese participant in one of my classes. I don’t remember exactly how or why, but the topic of ikigai came up. After telling the class about Dan Buettner and the TED talk, our Japanese group member showed us a web site explaining the concept of ikigai in more detail. Actually, in a lot more detail.

Update March, 31

After having read and discussed the ‘ikigai’ concept as described on the page above, I started wondering about some of the claims made and did some more internet searching. What I found was the following page. I will have to discuss this with my Japanese group member.

I will just share the links (above) and recommend taking a look. No need to prepare much extra, except maybe some vocabulary. The texts and graphics provide plenty to talk about. Considering having two different pages on the concept of ikigai broadens the scope for discussion. (I will have to think about the procedure.)

The topic matches wonderfully with the post I just wrote on companies feeling forced to accommodate employees’ wishes for better working conditions – now more than in the past – and the Great Resignation connected with when they don’t. Both topics can supplement each other.

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