Book Reviews, Books, Non-Fiction, philosophy, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Pages: 192, Kindle Edition
Published: August 2017 by Penguin Books
Cover Rating: 5/5

The positive attitude and emotional awareness of Japanese is appealing to anyone since it is directly associated with health. It is known that people of Japan have longest life expectancy in the world. Don’t we all want to live a long, and healthy life? Co-authors of this book, Frances Miralles and Hector Garcia did research on this variables and the main subject of their research was the elderly in Japan. The result is Ikigai, the book rightly titled.

Ikigai: a Japanese concept which is translated as “the happiness of always being busy”. It is the one way to explain the longevity of the Japanese, especially on the island of Okinawa.

In Japanese, ikigai is written as shown above combining characters that represent “life”, and “to be worthwhile”. The book starts by explaining the study of 5 blue zones where life expectancy of particular regions around the world is highest. On top, comes Okinawa, Japan. It then discusses the diet intake and similar routine of people from those regions that help them live longer with bit of philosophies to measure one’s attitude throughout their lives. This is the core concept of emotional awareness and has similarities with mindfulness and stoicism. Advancing further the authors introduces the concept behind “finding a purpose to exist” sharing summarised insight from Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy concluding in-depth differential between psychoanalysis and logotherapy with few key ideas.

The first of the many interesting concept that I came across is the Morita therapy, introduced during the same time as logotherapy by a Zen Buddhist Shoma Morita, unknown to me before. The key principles and the four phases of this therapy are summarised to well in this book and will be another post for me to elaborate. To help the reader to achieve the basic understanding of Ikigai, authors then introduce Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research on the state of being completely immersed in one’s present moment also known as flow. There is a full book on that written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The authors regard this state of flow as an important aspect to achieve an optimal experience since it is all about the attention to details that must be considered while planning or performing an action and diminishes any magic behind Ikigai. Even when performing a task that any of us might consider mundane, one can be relaxed (experience) and try to do it better every day, thus giving attention to details.

Short Interviews with some people who have lived for more than hundred years are included in the book. The concept of Hara hachi bu is then discussed which is a known Japanese ancient practice related to diet. In this, one has to be attentive while eating and notice that when one is about to be full but could have a little more, he or she should stop eating. The idea here is to be a little bit hungry when finish eating. The benefits of it related to longevity and ageing process.

The book overall posses ideas and most of these ideas are a form of emphasis on one’s health. Nevertheless, it is easy to read, the narrative voice is organised and I love how the authors relate concepts step by step. It won’t take much of your time. It can be a good source of motivation. I did learn some tips for a healthier lifestyle.

Life is not a problem to be solved. Just remember to have something that keeps you busy doing what you love while being surrounded by the people who love you.

4 out of 5!


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