“ iki”(意思是“生活”)和“ gai”(意思是“值得”)组合而成，用一种简洁的方式来描述值得让你早上起床的生活—无论是工作，家庭还是个人爱好—就像法语术语raison d'être的散文版本一样。
前企业员工Masataka Shintoku解释说：“这是你为之奋斗的东西。” “如果您在工作中度过了愉快的时光，那就可能是ikigai。如果您有一个自己喜爱并且可以为之付出努力的家庭，那也是ikigai。”
在经济成功的时代，增加工作产出是关键。 “这里存在很大的ikigai压力。” Mathews解释说， “如果你在公司任职，你将被强烈推荐把公司设为自己的ikigai，否则，这肯定有问题。”
“如今，日本世界有所不同，人们有更多自由来以各种不同方式找到自己的ikigai。” Mathews解释说， “随着日本变得更加贫穷，作为一个社会，它可能会变得更加幸福，并更加积极地提高人们的生活水平，因为生活的方式越来越多。”
This is a common sight when exploring Tokyo late at night: the sprawled-out bodies of corporate workers can be found draped across benches, slumped in doorways and dotted around train stations. Their incongruous forms have been popularised on Instagram accounts and captured by photographers, feeding the world’s curiosity. Working long hours and encouraged to go drinking with colleagues after leaving the office, many miss trains home and spend the night on the street instead. While initially comical, their perpetual presence is a disquieting reflection of a nation obsessed with work.
While economic factors play a heavy role, the concept of ikigai may well be at the core of Japan’s work-life imbalance – as well as the key to fixing it.
Formed by combining “iki”, meaning “life”, and “gai”, meaning “to be worthwhile”, the term is a succinct way to describe what gets you up in the morning – be it work, family or a well-loved hobby – much like a prosaic version of the French term raison d'être.
“It’s something you live for,” explained ex-corporate worker Masataka Shintoku, simply, when asked to define the ancient term. “If you have a great time when you are working, it could be ikigai. If you have a family you love and you can do something for, it’s also ikigai.”
Dating back as far as the 14th Century and long considered role-focused due to the hierarchical nature of society, the term was returned to the modern spotlight with Natsume Soseki’s novel, Kokoro, which was serialised in 1912. Meaning “the heart of things”, the tale followed a student’s journey of self-exploration with the support of an aging mentor. Published in the final year of the Meiji era, as Japan emerged from isolationism and embraced the international, industrial world, Kokoro piqued the interest of a nation embracing a new way of life.
In an age of economic success, increased work output was key. “There was a lot of ikigai pressure,” explained Mathews. “If you worked for your company, you were very strongly urged to make the company your ikigai, and if you didn’t, there was something wrong with you.”
Although the traditional working environments remain strict in terms of hours and available leave, the economic downturn has opened up new opportunities. Those seeking to combine ikigai with work are now considering unconventional roles in start-ups, as freelancers or doing remote work, and co-working spaces are flourishing in Tokyo.
“Today there’s a different Japanese world, and there’s more freedom for people to find their own ikigai in a variety of different ways,” Mathews explained. “As Japan has become poorer, it’s probably become happier and more ikigai-enhancing as a society because there are more patterns by which to live.”