Ikigai ( 生き甲斐 ) means ‘a reason for being alive’ and it was born in the island of Okinawa. According to the Japanese culture, everyone has an Ikigai. Once you find it, it will give you satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life. You will find your purpose in life, the reason why you feel motivated every morning to ace life from an optimistic perspective and wanting to take on the world.
As Japanese culture has said, their country has an Ikigai for you. You just need to look inside you. So, that’s your challenge in this virtual trip: Discover your Ikigai through all the following Japanese spots recommended by local people. Are you ready?
If you fancy a hectic wild life, well, Tokyo is your place. The capital of the country catches you with its enormous gastronomic offer and its futuristic skyscrapers. Tokyo is one of the most populated cities in the world so you won’t have any problem to find some friends to enjoy the Japanese capital. And if you love sports, you still have the chance to live the Olympic Games the next year.
But beyond its technology, Tokyo preserves its ancestral culture. Don’t miss the chance to visit its temples. Sensō-ji Temple is one of the most buzzing temples in the metropolis and probably the oldest one.
Where to find your paradise in Japan? The answer is Okinawa. This island where the Ikigai concept was born is part of the Archipelago Ryūkyū If you would feel happier when you swim in the crystalline waters in Okinawa, you have found your Ikigai. It makes sense when you discover this island is the main holiday spot for Japanese people. Once you visit Okinawa, I guess you couldn’t escape from this dream island.
This traditional city is the cultural centre in Japan. It was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1994. It has some of the most famous Buddhists temples, palaces and gardens in Japan. But if you had to choose just one place to visit in Kyoto, you should go to Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto shrine in the base of the Inari mountain. If you fancy pilgrimage places, there you will find your Ikigai.
If you are passionate about history, I’m pretty sure you will know Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb during the Second World War. Even it’s hard to find your Ikigai here between those sad memories, it’s important to remember the history to avoid repeating it.
As Okinawa is the ideal place to spend your summer holiday, the winter spot for Japanese people is Hokkaido. If you love the snow and you fancy the idea of being surrounded by nature in its purest state, you will find your Ikigai there. Even if you love Tokyo life, I guess you would need to take fresh air and admire these breathtaking views at least once a year.
In the south of Japan, there’s a city they say it’s the ‘East Naples’ due to its similarity to the Italian city. Both of them are located in a large bay and Sakurajima volcano is like the volcano Mount Vesuvius. But what is the best is its mild weather during most of the year that turns Kagoshima in an ideal place to find your Ikigai.
*HYOGO & NARA
One of the Japanese wonders is the Himeji Castle in Hyogo. Full of history, this place was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1993 and it’s one of the major medieval structures in the country.
Nara was the capital of Japan in the medieval period. Walking through its Nara Park you will still appreciate its medieval vibes. Another must to visit there is Todaii, a Buddist temple which contains the enormous statue of Vairocana.
One curiosity of the park is its ‘singular welcome’. At the door there are some deer as they were considered the deities’ messengers. All in all, these two different places are traditional and spiritual spots to understand better their culture. I’m sure they would be ideal if you want to find you Ikigai by looking inside you.
The importance of this Japanese city lies in its industrialization and its art through their love for the literature. Apparently, it seems a really capitalist place where economy is the key, but even if you don’t get excited about commerce and industry, you could still find your Ikigai in Osaka exploring its history and literature.
After visiting all these Japanese places, have you found your Ikigai? Have you found your ‘reason to live’? At the end, you will understand that the secret to have a happier life is based on all the experiences we have lived, all the different people and cultures we have get known, all the books and movies you have watched about curiosities and the time we spend enjoying activities we are passionate about.
Traveling is the best way to find your Ikigai but, as you can see, there are many ways to travel from your couch. Thanks to technologic countries like Japan we have all those digital tools at our fingertips. We just need to open our mind and heart and be ready to live the experience.
Have you ever been to Japan? Do you have any other recommendations for this country? And If you liked this ‘virtual trip’ through the Japanese main spots, stay tuned for the next posts to discover more unique places around the world. Meanwhile, you can read the other episodes.
Thanks to Yohei and Sakiho for their Japanese places. There are still many other awesome spots to explore in their country but those ones are the most valuable for them.