Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (Review)
The positive attitude and emotional awareness of the Japanese seem even more conducive to their health and longevity than their healthy diets, life outdoors and green tea. This is the consensus of Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, co-authors of Ikigai:The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
Ikigai is a Japanese word which translates as “the reason for being.” That reason produces satisfaction and happiness and adds purpose to their lives. It inspires a lifestyle that is active to the very end.
After one year of preliminary research, the authors visited Okinawa, more specifically the village of Ogimi, nicknamed the Village of Longevity where they interviewed the oldest residents. Their aim in presenting their findings is to share the Japanese concept of ikigai with the hope that readers will be motivated to find their own.
The Book and the Authors
Ikigai Trailer in 95 Seconds
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (August 29, 2017)
Genre: Health, Fitness & Dieting > Aging ISBN-10: 0143130722
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7 inches
Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces
Héctor García is a citizen of Spain, where he was born and of Japan where he has lived for over a decade and has authored a bestseller, A Geek in Japan. Before moving to Japan, he worked at CERN in Switzerland where he developed voice recognition software and technology needed for Silicon Valley startups to enter the Japanese market.
Francesc Miralles is an award-winning author who has written a number of bestselling self-help and inspirational books. Born in Barcelona, he studied journalism, English literature, and German, and has worked as an editor, a translator, a ghost-writer, and a musician. His novel Love in Lowercase has been translated into twenty languages.
Main Messages in the Book
The authors list Okinawa at the top of the five Blue Zone areas (geographic regions where people live the longest). The following lifestyle facts are true in all regions.
Two hundred thousand lives in Okinawa were lost at the end of World War II. What are the chances that this community would be resilient enough to bounce back into one of the friendliest communities on earth and experience such enjoyable long lives? They average 24.55 centenarians in every 100,000. Readers would be amazed at the power-packed inspirational quotes from these people who seem to remain youthful even while they age. One of their secrets is their team spirit, the joy they experience in helping each other.
Judging from the physical habits of the Japanese, it is not the hectic hours in the gymnasium as much as the continual movements of everyday living which keep them strong and agile. For example, they walk or cycle instead of riding trains. Readers will find some productive activities to imitate. Some “are so simple, they’re almost stupid,” according to Gavin Bradley in a 2015 interview for the Washington Post. The authors also include principles, benefits and illustrations of body-mind-soul exercises like tai chi, yoga, shiatsu and similar activities.
Here are two of several:
They pay attention not only to what they eat, but also to portion size and the inclusion of foods featuring the colors of the rainbow.
They create flow in everything they do. That is, they immerse themselves totally and find pleasure in the activity. Chapter 4 teaches the details.
Visiting friends, celebrating birthdays, and sharing garden produce are some of the interpersonal activities mentioned in the interviews. They form associations which feed the member’s sense of worth and belonging. Community help is voluntary and participants act more like family than just friends—all this inspired by their ikigai.
The authors compare the stress of cave dwellers who were relaxed most of the time and felt stress only in specific situations with the constant stress of modern people, whose adrenalin initiates a rush at every ping of the cell phone. Balancing stress is an art to be learned. Taking life slow, releasing the worry, focusing on what is important rather than what is urgent, practicing mindfulness can all be learned from studying the longevity of the Japanese. They do not believe that multi-tasking is a good idea for them or for anyone else.
The book is a commendable reference guide for readers interested in total health and longevity. Some of the simple practices can be adopted at the first read. Those who want to understand and practice the Japanese body-mind-soul harmony techniques will also find helpful details and instructions.
I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley (www.netgalley.com). The opinions I have expressed are mine.
How to Pronounce Ikigai
© 2017 Dora Isaac Weithers