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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life (Review)

Updated on July 30, 2017
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MsDora, six-year online writer, shares poetry, creative writing and reflections on how writing and writers influence our lives.

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.

By Nimbosa. Derived from works by Dennis Bodor and Emmy van Deurzen
By Nimbosa. Derived from works by Dennis Bodor and Emmy van Deurzen | Source

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)
Language: English
Genre: Health, Fitness & Dieting > Aging ISBN-10: 0143130722
ISBN-13: 978-0143130727
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.

Optimism

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.

Movement

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.

Good Habits

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.

Community

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.

Balance

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.

4 stars for Ikigai

Reccomendation

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

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    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 8 days ago from The Caribbean

      Natalie, thanks for your feedback on the review. It's a very interesting book. You'll like it.

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      Natalie Frank 8 days ago

      What a fascinating article! Thanks for writing get it.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 10 days ago from The Caribbean

      Glenis, I recommend the book. There are some simple habits, easy to adopt, which makes lots of sense. Thanks for your input.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 10 days ago from UK

      Thanks for this, Dora. I recall a tv documentary about the longevity of people in parts of Japan. If memory serves me correctly, one of the aspects of diet that contributes to their good health is fermented foods. I think we in the West could benefit a lot if we absorbed some of the tenets and habits of Eastern culture. I ought to buy the book - 70 this year and hoping to be around and in good health for a lot more years!

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 13 days ago from The Caribbean

      Catherine, thanks for the affirmation on these messages from the Japanese people. They deserve a good look.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 13 days ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks for this article. The Japanese have a wonderful culture. Thee is some really good advice here and suggestions for a productive approach to life.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Mary, thanks for your input. Given your observations, you would like the book. It promotes an all-round healthy lifestyle.

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      Mary Wickison 2 weeks ago from Brazil

      It sounds like a wonderful and helpful book to have and to give as a gift.

      I never felt that 'going to the gym' was the way to health. I think it has to be an ongoing and incorporated way of life.

      When I see the way some people mistreat their bodies, I think, 'that body needs to last you for the next 60-70 years'.

      Sometimes we westerners make things overly complicated when they needn't be.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, glad you find it interesting. Reading the bokk might help you make up you mind. Thanks for your input.

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      William Kovacic 2 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Interesting stuff, Dora. I must admit, I never heard of it before, Thanks for making me aware of it. Not sure I want to practice it , but it is interesting.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Jackie, I recommend reading the book. As I mentioned, some of these principles are easy to apply even on the first read. Thanks for your input.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

      Too bad we are not all brought up with these good principles. I think I would be very interested to read this book, too. Never too old to make some good habits.

      Thank you for this very interesting review.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Dolores, you were blessed with a wise mother. Those of us who pay attention are discovering that she was right. Thanks for sharing.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Dora - this all sounds like good commons sense. I feel like we live in a time of extremes. My mother always said to live a life of moderation in order to be happy and healthy.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Alicia, I'm happy that you found the review interesting. You'd like the book. Thanks for your comment.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Hi Marie. The dictionary suggest ee-key-guy. In addition, most pronunciations can be heard on YouTube, this one at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF9DDuo1vao.

      Thanks for your very valuable input, affirming the necessity of good attitudes to keep us healthy and happy.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've written about a lifestyle that interests me very much. Thank you for the book review, Dora.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 2 weeks ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      After reading this article, I'm still not sure how to pronounce "Ikigai." (Maybe the reference dictionary can help.)

      Yes, all the things mentioned support longevity. Spiritual channelings say that the biblical life expectancies of 800 or more years were not metaphorical, but actual lifespans.

      There are places in the U.S. that have good heart health. A city called Rosetta (not sure which state) is one of them. Primary is a spirit of unconditional love. Modern civilization, especially in the U.S., needs to de-program itself from judgmental thinking and criticism. Dramatic outbursts are out. Kindness, generosity and compassion are "in."

      Blessings!

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Hi, Word. The book will even be more helpful. I absolutely recommend it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Eric, I'm glad that you found it interesting. Thanks for sharing your insightful lifestyle view.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, thanks for your support. So glad when my readers learn something; and this is only the review. The book has great information.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Flourish, this doctor undoubtedly has a healthy knowledge of Ikigai. Thanks for sharing.

    • MsDora profile image
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      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Louise, this books comes out in thirty days. Grab it for a good read and lots of helpful health information. Thanks for reading.

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 weeks ago from Chicago

      Hi Dora, that was a great explanation of a review. It made me want to be more positive than I have been, more physical, active and joyful as well. Thanks for being on top of things.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful to incorporate Shinto and Kami, Buddhist, and ancestor "worship" notions into a lifestyle. We must learn from all God's creations.

      We do have a pleasant happy choice in how we live our lives. We should look for solutions to our personal barriers blocking us from our connection to God.

      This was very interesting, thank you. Being a devout Christian I look at this review as a learning point not a faith point.

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      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating, Dora! I learned something in this article, and I thank you for it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

      An interesting concept and although I've never heard the term there is research to support positive psychology. Thank you for the review. My family has a Japanese heart doctor who must practice this. He's the most positive person I've ever met and always tells you how inspirational and terrific you are and what a joy it is to be alive.

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      Louise Powles 2 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      I've never heard of Ikigai before, but this sounds an interesting book to read. One for my reading list I think!