The Reading Room

Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Healthy Life

Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralle

Published: 2016, Cornerstone

This book came into being when authors Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralle sat down together for the first time in a tiny bar in the city of Tokyo. This meeting ended up forming a strong bond of friendship between the two. A year later when the two were strolling in streets of Tokyo talking about various trends in Western psychology specifically Logotherapy which helps people find their purpose in life, it is during this conversation the word Ikigai came up and voila that was the inception of this wonderful book.

In the very beginning the book briefly touches upon the five blue zones, regions where most centenarians in the world live as per the research done by Dan Buettner, Okinawa holds first place in this list of Blue Zone. According to people who stay in Okinawa, Ikigai is the reason people get up every morning. Through the lens of the authors, this book gives us a chance to understand the secret of long and healthy life of people living in these blue zones specifically Okinawa.

There are a couple of basic and easy life principles the people of Okinawa follow, one is the 80 percent rule which says that when your stomach is 80% full you stop eating, second being the importance of community living both being essential for a long and healthy life as the Japanese say Moai – stay connected for life.

The book then goes on to explain how to avoid premature aging in the modern world. Having a youthful mind drives you towards a healthy lifestyle that will slow the aging process. It is beautifully explained how active mind leads to a youthful body. Speaking about stress a wonderful comparison is drawn between the modern people and cave men explaining how stress works.

Starting from Logotherapy to Ikigai the authors beautifully explain the various psychological therapies like Logotherapy & Morita therapy with case studies and examples.

The book smoothly transitions into explaining the importance of going with the flow, that there is no future, no past there is only the present and how one can achieve flow by following some conditions like knowing what to do, how to do, how well you are doing, where to go, perceiving significant challenges, skills and being free from distractions.

Authors explain various strategies to achieve flow and find a purpose in our life, choose a task that we have a chance to complete but it is slightly outside our comfort zone, have a very clear, concrete objective and concentrate on single task at a time. It mentions the art of Tukumi, these are people with skills which are hard to find, thus people who are hard to replace and this is their Ikigai thus enabling them to lead a long and healthy life. The book talks about various other similar concepts which is delightful to read.

The book then moves into a collection of lessons from Japan’s centenarians. The authors conducted over 100 interviews during their stay in Ogimi in Okinawa. One of the stand outs for me was when this individual speaks about “slowing down and relaxing, you live much longer good quality life if you are not in a hurry”. There are many such interviews which will keep you engrossed as you read further into how each of these individuals explain their Ikigai. You Ikigai can be as simple as getting together with friends each day and supporting each other, Ikigai not necessarily has to be something complicated.

The later chapters give us insights into diet and exercise routines of the people of Okinawa, explaining how people eat variety of foods but everything in moderation. Good quality and moderate food habits is a key to long and healthy life. It gives beautiful insights into various forms of exercise that is part of the daily regime of the centenarian population of Japan.

The book concludes with showing us ways to face life challenges with minimum stress and worry. It talks about various forms of resilience and how it picks us up in the toughest of times. It also explains the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi that teaches us the importance of finding beauty in imperfection or simplicity in this world.

Find and follow your Ikigai that is the Japanese secret of Long and healthy life, it was an enlightening experience to read this book and I would strongly recommend one to give it a go, it might just help you find your Ikigai.


Sagar Kanal
April 2024

The information contained above and in other entries in the Ocean Dial Book Review Series is intended for general information and entertainment purposes only, and should not be relied upon in making, or refraining from making, any investment decisions. No information provided herein should or can be taken to constitute any form of advice or recommendation as to the merits of any investment decision. You should take independent advice from a suitably qualified investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

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Published: 2022, Penguin Books India

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Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture

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Published: 2024, Bonnier Books Ltd

From trendy restaurants to city grids,  algorithmic recommendations dictate our experiences and choices. Over the last decade, this network of mathematically determined decisions has taken over, almost unnoticed, as we’ve grown increasingly accustomed to our insipid new normal.

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The Innovator’s Dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail

Clayton M Christensen

Published: 1979, Harvard Business Review Press

Innovation expert Clayton Christensen explains why most companies miss out on new waves of innovation. No matter the industry, he says, a successful company with established products will get pushed aside unless managers know how and when to abandon traditional business practices.

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