Traveler's Test

Japanese Philosophies for a Happy Life

Japanese Philosophies for a Happy Life

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Ever felt lost in your own thoughts, helplessly struggling with the strains of daily life?

Let`s review some of the Japanese best pearls of wisdom for appreciating life to its fullest:


Why do you get up in the morning?

It boils down to answering one vital question: what`s the meaning of my life?

Losing sight of one`s purpose may have detrimental effects on our overall happiness and well-being, as numerous psychological studies suggest.

But how is that some people have no doubts about their inner passion, whereas others remain trapped in painful confusion?

Finding your ikigai

The Japanese people believe that everyone has an ikigai (translating roughly as a reason for being). It`s hidden deep inside of us and waits to be rediscovered.

The question is: how to do it?

According to the inhabitants of the Japanese island Okinawa, the island with the most centenarians in the world, ikigai can be found at the intersection between the following:

  • What you love doing.
  • What you`re good at.
  • What the world needs.
  • What you can be paid for.

In their book, Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, interviewed the residents of the Okinawa island to understand how they managed to discover their ikigai.

Any practical tips to help you find your own ikigai?

Follow your curiosity. As Garcia and Miralles wrote:

“Our intuition and curiosity are very powerful internal compasses to help us connect with our ikigai.”


Searching for happiness? But it keeps eluding you.

The pursuit of perfection (both in your personal and professional life) leads to stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction.

The Japanese have crafted the concept of wabi-sabi to counteract this problem (wabi translates as rustic simplicity or understated elegance, whereas sabi means taking pleasure in the imperfect).


It`s about taking a step back and focusing on the numerous blessings that can be found in our daily lives. As Leonard Koen wrote in his book Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers:

“Wabi-sabi is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of our classical Western notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental.”

The wabi-sabi philosophy also relates to sanboin or the Buddhist teachings of the Three Marks of Existence:

  • Embrace impermanence: There`s nothing permanent. Everything changes and that`s the beauty of life. This is illustrated by the festivities surrounding the hanami season in Japan when the locals celebrate the fleeting nature of cherry blossoms.
  • Suffering: Pain and suffering are necessary lessons. They can allow us to grow and gain a deeper understanding of life.
  • The absent self: Everything around us is undergoing constant change. And our inner self makes no difference.

Wabi-Sabi in practice

The age-long wisdom of wabi-sabi is about slowing down and accepting imperfection.

Any implementations in daily life?

Let`s take the Japanese tea ceremony (or the way of tea). The tea is usually served in beautiful hand-made cups, which have their own small imperfections due to the frequent use.

tea ceremony

But the Japanese way of tea is about appreciating the imperfect. Because nothing is permanent – neither objects nor people. The cracks in the cups are what makes them beautiful.

In other words, wabi-sabi is about acceptance. It`s about being compassionate with yourself and who you are. Because you`re perfectly imperfect. And that`s OK.

Inspired by the Japanese pearls of wisdom for a happy life? Check out a few more philosophies from around the world here.