What We Can Learn from the Japanese

What We Can Learn from the Japanese


Japanese culture is more than anime, sumo, sushi, ramen, and kawaii girls. If you're also considering Japanese porn, that's not it as well. Japanese have given us far more valuable concepts that we can learn a lot from.


The origin of the word Ikigai comes from iki (生き), which means "life" and gai(甲斐), which translates to value or worth. 

Ikigai is a timeless ancient philosophy which can be traced as far back to the Heian period. 

The main lesson we can learn from Ikigai is living life with purpose. Chances are, you already know that Japanese people are known to be hardworkers and the success of the team or group is always put first than your individual interest. In the "me-first" way of life especially in the Western society, there might be a common belief that living is more than working and choosing one's self is far more better than blending with the group.

However, ikigai is not simply about working strenuously alone; for each one of us has their own ikigai. Thus, ikigai focuses on these 4 questions:

  • What you love
  • What the world needs
  • What you can be paid for
  • What you're good at

If you can answer these 4 questions, you will find your ikigai or purpose. It explains the reason behind why even when Japanese are overworking, they do not feel miserable about it, for they see work as a purpose ㅡ to provide value to others. 

Even as simple as playing guitar, working to help out your family, or writing can be your ikigai as it satisfies you, and you see value in what you do.


Wabi-sabi is a counter-attack to luxurious lifestyle and perfectionism. Simply put, wabi-sabi is also known as the art of imperfection. It is finding beauty in what seems like simple or ugly.

Wabi-sabi design

For example, the cracks you see on your glass is wabi-sabi, so are your imperfect teeth. An old wooden house is wabi-sabi than that big mansion. A stain in your clothes is wabi-sabi as it shows history of it being used. 

We can say that wabi-sabi is being at peace with how things are without the need of changing them to look perfect. It is being at peace as well with your own flaws as long as you're authentic. 


If there's one thing we need to learn most from Japanese is developing the habit of being respectful.

Japanese pay respect to the nature, to the rules, to the foods they eat by saying "itadakimasu", and to strangers and people older than them. 

If we all could learn how to pay respect to what surrounds us, we'd learn to be grateful as well. 

Respect can also go as far as respecting other people's differences, privacy, and philosophies. 

Moreover, it can be as simple as saying "thank you" to the guard who opened that door for you this morning.

In other words, do not be an asshole

The 5S of Good Housekeeping

If you follow this, you'd make your life easier.

  • Sort: Sort out unneeded items
  • Straighten: Have a place for everything
  • Shine: Keep the area clean
  • Standardize: Create rules and standard operating procedures
  • Sustain: Maintain the system and continue to improve it


This is the Japanese word for daily, small improvements. Even though the Kaizen approach was first influenced by the Americans after WWII for business purposes, Japanese adopted this wholly into their culture and gave it a name. 

You can apply kaizen in different areas of life: work, relationship, personal improvements, or your hobbies.

For example, writing 200 words a day is kaizen. In one year, you'll become 3.65% better at writing. 


If you're going to steal something, steal from the Japanese way of living. Find your ikigai. Celebrate authenticity and find beauty in imperfections. Pay respect to everyone and everything that surrounds you. Do the 5$ of good housekeeping to make your work-life easier and more productive. Lastly, an improvement isn't supposed to be a radical change; just do it 1% better daily. 

About Me

Yaki writes and makes artworks about anything that interests her. She's one of those people who thinks that the second law of thermodynamics is a bit depressing, although she claims to be contributing to entropy since birth. She likes hunting and playing around with not-yet-mainstream, privacy-oriented apps. On her spare time, she likes laying down and consuming non-fiction books.

Connect with her on Telegram: @sifuyaki

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