There is an old Japanese proverb: only staying active can make you want to live a hundred years.
Can you imagine a Japanese village island tucked away in the southern hinterlands of the country where 24.55 people per 1000,000 inhabitants have lived a hundred years and beyond? It is actually true! And, befuddled by what makes these people leading a simple island life live beyond 100 is what gave birth to research by authors of this book called Ikigai – a rather mysterious word – taken to mean the secret of a long and happy life.
What’s more, a village called Ogimi in the north part of the island of Okinawa has actually gained fame as the Village of Longevity since it boasts the highest life expectancy in the world.
So what is Ikigai? It makes you wonder at first what exactly is this secret – is it a magic potion, a mantra, or an elixir which would make you immortal and live forever….for isn’t living beyond a hundred years forever?
And so a couple of months back, as I was travelling by air, I stopped at the airport book shop and came across this queer book with an equally quaint title – IKIGAI. It caught my fancy and I picked it up immediately. It looked the right length to devour over quickly in a flight with short-length chapters. I was piqued and intrigued to find out how anyone could reveal the secret of longevity and living beyond 100 years in less than 200 pages?
The authors of the book, on discovering this strange phenomenon in this remote Japanese hamlet, launched a quest to find out what exactly do these people there do which is so different that not one, but a lot of them have gone on to live beyond 100 years.
Is it in their diet? Could there be a super healthy diet which could ensure longevity and health? So what did they discover? It’s interesting and once you hear it, you will give that obvious reaction as well, “Ah! I knew it!”
The key to their long lives, apart from a healthful diet, a simple outdoor life, green tea, and a subtropical climate, was the Ikigai that shapes their lives.
As the book unfolds, you realise that simple things like joy and laughter have become the raison d’etre for the longevity of the people of the island and village. There is a river of joy and pleasure flowing in the hamlets (despite the fact that they lost a hundred thousand lives during the WW II), and the simple folk of this island do not harbour animosity or malice even for those who may have wronged them. Instead, they live by the principle of ichariba chode which means “treat everyone like a brother, even if you have never met them before”.
The book stands as an inspiration for leading a meaningful life and ideas for bringing energy and meaning to our lives. It shows examples from various lives of famous men and common people – the zest for living and the quest to find meaning was what kept most of them going and lead long happy lives. The book’s message is that your Ikigai pushes you to find beauty and purpose in life each day, without getting tired or retiring.
It’s a great book for those who may be living each day with zest but like to be reminded sometimes the art of living is not in having enough for yourself but the art of longevity and true living is in smiling, loving, sharing and caring for others.