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This is my Engawa that I talked about before.
Reading a book sitting on that chair is hygge for me. The other day I had a friend over and had coffee right at this spot and it was absolutely fabulous. As a matter of fact, en in engawa means connection or meeting and engawa was designed to be a communal space with neighbors because it is kind of half way between the yard and the house.
Now, where was I, with the topic of Ikigai?
A lot of us are happy in Japan, and many of us have mental strength to feel happy regardless of our circumstance, which is a useful skill to master. And yet, what if this very skill is causing our nation to be unhappy as a society?
That was what I said in the last post. What do I mean by that?
In the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, introduced a concept of flow and how Japanese craftsmen worked with flow: They had so much concentration and dedication toward their work, and the authors even mentioned an example of Hayao Miyazaki, the Anime king, choosing to come to work on Sundays. Even Steve Jobs seemed to be fascinated by this attitude of Japanese craftsmanship.
But I want to say, not so fast, because I know the effects of this attitude in our society as a person who lives here. This attitude or mentality is related to the mindset of feeling happy regardless of the circumstance.
Another word, we are dead serious.
Personally, I want to say to Mr. Miyazaki, “come on, go home on Sundays, relax a bit.” Mind you, I know exactly how he feels because I am a writer myself and when I write my novel I just can’t stop. And I do admire his work very much; he is the best story-teller I know and his brilliant pieces were born by his craftsmanship.
Well, he can work on Sundays if he wants to, but work at home, or places nobody sees him working, so that other staff members can relax.
The Ikigai book also mentioned some old people in Okinawa who never stop moving, and that is one of their secrets to longevity.
I know a lot of people like that here in Shiga. By the way Shiga Prefecture was ranked number one for men in the national longevity ranking in 2017. That might confirm that this lifestyle of constantly moving is one of the secrets to a long life.
Many men in my neighborhood are in their 80s and still working in rice fields and vegetable fields, cutting trees with their chainsaw, mowing, and shovelling snow in winter. Yes, they are exactly like the people described in the book: They never stop working. I know one man in particular who doesn’t even take breaks in our community service work. Other people say that nobody wants to work with him because they can’t take breaks either.
Please take breaks for others’ sake.
If we set such a high standard to ourselves, we expect others to do the same, even though a lot of us are not conscious of it.
Japan is a country where such dedication is valued so much and everybody is expected to meet this standard, which created the nation of workaholics.
I know this dedication seen in our craftsmanship can offer a lot to our way of living and I value it, too, but I also want you to know the downside of it.
It applies to the teachings of Omi-merchants, as well. They were dedicated to serve their customers, and they even believed that their business was a Buddhist work, which by the way came from Zen, but then they expected their staff members to do the same. I bet it must have been very hard-working at an Omi-merchant’s store. So when I looked at Omi-merchants’ way of living, I updated it to today’s standard. It applies to Zen, too, and I wrote about it in my book Zen and a Way of Sustainable Prosperity, didn’t I?
We can learn a lot from hygge or Scandinavian ways and combine them with Ikigai to keep the balance, as it is said in Swedish Lagom; not too much, and not too little.