How Japan's Unique Culture Helps Me Create a Blissful Life
As Japan's unique culture continues to gain interest worldwide, many previously unknown aspects of Japanese life are now much more widely understood. At one end is its distinctive pop culture. On the other are its traditional philosophical concepts related to mindfulness, simplicity, and the inherent power of nature. These aspects of Japan's unique culture have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in helping me create a blissful life.
Experiencing Japan's Unique Culture First Hand
Japan's pop culture has provided the world with several forms of popular entertainment, including anime, manga, video games, and J-pop music.1 With increasing exposure to Japanese ideas, artistic styles, and storytelling techniques, the appeal of these forms of entertainment is likely to persist, making Japanese concepts more familiar and accessible to Western audiences.
I moved to Japan in 2002, and while its colorful pop culture surrounds me, it's the philosophical and lifestyle concepts that have been more helpful in helping me create a blissful life. Perhaps not surprisingly, many views here differ from those in the Western world and provide an alternative perspective I instantly resonate with. Since moving to Japan, I've also witnessed several of its wellness, mindfulness, and self-care concepts gain global popularity. Two of these ideas are wabi-sabi and ikigai.
Japan's Unique Culture of Wabi-Sabi and Ikigai for a Blissful Life
Wabi-sabi is an aesthetic and philosophical concept rooted in Zen Buddhism. It teaches that wisdom is attained by accepting human limitations rather than trying to overcome them.2 Wabi-sabi values modesty, simplicity, and the individuality of the worn and imperfect. It appreciates the natural cycle of growth and decay and embraces the beauty of life's impermanence. In Western societies, where there is often an emphasis on the pursuit of newness and perfection, wabi-sabi offers a refreshing perspective and a reminder to welcome life's transience.
Ikigai is an idea that encourages individuals to seek out, discover, and pursue activities that give their life meaning. It is a reason for being. A person's ikigai combines their passion, mission, vocation, and profession and is thought by some to be the key to leading a happy and healthy life.3 In the modern world, where many individuals struggle with work-life balance and finding meaning in their careers, the concept of ikigai has resonated as a guide for living a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.
Japan's Unique Culture of Getting Back to Nature
Living in Japan, it's easy to see how wabi-sabi and ikigai permeate many aspects of daily life. However, there is another less well-known concept I find great benefit in practicing — shinrin-yoku. Shinrin-yoku literally means "forest bathing." But as popular as natural hot springs are in Japan, this isn't that kind of bathing. Shinrin-yoku is simply spending time in nature, immersing oneself in its sights, sounds, and smells.
As technology dominates life both at home and in the workplace more and more, shinrin-yoku provides me with the perfect opportunity to connect with the natural environment. Studies have shown that spending time in nature is highly therapeutic and beneficial to our wellbeing. It gives us a chance to destress, reduce anxiety, and recharge. It supports and improves physical health and vitality and can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve immune function. It can also help increase creativity and boost our ability to focus.4
Adopting Aspects of Japan's Unique Culture for a Blissful Life
Concepts such as wabi-sabi, ikigai, and shinrin-yoku promote mindfulness, simplicity, and personal wellbeing. They can help counterbalance today's fast-paced and achievement-oriented lifestyles. As we look for meaning, balance, and self-discovery, the appeal of these ideologies is likely to continue, further advancing recognition and adoption worldwide.
- Tako. (2022, August 18). Exploring Japan Pop Culture: Music, Idols, Youtubers, KAWAII, Otaku Culture, Karaoke and more! WeXpats Guide. https://we-xpats.com/en/guide/as/jp/detail/10754/
- Lloyd, G. (2021, July 22). What is wabi sabi? Grape Japan. https://grapee.jp/en/178776
- JapanGov. (2022, March 18). Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Joyful Life. KIZUNA. https://www.japan.go.jp/kizuna/2022/03/ikigai_japanese_secret_to_a_joyful_life.html
- Tigar, L. (2023, April 7). The Benefits of Spending Time in Nature: Why You Should Get Outside More Often. Real Simple. https://www.realsimple.com/benefits-of-spending-time-in-nature-7376683
Brocklebank, M. (2023, June 26). How Japan's Unique Culture Helps Me Create a Blissful Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2023/6/how-japans-unique-culture-helps-me-create-a-blissful-life