What the Japanese Can Teach Us About Longevity

The longest living person in the world, Kane Tanaka of Japan is aged 118 years. Kane isn’t alone. Many older people in Japan are showing little sign of letting up. From an 85-year-old sushi master to a 100-year-old cafe owner, these elderly Japanese people understand and practice the secret to longevity: Ikigai.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai is an ancient Japanese ideology associated with the nation’s long-life expectancy.” Iki” (生き) translates to “life” while, “gai” (甲斐), is used to describe value or worth. In other words, ikigai is what gets you up every morning and keeps you going. It’s your purpose: your north star. 

The best way to understand this is to see the diagram below. Ikigai has four main overlapping qualities: what you are good at, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you love. 


How to find your Ikigai?

First, set aside some quiet time for contemplation. With a pen and paper, write these four questions and take your time to answer them. 

1. What do I love? (passion)

2. What am I good at? (vocation)

3. What can I be paid for? (profession)

4. What does the world need? (mission)

You don’t have to answer them immediately if you can’t. Bring the questions anywhere with you so that they can help you in your quest to find your Ikigai. At the intersection of passion, vocation, profession and mission, you will find your answers. If you can find pleasure and satisfaction in what you do and you’re good at it, well done, you have discovered your Ikigai. 

If you need additional help, we recommend reading Hector Garcia’s book, Ikigai: The Secret To A Long And Happy Life. You can use this book to find your Ikigai, and equip yourself to change your life to fit your purpose in this world. All you have to do is find it.

Go on a quest to find your Ikigai
Go on a quest to find your Ikigai

How is Ikigai the Key to Longevity?

For many Japanese people, Ikigai comes in the form of work or a hobby they are passionate about: flower arrangement, rock collecting, or carving traditional Japanese masks. It could be anything that brings joy to them – even for hours. Scientists researched these people and found extraordinary amounts of DHEA, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that many believe may be the miracle “longevity hormone.”

Another study on men in Okinawa practising Ikigai showed that a strong sense of purpose is associated with 

  • 72% decrease in stroke
  • 44% decrease in cardiovascular diseases, 
  • 38% reduction in other causes of death and cancer. 

It appears that people practicing Ikigai have a healthier heart, less anxiety and stress, and resilience. They also tend to perform tasks to their satisfaction rather than having to seek approval from people all the time. These outcomes make life rather fulfilling. The latest research show: life fulfilment through Ikigai as a critical component of longevity.

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