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Ikigai Spotlight Series: Harue Oki, President of Ohara School of Ikebana UAE Chapter

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Empty your mind, listen to your heart...

Ikigai is a concept that is very much integral to Japanese culture and roughly translates to your 'reason for being' or 'purpose' but is not the 'Venn Diagram'. More on Ikigai's authentic definition can be explored here.

While Ikigai is essential to one's well-being, the true beauty is that it does not have a fixed equation and can change over time.

At Mogami, we have been exploring this nuance with our 'Ikigai Spotlight Series'.

This month's featured guest is Harue Oki, President of Ohara School of Ikebana UAE Chapter currently based in Dubai, UAE.

Tell us your story.

Born in Tokyo, I have lived in several countries since I was a teenager. After working in the banking industry, I started teaching Ikebana in the UAE. I have gained experience teaching Ikebana in English, French, and Japanese. Now, I am conducting regular courses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, following the official curriculum of the Ohara School of Ikebana. The class is not only about learning the Ikebana skills, but also extending the knowledge about Japanese culture itself.

When was the first time you remember coming across the concept of Ikigai?

As a Japanese native, I have been using "Ikigai" since a very young age. However, I came across the current concept of Ikigai recognised outside of Japan maybe 4-5 years ago.

Western culture often sees Ikigai as something to "find" or "seek" using the Ikigai Venn Diagram. Do you think this is the right approach?

In my case, yes, I agree with this concept. Through the things I have created and taught, I feel that I am giving back to society and that I have been able to make a positive impact on those around me. Ikebana has given foreigners the opportunity to learn about traditional Japanese culture, and my students have spread Ikebana even further, and for some, it has led to professional opportunities. I am glad I believed in myself and that Ikebana, which is what I love as my true authentic self, has guided me in contributing to “what the world needs” as shown in the Ikigai Venn Diagram.

How does your life today reflect your authentic self and life priorities?

There is a meditative aspect to the time spent arranging flowers, even if it is done as a job. It is as if all the other distractions in my head disappear during that time, and I can feel and be myself as I am.

Can you walk us through a time in your life when you felt lost? What ideas or tools helped you overcome this period?

I have continued to believe in my beliefs and convictions (even intuitive ones) even during difficult times. Consistency is truly power, and it has paved the way for me.

What would be your advice to anyone struggling to live a life of Ikigai?

Empty your mind, listen to your heart, and follow it. If you do that, you will have no regrets.

A commemorative photo with the members who arranged the flowers for the Japan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai and the Commissioner General of the Japanese Section.

Saori's reflection

Mogami’s intention for this series has always been to explore the idea of Ikigai through real-life stories of those close to Japanese culture. I am so glad to have Harue-san’s voice to wrap up our last interview of the year. It was powerful to hear Harue-san’s journey of following her heart over her mind, believing in her intuition and beliefs, even when perhaps external forces were telling her otherwise. I often find that rather than trying to solve the Ikigai Venn Diagram equation which is more mind-driven, the solution is to create moments in your life where you can silence the mind to hear your true inner voice.

*In Japan, we often add the honorific suffix “san” to one’s name as a sign of respect which we wanted to continue here in my reflection.

Do you want to learn more?

For more of Harue, you can find & support her work here:

The reflection and journey of the other pieces guide us to a life of ikigai. Ikigai is a journey, not a destination. It is the outcome of being able to live as your authentic self in your everyday life.

What did this story bring up for you? Comment below.



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