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Ikigai Spotlight Series: Minami Yusui, Broadway Performer, Founder of YU-project, based in NY, USA

Updated: Oct 24

Minami: Confronting my true self...

Ikigai is a concept that is very much integral to Japanese culture. The word 'Ikigai' can be roughly translated to your 'reason for being', or purpose and is not confined to the ‘Venn Diagram’. More on its 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 would like to highlight this nuance with our 'Ikigai Spotlight Series'.


This month's featured guest is Minami Yusui, Broadway Performer, Founder of YU-project, based in New York, USA.


Tell us your story.


I was born and raised in Kanazawa, Japan. In 2002, I moved to New York to study theatre. Then in 2007, I moved back to Japan to join the Shiki Theatre Company where I performed in Wicked and Beauty and the Beast. I also served as a translator and Assistant Director for the Japanese premiere of Spring Awakening in 2009. Unable to abandon my dream of performing on Broadway, I left Shiki and returned to New York. After many setbacks, disappointments, and obstacles, that dream came true when I made my Broadway debut in The King and I starring Ken Watanabe.


I feel very fortunate to have continued onto the Broadway companies of Miss Saigon in 2017 and My Fair Lady in 2018. Having experienced “The sky is the limit” over and over again, my new dream is to spread the message of “You are Unlimited.” with the YU-project.


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

I had always vaguely heard the word. However, it began to appear more frequently in books and podcasts in the US, becoming the trigger for my awareness just as I was grappling with a significant setback in my life.


What has been your personal journey with your Ikigai(s) or reason for being?


I believe that the concept of Ikigai is ever-evolving, much like people themselves. It gradually gets clearer and is updated as we explore various paths.

I value the voice of my heart as a significant guidepost, which often differs from the logical reasoning in my mind. I prioritise embracing excitement, even when I'm uncertain about the specifics. I find joy in following the voice of my heart, believing it to be the genuine signal, even when it defies conventional logic.

When my heart is filled with excitement, it signifies the presence of uncharted possibilities on the horizon. Discovering my own potential transformed my life and guided me to my Ikigai. Today, my Ikigai is to help as many people as possible unlock their potential through the YU-project, so they too can experience this transformative journey.



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


I don't limit myself, nor my pursuits, to the stage just because I'm a Broadway actor. Instead, I feel most authentic when I collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds, when I engage in projects that highlight the broad appeal and impact of theatre, and when I embark on ventures that simply sound enjoyable and intriguing. In these moments, I truly feel like I'm following my heart and being my true authentic self.



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


Shortly before my Broadway debut, there was a period when I became so fixated on becoming a Broadway actor that I pushed myself to the point of suffering. During this phase, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery by reconnecting with my heart, which I had long neglected. This process entailed a deep and thorough reflection on the inner pain and anxiety I grappled with, ultimately guiding me towards self-acceptance. Confronting my true self demanded a lot of courage, but I approached and worked on it gradually, step by step.

Another pivotal factor in overcoming my pain was revisiting my “原点” or origin, which I had completely forgotten at the time. The reason I initially chose the path of theatre was because I relished the experience of collaboratively creating performances with my colleagues. Reconnecting with this pure joy and returning to my roots liberated me from the self-imposed pressure I had placed on myself.



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


In my book,今日から始めるSHOW UPの習慣 (translation: SHOW UP Habits Starting Today) that was launched on September 22, 2023, I also touch upon the topic of Ikigai. I don't believe that discovering one's purpose is a sudden result of taking dramatic actions; it's not something that miraculously appears overnight. Instead, I think it's a gradual process.


Today, by taking even the smallest steps outside your comfort zone and tuning into your heart's emotions during those moments, you'll gradually gain a greater awareness of how you feel when engaging in various activities. I believe this enhanced awareness and consciousness will serve as your guiding beacon, leading you to discover your own, unique Ikigai.


May your authenticity radiate brightly in your life. I'm rooting for you from New York!


 

Saori's reflection


I just have to say Minami's smile is infectious and so full of life! Her Ikigai story is a great reminder that we should lead with our hearts and souls instead of just our minds. I loved when she talked about not limiting herself to the stage and how we are all much more than any label we've ever been given. I can't wait to see how her journey continues to inspire.


 

Do you want to learn more?

You can follow and support Minami-san and her work on her Instagram accounts: @minamiyusui, @youunlimitedproject or on her website: www.yu-project.org

Don't miss the opportunity to explore her captivating book 今日から始めるSHOW UPの習慣 available on Amazon in Japanese.


*san is an honorific suffix used in Japanese



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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