Naoko: Ikigai is something that changes from moment to moment...
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 Naoko Murata, multi-hyphen CEO and Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist currently based in Fukuoka, Japan.
Tell us your story.
I was born in Kumamoto, Japan, and while I spent a few of my early years in Seattle, US, I lived in Tokyo, Japan, from kindergarten to age 20. I spent my school years playing the sport I loved, basketball.
My adult dream was to become a court judge, and I kept taking the bar exam but could not fulfil this dream. Through caring for my grandparents, I began to wonder if there was a way to present caregiving in a more positive and hopeful way. This drive led me to become a certified Care Worker to create a caregiving events company.
I eventually started a caregiving information magazine with my care worker colleagues to share authentic insights in this field. Through my colleagues, I learned the role of a Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist, a legal profession in Japan that files government licences and permits, drafts documents, and provides legal advice around such interactions. From there, I started my journey as a company founder in the field of legal support. This year, I also opened "Murata's House (Murata-san-chi)" to create a safe place to prevent the isolation and loneliness of both children and adults.
When was the first time you remember coming across the concept of Ikigai?
When I was a sophomore in high school, I repeatedly injured my knee, and the doctor said there was nothing we could do to get back on the basketball court. As a teenager whose only focus in life was basketball, I couldn't think of a reason to move even a finger anymore. I could no longer understand the meaning of blinking. I didn't even see the point of breathing, yet my breathing continued on its own. At this moment, I realised that "living" doesn't come from having an Ikigai but comes from "not being dead". I came to believe that if you focus on living intentionally and thoroughly, you can come across and meet your Ikigai somewhere along the way.
What has been your personal journey with your Ikigai(s) or reason for being?
Ikigai is something that changes from moment to moment.
You feel empowered and inspired by the presence of an Ikigai, and then one day, when it shifts or changes, you thank the Ikigai from the bottom of your heart, let it go, and come across your next Ikigai.
That is how I see it. Yes, it is so abstract, and I apologise!
How does your life today reflect your authentic self and life priorities?
Lately, I feel that I am always just myself...and it feels wonderful!
I feel "at ease" when I am with my family (husband and children), and my phone is far away from me.
Can you walk us through a time in your life when you felt lost? What ideas or tools helped you overcome this period?
People around me don't seem to believe me, but I am constantly troubled by my thoughts and worries. I don't recall ever overcoming these thoughts on my own. It's always someone or something else that helps me. I am so grateful to my community. There's no other way to put it. What I can do during these challenging times is to ponder and sit with these thoughts thoroughly. And then, take action! Whenever I do this, someone or something will help me overcome my struggles.
What would be your advice to anyone struggling to live a life of Ikigai?
I think having an Ikigai(s) is incredibly lucky.
Ikigai is a treasure. And because it is a rare treasure, don't worry if you have yet to find it. Instead, let's live with the excitement that every day may be when Ikigai will show up in our lives.
I found Naoko's Ikigai story a great example of the power of living intentionally and following your heart. Seeing her professional journey unfold with many chapters showed me the importance of not being constrained to one path but pursuing your interests to carve out your own career. It's inspiring to see how her various multi-hyphen roles have come together for her latest initiative, "Murata's House (Murata-san-chi)", a safe place to prevent the isolation and loneliness of both children and adults. Naoko's story gifted me the reminder of wabi-sabi, or not being controlled by the need for “permanence”. Ikigai can change from moment to moment, and in those moments, “you thank the Ikigai from the bottom of your heart, let it go, and come across your next Ikigai”.
Do you want to learn more?
For more of Naoko, you can find & support her work here: @tabooless70
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.