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Ikigai Spotlight Series: Sayori Wada, Illustrator based in Zurich, Switzerland

Sayori: I grew tired of the predictable path...

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 Sayori Wada., an Illustrator based in Zurich, Switzerland.

Sayori-san and her work at her exhibition

Tell us your story.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, I was influenced by my father's career in architecture and had a passion for drawing ignited within me from a young age. Upon completing my university studies, I embarked on a professional journey with a graphic design company, only to later venture into the realm of independent work after a few years.

Around seven years ago, I made the decision to relocate to Berlin, where I sought new opportunities and settled in the vibrant city of Zurich. Presently, I am engaged in creative projects, collaborating with clients spanning the realms of fashion, gastronomy, and music.

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

In recent years, I have become more conscious of the meanings behind the word “Ikigai”, particularly since I started encountering and hearing it used outside of Japan.

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

Even after moving overseas, the true essence of my Ikigai is being able to thrive as a freelance illustrator utilising the skills and passion I have cultivated in Japan. Coming from a family with a longstanding legacy in architecture and construction, tracing back to my great-grandfather's era in Tokyo, I experience profound moments of connection to my cultural and family roots. These sentiments are especially profound when I find myself painting on walls, where I feel from my heart that "perhaps I am keeping my roots alive".

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

Amidst the vibrant atmosphere of a concert, accompanied by plentiful drinks, I find myself truly embracing my 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?

Around seven or eight years ago, a sense of restlessness overwhelmed me as I grew tired of the predictable path my future seemed to be taking. Fueled by my natural optimism, I made a bold choice—to uproot my entire life and embark on a journey to Berlin. Rather than succumbing to deep worries, my inherent optimism helps me to avoid dwelling too deeply on my worries.

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

According to the teachings of Kukai (空海), one should wholeheartedly devote oneself to the given tasks. By doing so, the cloudiness in one's heart will dissipate, allowing the radiance of our true nature to shine forth. This principle extends beyond work within a company; it encompasses diligently maintaining a tidy home and greeting our neighbours with a warm smile. I firmly believe that even these seemingly simple acts hold immeasurable value.

It seems that by wholeheartedly pursuing something, things begin to appear more straightforward.

Sayori-san and her work

Saori's reflection

I felt wisdom not only in Sayori-san's words but also in her art, which shows us what it means to live "wholeheartedly". I felt a strong sense of softness and kindness when appreciating her creativity. Her interview also made me reflect on Kukai 空海, an influential figure in the development of Japanese Buddhism. I couldn't help but find beauty in how his name is made from the sky "空" and ocean "海", reminding us that nature is a source of wisdom.

Do you want to learn more?

You can follow Sayori-san and her journey on her website or Instagram @sayoriwada.

*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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