Manuel Brandt

Book Notes: Ikigai

Notes after reading the book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”.

I recently read the book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”. While the book only slightly touches Ikigai, which is the Japanese word for finding your purpose or passion in life, it focuses on how people in Japan become older than anywhere else in the world, which I find way more interesting. The average life expectancy in Japan is 85 years old, and nowhere else in the world live more 100+ year old people than on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The book mentions numerous things that lead to a longer life expectancy in Japan, especially Okinawa. 4 stuck out the most.

Find Your Purpose, Your Ikigai ☀️

The book describes how important it is to find a purpose in life, something that makes us want to get up in the morning. Usually, this is something that brings you into a “flow” – a state where you forget everything around you.

Note that your purpose can change multiple times in your lifetime. While it may be to build a company in your 20s, it might change to teaching your children in your 30s and 40s, and then it might change again to helping your local community in your 50s and later. Though, it might also be just one thing your whole life, which you can typically see at big artists and innovators.

Stay Active and Don’t Retire 🏃

Staying active is a key to living a long life. Once you stop being active and your life consists mainly of watching TV and reading newspapers, your life loses the excitement that makes you want to live for many more years.

In Japan, people typically stay active until old age and don’t retire as we do it in western countries. Actually, in Japan, there’s not even a word for the term “retiring”. People still work until they’re old and do things that make them happy. That’s a secret to their long lives.

Keep Good Friendships 🫂

Good friends make your life happier, it’s simple. Still, when we get old, we start to surround ourselves with others less. It starts with getting children, and after they move out, we never get back to how it was before. However, being surrounded by good people every week, or even every day, will make your life much more worth living.

On the island of Okinawa, where people get the oldest in the whole world, the small local communities have a high value to everyone. Every week there’s a kind of party where the elders come together and socialize. Also, almost daily people will meet for a tea with their friends. This is a key that makes people so happy and willing to live long there.

Exercise and Eat Healthy 🍲

The last point is something you have to already work on when you’re young.


Living in East Asia for many years now, I know that older people exercise a lot, way more than you’ll ever see it in Europe. If you go to the gym, a third of people are 50+ years old. If you go to a park, it will be 90% older people taking power walks, stretching, or doing similar easy exercise. Tai chi, qigong, yoga, and co, are highly popular here. Doing simple exercise like this every day, even if it’s just doing work in the garden, will keep you fit and healthy.

Eat Healthy

Of course, eating healthy is a key to living a long life. While there are many studies on what is healthy and what not, here’s what the older people in Okinawa do:

  • Eating plenty of vegetables every day.
  • Eating a big variety of different vegetables and fruits. On average, the people in Okinawa eat 13 different vegetables and fruits per day.
  • Taking many natural antioxidants, especially jasmine or green tea, which they drink 3 times a day on average.
  • Eating lots of fish, around 3 times every week.
  • Eating and drinking almost no sugar. 
  • Eating less salt.

Sugar is something that I’m avoiding for years now already. Eating a bigger variety of vegetables and fruits, as well as fish, is something I will work on. Also, I will start to drink green tea every day, as its antioxidants are supposed to kill toxic things in your body. And of course, do the obvious things like avoiding fast food, minimizing processed foods, buying high-quality groceries e.t.c.

Conclusion: Be Healthy and Keep Your Life Worth Living 👨‍💻

Based on people in Japan, especially Okinawa, where people get the oldest in the whole word, living a long life consists mainly out of two things. The obvious one is living healthy – eating well and doing daily exercise.

The not so obvious one is to keep your life worth living. If you are 70, stopped working, don’t socialize, basically mainly stay at home watching TV, you’re losing the inner will to keep living. However, at 70 your life is not over yet. People in Okinawa show that you can totally have 30 or even 40 more amazing years ahead. So, when you’re getting old, keep your life exciting. Follow a passion, stay active, socialize, and you’ll live long, simply because you have something to live for.

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