The Ikigai Venn Diagram Doesn’t Represent the Meaning of a Japanese Word Ikigai

Have you seen this diagram?

It is everywhere on the internet seems to be describing the meaning of a Japanese word Ikigai.

I came across it three years ago and I was very puzzled by it because I had never seen it before. I asked other Japanese people about it and none of them had ever seen it before.

The diagram says that you can find your Ikigai if you find

what you love to do

what you are good at

what world needs

and what you can be paid for.


Really? I didn’t know that.

Ikigai for most Japanese people means something that gives worth or value to live. It can be something as small and simple as a daily joy such as a morning walk or a smile of your child. Or it could mean something more sophisticated like a mission to change the world for better.  Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with the Venn Diagram seen all over the internet.

So I did my research on it to find out how in the world this Japanese concept ended up in this kind of framework.

I wrote about it in my other blog.

The Orgin of the Venn Diagram Symbolizing Ikigai and its Meaning

Then I discovered that someone merged a venn diagram on ‘purpose’ with Dan Buettner’s Ikigai concept and he didn’t really know the meaning of Ikigai and how the word is used in Japan. He didn’t think it would make such a big deal because it was meant to be just a blog post, but somehow it went viral and it has taken on a life of its own.

I just searched on the net to find it out, but there is a book that explains it much more in detail, and it is better to read it if you want to know the truth behind the Ikigai phenomenon. The book is called Ikigai Demystified: Ikigai Is Not A Venn Diagram. It was written by Nicolas Kemp, and it is the most comprehensive book about the Ikigai phenomenon I have read. He interviewed some of the key figures in the field of Ikigai such as Ken Mogi, the author of  The Little Book of Ikigai: The secret Japanese way to live a happy and long life and he describes what Ikigai really means to Japanese. He even interviewed Marc Winn, the man who merged the venn diagram and Ikigai. Nicolas Kemp also refers to a book written by Mieko Kamiya, who is the most authoritative figure in the field of Ikigai studies in Japan. I don’t think there is any other book writing about Mieko Kamiya’s work in English.

He has interviewed many other scholars such as Akihiro Hasegawa, Goden Mathews, and Shintaro Kono. He has done his research and it is backed up by Ikigai experts. He has even contacted me for an interview since I was one of the few Japanese people writing about the Ikigai phenomenon in English. Since then we have become friends and now we are working together to spread the Ikigai Diet.

He has all these interviews on his podcast at Ikigai

The Ikigai Podcast

There are tons of books, blog posts, and YouTube videos introducing Ikigai by people who have no idea of what Ikigai really means and they don’t even know what they are spreading is the misinterpreted version of Ikigai.

If you want to know the true picture of what Ikigai is all about, Ikigai Demystified is the must-read book.