Ikigai and Sanpo-Yoshi

Ikigai means worth living, rewarding, or fulfilling. You can find Ikigai in almost anything as long as you feel joy and meaning in that activity.: You can feel Ikigai when you jog in the morning, you can feel Ikigai when you play with your children, and you can feel Ikigai when you are immersed in a work you love.


However, if we look into Ikigai deeper, to interpret it to be a meaning in our life or a purpose in our life, we need to go beyond our subjective feeling of enjoyment or fulfillment. We need to understand the structure of society, and expand our consciousness to feel what happiness really is. Can it be Ikigai if your company makes profits by exploiting others even though your job is so satisfying for you? Can it be Ikigai when you enjoy your hobby so much that you prioritize it over your family? What really is happiness for us? What is our purpose in life? Ikigai  I am talking about here isn’t just rewarding to you, but it is also satisfying to your family and people around you, and gratifying to society. Another word for Ikigai to give justice to its true meaning, it needs to have the element of Sanpo-Yoshi.


What is Sanpo-Yoshi?

Sanpo-Yoshi is a philosophy of Omi-merchants who were considered to be the most successful merchants in Japan from the medieval period to 18th century. This philosophy stated that every business the Omi merchants conducted needed to be beneficial to the seller, the buyer, and society in general. In short, a business must result in a three-way satisfaction.


Sanpo means three directions and Yoshi means good or happy and Sanpo-Yoshi contains three Yoshi.


Urite-Yoshi: This means the seller is happy

Kaite-Yoshi: This means the buyer is happy

Seken-Yoshi: This means society is happy.


This is a concept in business, but we can apply it in other fields, too. For example, we can apply it in pursuit of happiness.


Jibun-Yoshi: I am happy

Aite-Yoshi: You are happy

Seken-Yoshi: Society is happy.


You, in this case, means people around you such as your family. When you feel Ikigai, it is better to feel it in an activity which doesn’t just make you happy, but also makes your family happy. For example, instead of feeling your Ikigai in playing golf, which either you do alone or with your co-workers, you can feel your Ikigai in going for walks with your family. In this way you can feel happy and so can your family. It also makes society happy since it is environmentally friendlier than playing golf on a golf course, which was probably built by destroying a forest.


Another example is that instead of finding your Ikigai in your work and giving 100% of your time and energy into it, which is often described in the context of Ikigai as in Japanese craftsmanship, you can find your Ikigai in the work-style that includes time for your family. Instead of finding your Ikigai in achieving perfection as a craft, and not paying attention to other elements such as the ingredients, you can shift your focus to your ingredients being environmentally friendly or not.


It applies to diet, too. By eating delicious food, you can make you happy so that it can be Jibun-Yoshi, but it may not make others happy. Therefore it may not be Aite-Yoshi. On the other hand, if you eat natural food, it makes you healthy, and it will make you happy. Usually, it makes people around you healthy and happy, as well, because what you eat influences your family and friends. If you cook a healthy meal and invite your friends over, your friends can become interested in your cooking style. By eating well, you will be mentally and physically integrated, and be a positive person to hang around with. Therefore it can be Aite-Yoshi, too.


How about Seken-Yoshi, then? Can eating natural food be society friendly? The food we eat is related to the way we produce food, and the way we grow food influences the environment and our social structure. So, what we eat affects society. By eating organically grown food or naturally grown food, you can support organic farming or natural farming which are much better for our environment. Therefore eating natural food can be Seken-Yoshi, as well. Another thing you want to pay attention to is to eat locally grown food. By eating locally, you are helping to reduce our energy consumption to transport food.


Thus, eating locally grown natural food can be Sanpo-Yoshi diet.