Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 419–433 | Cite as

On the Concept of Well-Being in Japan: Feeling Shiawase as Hedonic Well-Being and Feeling Ikigai as Eudaimonic Well-Being

  • Michiko KumanoEmail author


This study clarified characteristics of well-being in Japan, specifically differences between feeling shiawase and feeling ikigai, to elucidate how they relate to eudaimonic well-being and hedonic well-being. Participants were 846 Japanese in their 30s (418 men, 428 women), who responded to a web-based survey. Questionnaire items comprised level of shiawase/ikigai, the presence of a difference between feeling shiawase and feeling ikigai, and, in an open-ended question, the difference between feeling shiawase and feeling ikigai. Results revealed that feeling shiawase is primarily characterized by such feelings as delight and peace; it is oriented toward the present. Feeling ikigai entails actions of devoting oneself to pursuits one enjoys and is associated with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment. Furthermore, it includes awareness of values such as the purpose of life and the meaning of existence; it is future oriented, as in goal seeking. This study verifies that for Japanese, feeling shiawase is close to hedonic well-being and feeling ikigai is close to eudaimonic well-being. This suggests that it is important to approach Japanese well-being not in technical terms such as eudaimonic well-being; rather, Japanese well-being should be comprehended in terms of ikigai which is an aspect of daily conversation in Japan.


Shiawase Ikigai Everyday term Hedonic well-being Eudaimonic well-being Japan 



This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research) Grant Number 23530878, 26380911.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he/she has no conflict of interest.


  1. Bass, S. A. (1996). An overview of work, retirement, and pensions in Japan. Journal of Aging and Social Policy, 8(2–3), 57–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cabinet Office (2007). FY 2007 White Paper on the National Lifestyle: a comfortable way of life for the Japanese people, founded on personal relationships. Retrieved from
  3. Cabinet Office (2011). FY 2010 National Survey on Lifestyle Preferences. Retrieved from
  4. Cabinet Office (2012). FY 2011 National Survey on Lifestyle Preferences. Retrieved from
  5. Carlquist, E., Ulleberg, P., Delle Fave, A., Nafstad, H. E., & Blakar, R. M. (2016). Everyday understandings of happiness, good life, and satisfaction: three different facets of well-being. Applied Research in Quality of Life. doi: 10.1007/s11482-016-9472-9.Google Scholar
  6. Deci, E., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: an introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diaz, D., Stavraki, M., Blanco, A., & Gandarillas, B. (2015). The eudaimonic component of satisfaction with life and psychological well-being in Spanish cultures. Psicothema, 27(3), 247–253.Google Scholar
  8. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence. In P. A. David & M. W. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth: essays in honour of Moses Abramovitz (pp. 89–125). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fukuda, R., Shimizu, Y., & Seto, N. (2015). Issues experienced while administering care to patients with dementia in acute care hospitals: a study based on focus group interviews. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 10, 25828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kamiya, M. (1966). Ikigai ni tsuite. Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo.Google Scholar
  13. Kaneko, M., Ohashi, H., Takamura, T., & Kawame, H. (2015). Psychosocial responses to being identified as a balanced chromosomal translocation carrier: a qualitative investigation of parents in Japan. Journal of Genetic Counseling, 24, 922–930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Karasawa, M., & Suga, C. (2010). Shiawase to bunka: positive shinrigaku heno bunkateki approach. In K. Horike (Ed.), Positive shinrigaku no tenkai. Gendai no Esupuri, 512, 141–151.Google Scholar
  15. Kashdan, T. B., Biswas-Diener, R., & King, L. A. (2008). Reconsidering happiness: the costs of distinguishing between hedonics and eudaimonia. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 219–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kawakita, J. (1986). KJ ho: konton wo shite katarashimeru. Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha.Google Scholar
  17. Kumano, M. (2006). The structure of ikigai and similar concepts. Japanese Journal of Health Psychology, 19(1), 56–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kumano, M. (2013). Development of two scales for the ikigai process model: the ikigai process scale and the ikigai state scale. The Bulletin of Education (Osaka Ohtani University), 39, 1–11.Google Scholar
  19. Kumano, M. (2015). Definition and review of ikigai. Bulletin of Osaka Ohtani University, 49, 77–94.Google Scholar
  20. Mathews, G. (1996a). What makes life worth living? How Japanese and Americans make sense of their worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  21. Mathews, G. (1996b). The stuff of dreams, fading: ikigai and “the Japanese self”. Ethos, 24(4), 718–747.Google Scholar
  22. Mathews, G. (2006). Happiness and the pursuit of a life worth living: an anthropological approach. In Y. K. Ng & L. S. Ho (Eds.), Happiness and public policy: theory, case studies and implications (pp. 147–168). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mathews, G. (2009). Finding and keeping a purpose in life: well-being and ikigai in Japan and elsewhere. In G. Mathews & C. Izquierdo (Eds.), Pursuits of happiness: well-being in anthropological perspective (pp. 167–185). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  24. Nakanishi, N. (1999). ‘Ikigai’ in older Japanese people. Age and Ageing, 28(3), 323–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. OECD. (2013). OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. Oishi, S., & Komiya, A. (2012). Is it possible to compare happiness across cultures? Japanese Psychological Review, 55, 6–21.Google Scholar
  27. Ozawa-de Silva, C. (2008). Too lonely to die alone: internet suicide pacts and existential suffering in Japan. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 32(4), 516–551.Google Scholar
  28. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ryff, C., Boylan, J. M., Coe, C. L., Karasawa, M., Kawakami, N., Kitayama, S., et al. (2015). Adult development in Japan and the United States: comparing theories and findings about growth, maturity, and well-being. Oxford library of psychology. In L. A. Jensen (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of human development and culture: an interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 666–679). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Sanjuan, P. (2011). Affect balance as mediating variable between effective psychological functioning and satisfaction with life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(3), 373–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schwartz, C. E., Quaranto, B. R., Healy, B. C., Benedict, R. H. B., & Vollmer, T. L. (2013). Altruism and health outcomes in multiple sclerosis: the effect of cognitive reserve. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(2), 144–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shirai, K., Iso, H., Fukuda, H., Toyoda, Y., Takatorige, T., & Tatara, K. (2006). Factors associated with “ikigai” among members of a public temporary employment agency for seniors (Silver Human Resources Centre) in Japan; gender differences. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 4, 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. The Commission on Measuring Well-Being, Japan. (2011). Measuring national well-being: proposed well-being indicators. Retrieved from
  35. Uchida, Y., & Ogihara, Y. (2012). Cultural construal of happiness: cultural psychological perspectives and future direction of happiness research. Japanese Psychological Review, 55(1), 26–42.Google Scholar
  36. Weiss, R. S., Bass, S. A., Heimovitz, H. K., & Oka, M. (2005). Japan’s silver human resource centers and participant well-being. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 20(1), 47–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yamamoto-Mitani, N., & Wallhagen, M. I. (2002). Pursuit of psychological well-being (ikigai) and the evolution of self-understanding in the context of caregiving in Japan. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 26(4), 399–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yoshida, I., Kobayashi, T., Sapkota, S., & Akkhavong, K. (2012). Evaluating educational media using traditional folk songs (‘lam’) in Laos: a health message combined with oral tradition. Health Promotion International, 27(1), 52–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOsaka Ohtani UniversityTondahayashiJapan

Personalised recommendations