Skip to main content

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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

  • Cabinet Office (2011). FY 2010 National Survey on Lifestyle Preferences. Retrieved from

  • Cabinet Office (2012). FY 2011 National Survey on Lifestyle Preferences. Retrieved from

  • 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 

  • Deci, E., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: an introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kamiya, M. (1966). Ikigai ni tsuite. Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kawakita, J. (1986). KJ ho: konton wo shite katarashimeru. Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha.

  • Kumano, M. (2006). The structure of ikigai and similar concepts. Japanese Journal of Health Psychology, 19(1), 56–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Kumano, M. (2015). Definition and review of ikigai. Bulletin of Osaka Ohtani University, 49, 77–94.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mathews, G. (1996a). What makes life worth living? How Japanese and Americans make sense of their worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mathews, G. (1996b). The stuff of dreams, fading: ikigai and “the Japanese self”. Ethos, 24(4), 718–747.

  • 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.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Nakanishi, N. (1999). ‘Ikigai’ in older Japanese people. Age and Ageing, 28(3), 323–324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • OECD. (2013). OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. Paris: OECD Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Oishi, S., & Komiya, A. (2012). Is it possible to compare happiness across cultures? Japanese Psychological Review, 55, 6–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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 

  • Sanjuan, P. (2011). Affect balance as mediating variable between effective psychological functioning and satisfaction with life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(3), 373–384.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • The Commission on Measuring Well-Being, Japan. (2011). Measuring national well-being: proposed well-being indicators. Retrieved from

  • 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 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michiko Kumano.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kumano, M. On the Concept of Well-Being in Japan: Feeling Shiawase as Hedonic Well-Being and Feeling Ikigai as Eudaimonic Well-Being. Applied Research Quality Life 13, 419–433 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


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