Little Miss Notting Hill: Move Over Hygge, Now it’s all about Ikigai

The Hill Resident columnist Annie Wilmot, aka blogger Little Miss Notting Hill, on why she’s switching the Danish concept of hygge for the Japanese philosophy of ikigai

There’s just something about October isn’t there? The crisp weather, the turning of the leaves, the excitement of Christmas just within our grasp… October is also a special month as it’s my birthday month (oh hey fellow Librans!).

Annie Wilmot, aka, Little Miss Notting Hill

Celebrating birthdays is a funny thing – on the surface it’s a great excuse for a party and to catch up with friends you haven’t seen for ages, but some birthdays bring other feelings with them and with recently closing the door on my 20s and opening up the chapter of a new decade by entering my 30s, this 31st celebration seems to bring reflection with it somehow.

This month I’ve been reading a brilliant little book by Ken Mogi called The Little Book of Ikigai. What is ‘ikigai’ I hear you ask? It’s the new philosophical buzzword and a concept that really resonates with me.

I talked in last month’s column about the Danish concept of hygge, but it appears there’s a new philosophy on the block, and one I found myself enjoying reading about on the eve of another birthday.

Ikigai, in short, is the Japanese concept of ‘a reason for being’. I think of it as similar to the French phrase ‘raison d’être’. According to Japanese culture, everyone has an ‘ikigai’ and to find it requires a deep and lengthy search of self.

Ikigai is a concept that really resonates with me

I’m not sure about you, but some of us don’t have time with a busy city life to keep up, but I think there are some solid foundations in their way of thinking that I took away with me.

It’s important to search for one’s ‘ikigai’ as it brings meaning to life – it allows you to break down what’s really important to you and focus on the things that really matter, such as work, hobbies and family. I like to think of it every morning now by asking myself ‘what am I getting up for today?’ – it allows me to look forward to the day ahead and start more focused.

The Japanese-style Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is a good place to search for your ikigai

The Japanese-style Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is a good place to search for your ikigai

If you’re itching for further insight into Japanese culture, there are a few great spots around the neighbourhood you can visit too. Take some time out and enjoy a walk listening to the latest TED talk while walking around the Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park, or pop into Eat Tokyo on Hillgate Street for some of their no-frills sushi – a favourite local spot of mine.

The Japanese channel their stress by focusing on what they are working for, and what is making them happy

The lovely Wasoukan, on Westbourne Grove, is also worth a visit. I didn’t spot this place for a while, but popped in the other day as I stumbled across the kimono boutique and matcha cafe – the first of its kind in London. You can look around the store, or pop into the cafe for a matcha latte or tea. I have yet to try it out, but I saw they host a few evening events that could be a great insight into the culture.

Just like Japanese city workers, us Londoners tend to start our day on a tightly packed train. The Japanese channel this stress by focusing on what they are working for, and what is making them happy. If we’re feeling stressed, I definitely think we should all strive to stop, take a breath and search for our ikigai once in a while…

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