5 Japanese Philosophies That Will Change Your Life

Japanese culture surprisingly combines traditions and a modern view of the world. Thousands of years of existence as an isolated island nation have allowed Japan to go through several turns of evolution and create a truly unique culture in seclusion. Here are just a few of the bright and interesting philosophical concepts that you can understand and apply to help you take better control of your life and make more informed decisions.

1. Shu-ha-ri

The term originates from the Japanese martial art of aikido . Shu-ha-ri is a method of teaching and mastering new practices. It consists of three main components:

  • “Shu” means to observe. At this stage, we dutifully learn the basics and follow the norms.
  • “Ha” – break through. Once we have mastered the basic knowledge, we can start experimenting and creating our own rules.
  • “Ri” – go beyond. At this stage, we connect creativity and put our skills into practice.

Here is how aikido master Endo Seishiro describes the concept: “During shu, we repeat all the basic techniques and techniques so that our body learns them in the form in which they were created before us. We remain true to these fundamentals. In the next step “ha” we add our innovations. Here it is allowed to destroy and ignore the foundations. And finally, in the ri stage, we discard basic knowledge and use our creativity to act according to the will of the heart and mind without overstepping boundaries.

2. Kaizen

This concept is based on the idea of continuous improvement through small positive changes. The Japanese began to use this approach extensively during the recovery period after the Second World War. It is believed that it was first introduced in the production of Toyota, and then other Japanese companies picked up the practice.

In business, kaizen brings benefits at many different levels, from production to working with a team and customers. For personal growth, kaizen can be used by changing your life for the better in small steps, for example, gradually acquiring good habits .

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3. Ikigai

This Japanese term consists of “iki” – “life” and “gai” – “meaning, value.” Together, they imply something that makes our life worth living.

Here is what the Japanese psychologist Michiko Kumano says about this philosophical concept: “Feeling ikigai usually means feeling the inner fulfillment and deep satisfaction that accompany us when we do what we love. Responsibilities do not give us ikigai. It can be obtained only if we remain spontaneous and do what we ourselves want. Therefore, ikigai is individual and depends on the personality of the person.

It is believed that the philosophy of “ikigai” may be one of the reasons for the longevity of the inhabitants of Okinawan.

4. Omotenashi

This is the philosophy of hospitality, which says that any care must come from the heart. Omotenashi is a vital part of Japanese culture, firmly rooted in society. People who practice this approach enjoy being involved and helping others without asking for anything in return.

5. Omoiyari

Omoiyari can be described as being sensitive to the feelings and personal affairs of others, including the circumstances surrounding them.

Author of the book “Omoiyari. The Little Book of Japanese Communication Philosophy” Erin Niimi Longhurst explains this philosophical concept this way: “This is a form of selfless participation where you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, look at the world through their eyes, try to anticipate their needs and behave in a way that makes it easy for them, comfortable and happy.”

Cashiers in Japanese stores are a great example of an omoiyari. If they notice several bags from other stores in the hands of the buyer, they will give him one large one so that he can put everything in there, even if he buys some trifle in their store.

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