いきがい (ikigai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - The Reason of Life

Author Anna Baffa Volpe for article 'いきがい (ikigai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - The Reason of Life'

Anna Baffa Volpe

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いきがい (ikigai) Meaning Japanese Grammar - The Reason of Life

いきがい (ikigai) is more than an expression in Japanese; it represents a deep concept and philosophy and can be translated in one word asjoy of living and it expresses our reason of life, our motivation in all what we chose and do.

I have included this expression in the grammar section because, as we will see, its structure is used in other commonly used forms in Japanese.

Translation and Origin of Ikigai

The kanji transcription of Ikigai in Japanese is ()()():

  • ()iki from the verb ()きる ikiru in its dictionary form, meaning live;
  • ()() is a term used as noun and suffix and means effect, result, worth, avail.

Ikigai can be translated as worth living, thejoy and tension of living and it is grammatically a noun, so it can be followed by particles.


She finds fulfillment in music.

How to find a purpose in life?
'Ikigai' is often written in Hiragana いきがい


How to find a purpose in life?

Akihiro Hasegawa, physicist and engineer, wrote that the term kai / gai comes from the word (かい) kai meaning shell in Japanese.

During the Heian period (794 to 1185), shells had great value, hence the importance and value they were given.

According to other scholars the term Ikigai has originated in the Edo period (1603-1868). At that time, people were required to live with different values and attitudes in order to find meaning in life.

Ikigai, a motivation in life, a purpose in life, a reason for living.

One of the phrases to define the concept of Ikigai in Japanese:


Ikigai is what gives life a sense of meaning and connects to the joy of living.

Ikigai is a central theme of many courses and seminars on personal growth and motivation.

かいがある it is worthy to

Kai / gai ga aru is an expression of common use in Japanese that shows the value of an action, it expresses the feeling that it was good to do something or it is worth doing.

Use 1:

Verbal Base in い +がいがある


Proper evaluation motivates me to give my best effort.

The expression using the structure we have learnt is: (がん)()りがいがある: ganbarigai ga aru, it's worth putting in the effort; it's motivating.

  • (はたら)きがい which means the work motivation, the job satisfaction and the sense of fulfillment in work;
  • やり()()がある, meaning it’s worth doing it.

Use 2:

Past plain form in た +かいがある


It was worth studying hard.

Synonyms of this structure are:

  • て form of the Verb + ()かった: I'm glad I did it,
  • する()()がある: it's worth doing.

Use 3 with a noun:

Noun ++かいがある


The effort paid off.

Ikigai concerns many aspects of our lives that are worthwhile: our work, our mission, the things and people we love, our profession, the things we are particularly good at.

Examples using the word いきがい


Her daughter meant everything to her.

The lack of Ikigai often expresses a sense of discouragement and weariness in a person's life.


I have nothing to live for.

As we have expressed in this post, Ikigai covers various aspects of life, according to a person's values.


Making money is his reason for living.

We can also use the expression giving life meaning : ‘What gives meaning to his life is earning money.’

Ikigai worldwide

Many books have been published in Japanese, in English, translated and distributed worldwide. And the development of this concept has found supporters as well as writers opposed to the pursuit of Ikigai in life.

You don't need any kind of purpose for living.
Book by Hiro Sachiya, Japanese religious thinker; Hiroshi Sachiya's Buddhist Theory of Happiness


You don't need any kind of purpose for living.

Here is a video for all those who study the Japanese language; it talks about Ikigai as a philosophy that has also been popularised outside Japan.

It analyses the representative terms that represent the reason for life and are different depending on the sensitivity of the person.


  • ()き: what we love
  • ミッション: mission
  • ()(かい)(ひつ)(よう): what the World needs
  • ()(ごと): job, vocation
  • (かね)()()る: what you can be paid for
  • プロ: profession
  • (とく)(): one's strong point, what we are good at
  • (じょう)(ねつ): passion