In the past five years, habits for living from Japanese lifestyles have received massive popularity. Now, words like “Ikigai” and “Zen” are pretty well known globally, and every year millions of people are reading and adopting these Japanese lifestyles. In this article, I am exploring my top non-fiction books from Japanese Personality Development books.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo’s popularity is one of the biggest factors for the rise in interest in Japanese Non-fiction books – and her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” is one of her essential creations. If you always find your surroundings in a mess and despite trying your best, you keep losing your things among the huge pile of clutter in your drawers and cupboards- I have no idea why you still haven’t read this book! This is a book that will guide you to simplify and organize your physical surroundings. Kondo has a very simple ideology: If it does not Spark Joy, you should dump it! While some people find her strategy very extreme – others are stunned at her effectiveness. While I did not become a minimalist after flipping through this book, I made massive progress with the clutter at my home, and my room is 80% cleaner than ever. You can get the book here! 📖
The Book of Ichigo Ichie by Francesc Miralles and Héctor García
Ichigo Ichie translates to “In this moment, an opportunity” or “Once, a meeting” – The essence is that each moment that we experience (inclusive of the one you are going through right now, i.e., reading my article) is unique. They will never be repeated in the same way again – which is why it is necessary to keep it in mind to fully imbibe the moments into our souls. Daily life seems more mundane than ever now; however, “The Book of Ichigo Ichie: The Art of Making the Most of Every Moment, the Japanese Way” helps you focus more on the present moments with attention – as it educates you to become more mindful of everything around you. One of the book’s biggest takeaways is learning how to dwell in the present – which I believe a lot of us fail to do – thanks to the pull of the past and anxiety of the future. You can get the book here! 📖
Ikigai is yet another popular Japanese philosophy that has gathered global attention over the last few years. I came across it in an article, with an alluring illustration of four intersecting circles – terming the center as “Ikigai” and was immediately curious to find out how I can find mine. Ikigai roughly translates to “reason for being,” and it teaches you the art of finding common ground between four factors that can influence your own reason of existence:
- What You Love
- What You Are Good At
- What You Can Be Paid For
- What The World Needs
These four factors have helped me a lot in finalizing each decision I make – or discarding a certain idea if it did not match these categories. Reading “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life” can help you gain massive clarity so that you can avoid taking the wrong career paths in the future. You can get the book here! 📖
Kaizen by Sarah Harvey
Kaizen is primarily a term that correlates to a workspace – however, you can also modify it to suit yourself. At its core – it is a philosophy that proposes gradual improvement on a regular basis among all the employees of an organization to generate more efficiency. “Kaizen: The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time” by Sarah Harvey is a great pick if you want to bring it down to a personal level – as she explains how to create long-lasting changes with small steps. While the essence of the book is that: Break down big goals into small tasks – I truly do it injustice by summing it up in a sentence. Adopting Kaizen as a part of your lifestyle can truly help; however, I do recommend reading the book for the best results. You can get the book here! 📖
Zen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno
The brevity of this book is the best thing about it, as it elucidates one idea per page: giving you a total of 100 ideas to adopt or work on. By definition, Zen is a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on the importance of meditation and intuition as opposed to ritual worship or study of scriptures. However, the book is applicable no matter where your beliefs lie. While some ideas presented, like not worrying before bedtime, are pretty cliché, others are pretty new and can help you advance physically and spiritually. My favorite has to be that we should live how we want to die. It makes me ask a lot of questions about both that I still haven’t found the answers to! You can get the book here! 📖
Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi
We live in a world of social media, where people highly rely on external validation and quick gratification. Hence, reading this book becomes imperative as it will help you be happy by being your authentic self, without worrying about being disliked by others. Especially if you find a hard time saying ”no” to people and end up doing things that you didn’t want to, this book is an essential read for you. I was a people-pleaser, and I always went out of my way to please others. People-pleasing can be incredibly exhaustive. Hence, it’s crucial to figure a way out of this behavior. “The Courage to Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness” is the perfect fable-style book that drives wisdom from Adlerian psychology. The book is written in lucid conversations between a bitter, straightforward student and a reclusive philosopher. The writing is simple; therefore, it’s perfect for beginners as well. You can get the book here! 📖
Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki
The Japanese culture is all about being mindful and minimalist. If we look back, almost every culture stems from a life lived with minimalism and sustainability. However, the emergence of capitalism, easy availability of credit, and a sense of comparison with other people’s lives have made us buy things more than we need. We keep making unnecessary purchases, hoard them until there is no more space, and then get burdened by the material chaos around us. “Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living” will teach you that having less will make you happier. In economics, there is a concept called The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. This concept teaches us that the marginal utility derived from an additional unit decreases as our consumption increases. In simple words, when you are famished, the level of satisfaction you receive with the first bite of your food will be higher than the ones following.
In the same way, the more things you consume, the lesser happiness it will bring into your life. Therefore, saying goodbye to your unnecessary stuff and living a minimal lifestyle will enable you to be more content and happy. You can get the book here! 📖
Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton
In the introduction to the book, Beth Kempton writes, ‘Wabi-sabi is a state of the heart,’ and I couldn’t agree more. This book is a handbook to live a balanced life with the aesthetics of the Japanese culture. Life isn’t perfect, but with the help of ancient Japanese wisdom, we can find happiness in life’s imperfections. Wabi is all about “finding beauty in simplicity”, whereas Sabi focuses on the “passage of time”. The book starts with diving deep into the origins and characteristics of Wabi-Sabi and why it’s relevant even today. You will get to learn several tips on how you can beautify and simplify your life. Since Japanese people are very much connected with nature, you will learn about the relationship between man and nature. You will also learn about the art of accepting your reality and letting go of the things that no longer serve you. You can reframe your life; hence, you can put the lessons about nurturing relationships into action if you are going through any relationship issues. In a nutshell, it’s essential to live in the present and enjoy every second of it. “Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life” is a soulful book and hence a must-read. You can get the book here! 📖
I hope you like these recommendations and will try to pick a few of them up! Happy Reading!
(This article is partially co-authored by Sneha Banerjee)
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