What does IKIGAI mean and why our brand is called like that?

3 min read

IKIGAI is a single word that has such a complex meaning. Follow along to see what it stands for, why it is chosen for our brand name and at the end – a little food for thought.

What does IKIGAI mean?

It is a Japanese word consisting of iki (生き) – to live and kai (甲斐) – reason.
Many people have tried to translate it in order to convey the complexity of its meaning. Definitions include “reason for being”, “reason to get up in the morning”, and “reason to enjoy life”.
IKIGAI lies in the center of your passion, mission, vocation, and profession.

Rather than being perceived as four separate life goals, it is the balance and harmony between all that lead to your IKIGAI. Although you may never have heard of it you might have already found it. Or you may start searching it by answering this question:
“What is that thing that inspires you, makes you feel fulfilled, happy and alive?”
It does not have to be grand, just stay true to yourself and open up your mind for it.

Take a look at Gangadharan Menon’s TED Talk and his amazing story about how he found his IKIGAI at the age of 52. It is an 11-minute talk worth watching – this might be the video that will change your life.

Why our brand is called IKIGAI?

Behind “We, at IKIGAI” stands a group of people who worked hard to get to the point of you reading this post – you can learn more about us here. However, one person chose the brand name years ago and that is me.

This is the story of how it all started.

For more than 10 years now, I have one passion that does not go away – paper. I still remember how stunned I was when a friend of mine showed me how to make a really simple origami model. I could not believe that all we have used was a single sheet of paper. It seemed more like magic than just simple folding. Furthermore, never before have I known how fulfilling is to create something with your hands. Fascinated by this whole new world, I started exploring… and never stopped. My love for paper transformed into several types of art besides origami – kirigami, paper weaving, quilling, 3D paper models, paper dioramas and many more.


One day, while browsing ideas for the next paper project I saw a strange sounding word, IKIGAI. I thought it had something to do either with origami, East Asian folklore or… cuisine. I was moved by its meaning and how close to my heart it felt. It perfectly described what I could not say, but dreamed of.

Later on, about two years ago, I realized what I wanted was to create. But not as a side hobby and most importantly not as a way to escape my full-time job. That is why I quitted my career in corporate real estate and started doing what I love, handcrafting lamps. After hanging the first pendant lamp in the home of its new owner I knew I was on the right path. I was full of joy that I have created a source of light in someone’s life. And my passion for paper was still there but yet again transformed – I started to recycle paper rather than just use it. This is how IKIGAI met me and I knew it was not a coincidence that my passion led me to it. From that day on I am getting closer to my “reason for being” and the fact that you are reading this means I am one step closer.

Or may be even two with the help of the people behind IKIGAI.

Look for your IKIGAI

I hope that you will relate to my story and give it a thought of what your IKIGAI might be. It does not have to be spectacular or one of a kind – just stay true to yourself and others will feel it. Keep your focus on what you are most passionate about and find a way to express it to the outside world. Although it is a world driven by money do not confuse success with fulfillment.

Do not wait for the elephant (as suggested in Gangadharan Menon’s TED Talk above) and give yourself space to realize what makes you happy and alive.

Open your heart, cherish your passion, free your mind of fears, uncertainty and other people’s expectations and let your IKIGAI find you.

THANK YOU for being part of our journey!