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Three Japanese life philosophies that changed the world in the 2010s

Marie Kondo - photo from PR Times

It’s almost New Year’s, the most popular time for people to make a list of resolutions and embrace lifestyle transitions. We’ve all made far too many drastic promises to start habits we never stuck to, but the end of the year always has us feeling as optimistic as ever when it comes to the prospect of reinventing ourselves for the better.

Of all the lifestyle trends we’ve seen in the last ten years, three Japanese concepts in particular seemed to gain significant popularity when it comes to starting anew. So adopt the Japanese way of life by taking on the decade’s most world-changing Japanese philosophies.

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Design can be beautiful AND functional

Along with the wave of minimalism came the minimalist homeware. Founded in 1980, Muji has become somewhat of an epidemic in the 2010s following a massive worldwide expansion – it now has more than 700 outlets around the world and earlier this year, it opened a new global flagship store and hotel in Ginza, Tokyo.

So what is it about Muji that draws us in every time – is it the simplicity of the brand's iconic label-less designs that are stackable and infinitely configurable, or the calm and peaceful home life you imagine you could have when you stare at the perfectly neat in-store display?

A love for Muji may as well be a personality trait when it comes to some people. Maybe you don’t need another pair of home slippers or a new rug, but the stackable organisers and dividers might just be what you need to tidy your living space and set you on the right track for the new year. Though the company is nearly 40 years old, its original products remain largely unchanged, demonstrating that functional designs withstand the test of time. 


Does it ‘spark joy’?

Does it ‘spark joy’? No? Then let it go. Marie Kondo’s simple but effective philosophy for deciding what to keep and what to get rid of in your life became the mantra for an army of new-found 'declutterers' who used the method to dump everything from worn out t-shirts to lousy exes. Testimonials of those who read Kondo’s book claim that using her method to tidy their homes also led to desired weight loss, increase in productivity and improved relationships with spouses.

The movement gathered so much momentum that there is now any army of ‘KonMari consultants’ around the world who you can hire to come and help you tackle the impossible mess in your home. If having a stranger come to your house to do the decluttering for you seems a bit extreme, you can watch and learn from the organising guru on her Netflix special





Ikigai is perhaps the most abstract concept of the three. It can essentially be translated to ‘meaning of life’ or ‘purpose of life’, something that has been universally puzzled over for generations. Of course, there are innumerable ways to interpret ikigai; although countless thinkers have come forward with their ideas on how to find the most fulfillment in life, the word remained largely open to interpretation.

Then, in 2017,  Héctor García and Francesc Miralles published a book titled ‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’. The book explores how the lifestyles of people in Okinawa are directly correlated to their longevity – and this in turn elevated ikigai from a concept to a lifestyle. The book attributes the long life of Okinawans to the following: 

  1. Eating only until you’re 80 percent full
  2. Stay active and don’t retire 
  3. Surround yourself with good friends 
  4. Get in shape 
  5. Reconnect with nature 
  6. Live in the moment 
  7. Give thanks 
  8. Take it slow 
  9. Smile and acknowledge the people around you 
  10. Follow your ikigai


You’ve probably heard most of these tips before, but García and Miralles ignited further interest on the Japanese philosophy of ikigai, which inspired several TED talks on the topic of 'finding your ikigai'. You can be the judge of whether or not these values will help you live your best life, but at least these lifestyle changes are unlikely to cost you as much as that gym membership you signed on to last January.

Want to enjoy a life-changing New Year's Eve party before changing your life for the better in 2020? We've got the list for you here.