Stop confusing Yarigai with Ikigai – 3 main differences

In this article you’ll discover the difference between the popular Ikigai and less known Yarigai concept. By knowing the difference, you’ll be better able to utilize both concepts. Utilization will lead to a stronger feeling of satisfaction, fulfillment and purpose.

Introduction to Ikigai and Yarigai

When I’m bringing up the not so famous word Yarigai, people often confuses it with Ikigai. But before diving into the main similarities and differences, let’s first introduce Ikigai and Yarigai.

How Ikigai become so popular

The Japanese translation of Ikigai is the value of being. You may have heard about the Ikigai diagram before. That’s because Marc Winn created a viral blog article about it back in 2014. He combined two existing concepts: the Japanese Ikigai concept and a diagram about finding your life’s purpose (created by Andrea Zuzunaga).

Ikigai diagram

Even though it consists the word Ikigai, it has little to do with the Japanese concept. At least, according to the Japanese people. Only 1 leave of the Ikigai diagram comes close to the meaning of Ikigai, which is ‘what you love’. Especially the leave ‘what you can be paid for’ breaks the connection with the Ikigai concept. This leave makes it Western oriented. But giving this materialistic touch on the mysterious word Ikigai made it go viral.

The (soon to be popular) Yarigai

Yarigai is Japanese for the value of doing (instead of being). In contrast to Ikigai, it may be a new Japanese concept to you. Just like Marc Winn connected a diagram to Ikigai, I connected a diagram to Yarigai. One difference is that I developed the Yarigai diagram myself. The content within the Yarigai diagram is very different from the Ikigai diagram. But it does have the same structure: a Venn Diagram with four overlapping leaves and a sweet-spot.

Yarigai diagram

Although Yarigai sound a bit similar to Ikigai, the meaning is different. That’s why it’s important to make a clear distinction between those Japanese expressions. In order to prevent yourself from confusing Ikigai with Yarigai, I summed up the 3 main similarities and differences. Because by knowing the similarities, you’ll better understand the differences. Let’s go through them right away.

The 3 main similarities between Ikigai and Yarigai

Similarity 1. The origin of the words

Ikigai and Yarigai are sharing Japanese roots. The reason why the residents in the Japanese village Ogimi in Okinawa die very old, comes down to Ikigai and Yarigai. In this village of centenarians, their fire does not extinguish from retirement age. They even don’t know the concept of going with retirement. They share a strong passion for work (like gardening, preparing food, etc.), family and friends, nutrition, and exercise.

Similarity 2. The value of something

Both words are sharing the same suffix, which is gai. The English translation of gai is value or worth. It can also mean reason, purpose, art, effect, or result. The etymology of gai became clear after the publication of Akihiro Hasegawa’s research report in 2001. Hasegawa is a clinical psychologist. Among other things, he specializes in the evolution of ikigai. His study revealed that gai is derived from kai, which means shell in Japanese. The word was first used in the Heian period (794-1185). In that period, shells were of great value. So that is where the modern meaning (“value”) derives from.

Similarity 3. The way of using it

Both words are colloquial expressions. They’re being commonly used in everyday life. Because of this, most Japanese people won’t associate the expressions with the Ikigai and Yarigai diagram. Many Japanese people don’t even know the existence of this Western contribution of modeling Ikigai (created by Andrea Zuzunaga and popularized by Marc Winn) and Yarigai (created by myself).

The 3 main differences between Ikigai and Yarigai

Difference 1. Being versus doing

Whereas the suffix is the same in both words (gai), the verb differs. Ikiru (connected to Ikigai) means to live. And yaru (connected to Yarigai) means to do. So ikigai means the value of being whereas yarigai means the value of doing. Ikigai is a feeling of satisfaction for something you already possess. Yarigai could be better seen as a feeling of fulfillment for something you’re working on to accomplish.

Difference 2. Passion versus potential

Yarigai can be nurtured by the accumulation of a sense of fulfillment, which represents the sense of satisfaction and achievement arising from having been able to fulfill one’s potential. If it’s your passion to constantly challenge yourself, the Yarigai is definitely a part of your Ikigai. But your Ikigai is not limited to becoming the best version of yourself. In fact, your Ikigai doesn’t necessarily have to do anything with satisfying self-actualization needs.

Difference 3. Life versus work

Yarigai is widely used when one refers to a job. Ikigai on the other hand refers to anything which gives you meaning in life. This means that any Yarigai could be part of your Ikigai but not always the other way around. 

The conclusion

Even though Ikigai and Yarigai share a few important traits, they are still different in multiple ways. Yarigai is focused on doing (instead of being), potential (instead of passion) and work (instead of life). Because of it, the Ikigai and Yarigai diagram are also different. Even though they have the same model structure, the content within the diagram is totally different. Would you like to discover more about the Yarigai diagram? I encourage you to watch the free online course about the Yarigai diagram. Click here to get access to the free Yarigai video series.

Consulted sources:

Kemp, N. (February 13, 2022). The Value in Ikigai, Yarigai, Hatarakigai, Asobigai and Even Shinigai. Consulted on April 11, 2022 from

Masaki Shoji, Mitsuko Onda, Hiroshi Okada, Yukio Arakawa, Naoki Sakane. (2014). A Study about “YARIGAI” : What Makes Work Worth Doing for the Community Pharmacists Who Participated in a Workshop of the COMPASS Project. Consulted on April 11, 2022 from

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