Your 2021 Plan, the Kaizen Ikigai Vision Journey

Come with me on a seven-day doodle art journey where you’ll make your own 2021 vision board!

What is Kaizen and Ikigai?

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that values lifelong learning in small incremental steps. Translated, Ikigai means “a reason for being” or “a purpose to life.” Although seemingly different, ikigai is a concept that is very much in harmony with kaizen and its underlying process of continuous improvement.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. It is the basic principle in their life and the reason they wake up every morning; it is their secret to living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. Finding ikigai requires a deep and often lengthy search into one’s soul. In Japanese culture, this search is regarded as the most important aspect of their life. It is the point where their passion, talent, and life’s mission intersect.

Once there is a sense of purpose, people find that they are even more resilient to anything life throws at them throughout their lives. When it comes time to retire, most Japanese people are quite different from those in the Western culture in that few of them actually retire. Because their ikigai allows them to thrive in every situation, they find joy in keeping busy and remaining active throughout their lives. 

After my visit to Okinawa, on the southern tip of Japan, I noticed things that distinguished their culture from others that I had previously experienced. After years of studying kaizen and ikigai philosophies, I eventually found my personal ikigai, which was helping people find their inner strength and the courage to live authentic, fulfilling, and contented lives. In simple words, “My ikigai is to support and strengthen the mindset and the skills of the people around me.” Now, as we enter a new and hopeful year, I want to share all that I have learned!

Do you want to go on a journey with me to find and make your own Kaizen/Ikigai Vision Plan for 2021? Do you want to live a happier and more fulfilling life? If the answer to both of those questions is “Yes,” then this is the right course of action for you!  Here’s how to register for my FREE Seven-Day Art Journey –  

  • Tools needed to travel on this journey:  A sketch book or loose sheets of paper, pencil, pen, colored markers, coloring pencils, crayons or anything else you already have on hand. 
  • I will send out an email each morning from Monday, January 25 through Friday, January 29. On Sunday, January 31, we will meet from 11:00 a.m.–12:15 noon on Zoom and add the final touches to your vision board. 

As you travel this Seven-Day Art Journey with me, you will uncover your gifts, passion, values, acceptance, and purpose for being. You will experience less stress, get more done with what you enjoy doing, improve your relationships with others, and learn to open up a pathway to creativity and abundance. You will reflect, draw, and write! When you have completed your journey, you will have consolidated all of your discoveries and developed your Kaizen/Ikigai Vision Plan for 2021! Bring your enthusiasm, ideas, and join me! 

 Register for my FREE Seven-Day Art Journey –  

New Year’s Memories

As we enter into the new year, reflecting back to our childhood experiences of the past years brings us many good memories as well as some that may be painful. I like to remember the fond memories and bring it with me into the new year… remembering the lessons I learned and putting them into daily practices as I go through the year.

I am sharing with you an article that was published in the North American Post newspaper a few years ago.

My Mother and me

            My childhood memories of year-end traditions while growing up in Kyushu, Japan always flood my mind this time of the year.

            I went through culture shock when I arrived in America at the age of eleven and saw how differently people in America celebrated the coming of the New Year. Lively New Year’s Eve parties, waking up late on January first and watching football games on television while munching on various party foods was so foreign to me. 

            The older I get, the more I cherish my childhood memories and the tradition of 
“starting new with a fresh mindset.” It’s such a good feeling to get enough sleep and rise early on January first, refreshed to face the coming year.

            These are the fond memories of my New Years while growing up in Kokura.

            Starting on the first of December, Mother would say, “Keiko, we are going through each room in our house and cleaning every nook and corner. Here’s a check-list so be a good girl and do your part.” Without argument, I helped Mother clean all the shoji-screens, de-cluttered the drawers in every room and scrubbed marks off the walls.

            Mother’s To Do list for me read like this:

            Do you owe anybody money? Pay it back.

            Did you say mean words to any of your friends? Apologize

            Did you mean to do a kind act for someone? If not, do it now.

            Do you have any unfinished homework or projects? Complete them.

            Did you think about what you will do in the coming year to become a better person? Write it down.

            After I finished my to-do list, it was time to relax and enjoy the coming of the New Year on the evening of December 31. Mother and I sat in our clean house and enjoyed eating traditional bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated mountain potatoes. As the slippery noodles went down our throats, we listened to the far away sounds of the temple bells as they rang out the exact number of the year we were about to enter.

            Mother said, “Keiko, soba noodles are the last to enter your stomach this year. This is cleansing. You will start out the new year with a clean body and a clear mind.”

            I loved getting up early on New Year’s Day. Mother dressed me in a colorful kimono and we visited the temple and prayed for a good year so as to have the fortune to maintain good relationships, health and wealth. After that, we went home, ready to have fun playing children’s games with the neighborhood children and eating traditional New Year’s food which Mother prepared. 

            Japanese New Years is called Oshogatsu and lasts for three days (Jan 1st – 3rd).

            I take this tradition seriously and try my best to follow through as much as I can with the list Mother made for me. 

            Why not try to follow this list for yourself? I guarantee that it will make you feel so much better. Out with the old and in with the new!

My first art of the year
My first drawing of the year

Editor’s Note: Kay Hirai is a social entrepreneur, author and artist. This column will be regularly published in this paper, and she can be reached through