Finding Meaning & Innovation Abroad

Datwani, Kiran
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Japan, an island country, was where I had decided to study abroad during my second year of university. Having been to the country a few times before and enjoyed the memories thoroughly, I had great incentive to spend a few months in Japan. I had known Japan was advanced in technology, especially in railway systems and robotics, but it was only until recently that I had discovered a term, known as ikigai, that translated to one’s purpose in life. It was intriguing, and as I went deeper into the subject, I realized how much the struggles of finding my own ikigai applied to me. While studying computer science at university, I had forgotten why I enjoyed being immersed in technology, or why I had chosen to take the path. The admiration I once had for the field was turning into fear and doubt, and before I knew it, I was escaping to Japan. There was the fact that the concept of ikigai had brought me there, so I could observe and learn firsthand the way people lived their lives, but the other part was I desired to see technology as a part of my life once again. Potentially, I aspired to see how technology can tie into happiness, and how I could find my own ikigai. Although I had travelled to Japan before, there were many aspects that came across as surprising or new to me, and it made me realize how little I know of ikigai, technology, and Japan. Originally, I had arrived in Japan with an open mindset, but it became easy to pick up patterns and notice the surroundings that I had been oblivious to. A tourist is only able to see the facade of a country and its people, but after living a few months, I began to see how several people appeared happy, but weren’t. It made me realize that because of the culture of working constantly and trying to fit in a mold, a lot of people had forgotten themselves in the process, and were just getting by. Although I didn’t find my ikigai, or my calling in Japan, I learned that I didn’t need to rush and have everything figured out. The experience helped me appreciate the field I hoped to one day get into, while also teaching me to live in the present moment. I was in awe of the beauty of Japan once more, but this time, I was aware of the many layers that made the country what it is, and whilst also learning how technology is impacting people, and how it will continue to do so in the future.
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