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sakura as oubaitori symbol inspiring japanese concepts

Embrace Your Twenties With These Inspiring Japanese Concepts

By Kunti Ibrahim Apr 17, 2024

We can probably agree on one thing: you don’t realize how strong you are until you’re in your twenties. The endless comparison we have towards others, the tossing and turning in bed worrying if we are ever going to make our loved ones proud, the wishful thinking where you can get a pause button in life to take a break; it is no secret that being in your twenties is no easy journey, given the multitude of expectations that come our way during this period. 

Inspiring Japanese Concepts for a Tranquil Journey Through Your Twenties

Yes, being in your twenties can be hard and painful. However, it is also beautiful, rewarding, and inspiring among the uplifting things it can be. It is a period where you have the control to paint the early chapters of your life to be a beautiful journey, a beginning of time when you can finally say, “I am ready to take control of my own life”. 

To empower you living in your twenties with a more confident and calm you, we’ve curated a collection of inspiring Japanese phrases that you can live by. These gems of wisdom will empower you to embrace your twenties with confidence and tranquillity:

Oubaitori (桜梅桃李)

sakura as oubaitori symbol

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Oubaitori, an ancient Japanese idiom, comes from the kanji for the four trees that bloom in spring: cherry blossom, plum, peach, and apricot. These flowers bloom in their own time. It acts as a reminder that everyone has their own journey through life, and rather than comparing ourselves so much to others, we should focus on our growth and celebrate our own individuality and uniqueness.

This phrase is definitely helpful to live by in our twenties. I feel that the quarter-life crisis commonly happens in our twenties is heavily contributed to by comparing ourselves to others. Comparing ourselves to others causes inferiority, the feeling that we are missing out, and a sense of inadequacy that we’re not as great as others. 

So, when the urge to compare yourself to others arises, remember the wisdom of “we bloom in our own way”. Just like the cherry blossoms that have endured months of cold before blossoming beautifully in spring, we, too, have our own timeline to bloom. By embracing the belief that everyone has their moment, you won’t be too hard on yourself for the fact that you’re not where you want to be right now, but feel calm, confident, and believe in yourself to be able to be focused enough in doing your own hard work that will take you to the day where you finally bloom and succeed.

Kaizen (改善)

illustration of ladder picturing kaizen as inspiring japanese concepts

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Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning change for the better or continuous improvement. ‘Kai’ means ‘change’, and ‘zen’ means ‘for the better’.

When you think about it, doesn’t it blow your mind that we always have the power and the choice to improve ourselves? Even small, consistent actions like drinking more water daily or reading a few pages of a book each morning can lead to significant improvements in our well-being, with a remarkable later result of glowing skin and a broadened knowledge of life. 

The essence of self-improvement, akin to Kaizen, lies in the belief that “many a little makes a mickle.” Every tiny step, when taken consistently, contributes to significant progress. Understanding this principle can fuel motivation to cultivate healthier habits during our twenties, paving the way for the sweet rewards of our efforts in our thirties and beyond. 

Moreover, Kaizen encourages us to shift our focus from comparing ourselves to others to comparing ourselves to our past selves. With this focus, instead of feeling inadequate in comparison, we can take pride in our journey and feel inspired to continue evolving. Each day becomes an opportunity for growth and self-improvement, allowing us to surpass our past selves.

Shikata Ga Nai (仕方がない)

smiling sun picturing acceptance shikata ga nai

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“Shikata ga nai” is possibly the most relaxing phrase one can ever live by, meaning “it can’t be helped” or “nothing can be done about it”. Japanese people commonly use this concept when an outcome does not turn out as expected. Like the stoic approach, it essentially means accepting things as they are when circumstances are beyond our control. It signifies a willingness to let go and move forward, focusing on what can be changed rather than dwelling on what cannot. 

Being in our twenties involves a lot of learning, new responsibilities, and challenges that we may have never faced before in our lives. It’s a time marked by job interviews, tackling new projects, and acquiring new skills, alongside the possibility of encountering setbacks and disappointments. In such moments, embracing the mindset of “shikata ga nai” can foster a more accepting outlook. Rather than becoming consumed by every setback, it allows us to say, “So what? It can’t be changed. I have done my best anyway”. This attitude frees us from unnecessary worry and emotional investment, redirecting our energy towards more constructive endeavors. 

In essence, mastering the art of letting go, as embodied by “shikata ga nai,” enables us to navigate life’s ups and downs, which can firmly be felt in our twenties, with greater resilience and focus. By accepting what we cannot change and striving to do our best regardless, we unlock the potential to channel our efforts into endeavors that genuinely matter and are within our control. I feel that this concept is one of the most empowering mindsets that one can possibly have.

Discovering Wisdom From Japan With These Inspiring Japanese Concepts

We can truly learn a lot from Japan, along with the phrases embedded in its culture that make it the developed and successful country that it is today. By embracing these Japanese expressions above, we can infuse our twenties with inspiration and focus on what truly matters for our well-being, ensuring a fulfilling journey through this pivotal decade.

Let’s rock our twenties!

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How to Enjoy Life the Japanese Way

Featured image credits: Canva