SBP Blog

​ The Practice of Naikan: How to Express Gratitude in Japan

Intern Intern - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The concepts of gratefulness and humility exist in practically every facet of Japanese culture and language, from the use of formal speech when talking to superiors and the subtle gradations of bowing to giving lavish compliments and always conducting oneself appropriately in the homes of others.

The philosophical sentiment underlying this cultural ethos is best captured in the practice of Naikan: a structured method of self-reflection originally developed in Japan.
 
According to the ToDo Institute, an educational center devoted to natural alternatives for mental health and wellness, “Naikan is a Japanese word which means ‘inside looking’ or ‘introspection.’ A more poetic translation is ‘seeing oneself with the mind’s eye.’ It is a practice of self-reflection that helps us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the fundamental nature of human existence.”
 
Three questions make up the bulk of Naikan: What have I received from the people in my life? What have I given to them? What troubles and difficulties have I caused them?
 
These three questions are used to reflect on people in our lives, whether acquaintances, family members, or significant others. During these reflections, we may discover how much of our lives has been dependent on others working and giving of themselves to make our lives possible.
 
It's easy for us to notice how others have slighted us by being late, lying to us, and not living up to our expectations. But what about us? What do we do that causes trouble for others, both loved ones and strangers?
 
By implementing Naikan into our lives we may come to realize that we’ve taken far more than we can give and been given far more than we can ever possibly repay—no matter how much we give of ourselves. The point of this isn't to crucify ourselves with guilt, but rather to allow us to become more conscious of how fortunate we are, how indebted we are to others—to become tremendously grateful for everything that we’ve been given throughout our lives.
 
Such self-induced epiphanies can turn resentment, grudges, and blame into humility, appreciation, compassion, and gratitude. They make it easier for us to step back and examine the string of moments that define our lives rather than brood on each of life’s inevitable flaws and disappointments from atop our high-horses.
 
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we encourage you to find out more about this Japanese practice in Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, a collection of introductory essays, parables, and inspirations by ToDo Institute Executive Director Gregg Krech that explains what Naikan is and how it can be applied to our daily lives.

☀☀☀

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Stone Bridge Press mailing list to receive bi-weekly newsletters detailing our latest upcoming books, special deals, promotions, book giveaways, excerpts from our newer titles, and other SBP related news.

Sign up for our newsletter and you’ll be automatically entered to win a free copy of Kanji Box: Japanese Character Collection.

For daily content and news on East Asian culture as well as info on our latest titles, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
 
Written by Nikolas Bunton

Like our blog? Please share it!

Categories

Subscribe to the SBP Mailing List

New Releases

Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan


Going to Japan? This unfussy modern guide guarantees you keep it polite and get it right!

Exploring Kyoto


This revised and updated edition of the Japan travel classic and cultural guide gets you wandering from downtown quarters to remote mountaintop temples and features expanded information on new museums and gardens now open year-round for viewing.


Japanese Garden Notes


Marc Peter Keane's personal journey through 100 Japanese gardens, looking at them with a designer’s eye.

My Year of Dirt and Water


Married to a Zen monk in training, an American woman in Japan chronicles her own year of growth and discovery.

Tag Cloud

World War II japan food UCLA ningen shikkaku holocaust Children's Books literary prize poetry of consciousness monk Basho japan guide jing liu tourist WWII 1960's Japan book zen japanese etiquette what do in japan japanese book japanese culture seppuku reviews author tour religion gaijin pot Spirituality zen monk Okinawan literature History japan etiquette Art/Design classic japanese literature monks wife osamu dazai the silver spoon japan custom manga asia otakuusa announcement four immigrants 1960s Korea manners memoir tea garden japanese buddhist suicide Chinese culture min kahng shun medoruma zazen world literature today Christianity in Japan Nikolas Bunton diary guide Chinese history haiku Christianity Asian Studies internment Japanese art haibun Second World War Korea photography literature Anime/Manga/Comics how to travel in japan Culture Ukiyo-e astrology matcha my year of dirt and water stone bridge cafe yukio mishima new books non-fiction book hoarding university of chicago tricycle magazine journal' monks wife Japan koun no longer human comics travel Japan understandind china through comics china history Shoah japanese drunk stone bridge press wife World War Two Travel comic history a shameful life 2020 Olympics Chinese Astrology Basho's Narrow Road literary review journal kansuke naka in the woods of memory photography center of east asian studies japan travel swastika henry kiyama memoir, tracy franz, zen monk, buddhist Chiune Sugihara Olympics gratitude in japan bowing in japan eating in japan japanese travel AAS review japan restaurant award mark gibeau t.k. nakagaki behavior author Tokyo Olympics eastern and western philosophy gaijinpot the buddhist swastika green tea Year of the Dog amy chavez book tour michael emmerich japanese customs etiquette Japanese literature Children's Literature tracy franz japan memoir Spring Festival frederik schodt Coming of Age Day Japanese holidays Translation Japanese aesthetics drinking in japan China chinese comics hiroaki sato Language how to order in japan japanese people books Interview pottery danica davidson tea book review musical Poetry takuma sminkey Chinese New Year The Colorado Review Korea hitler william f sibley
RSS