Jimuin: Sensei, saikin itsumo kenkyuu-shitsu ni irasshaimasu ne.
Watashi: Ee, watashi ni totte shigoto ga ikigai na no.
Office employee: You're spending a lot of time in your office lately.
Me: Yes, well, I live for my job!
Ikigai refers to whatever it is in life that you feel is really worthwhile, whatever it is that makes you feel life is really worth living.
Yokohama National University has opened a new foreign students' center.
It is a three-story building with a basement and offices for the six members of staff, a CAI (computer-aided instruction) room, a word-processing room, and a lobby area that is bound to end up as the place where the foreign students congregate during their free time.
In addition to a room with a video screen and an electronic organ where films can be shown and concerts performed, part-time teachers have their own room and kitchen.
We often hear that compared with Westerners, Nihon-jin wa shigoto wo ikigai ni shite iru (The Japanese live for their work). I am like that too. If I were asked Nani ga ikigai desu ka (What really makes life worthwhile for you?), I could say that I like to sit down with a nice cup of tea while listening to some of mv favorite music, but to be honest I feel most comfortable when I am either teaching a class or writing something.
I have an interesting survey here in which both Japanese and American cancer patients were asked what their definition of "well-being" was. The most popular American answer was, "Being able to live my own life." The most common Japanese answer, on the pther hand, was "Being able to work." Shigoto ga ikigai de, dooshite warui n' desu ka (What's wrong with living for your job?), one of the Japanese respondents wanted to know. There is obviously a difference in values here.
Similar expressions can be used when, for instance, you have done your best at work, your boss does not recognize how hard you have tried. In this case, you might say, Hataraki-gai ga nai (There's no point in working so hard). Or when, after you have spent a long time cooking dinner, and your husband comes home late saying, "Sorry, I'm not hungry; I ate on the way home," you might feel like saying, Sekkaku tsukutta no ni, tsukurigaiga nai (I do not know why I went to all that trouble; it was a waste of time making it).