Pop Culture and Japan

What is A Kika Sai Mentality?

Talking about mental health is important. Whether you’re feeling down or suffer from a mental health disorder like anxiety, talk about it openly with someone you trust. Every culture has their own way of addressing mental health, and Japan has many kinds of wellness concepts. Ikigai, wabi sabi and kintsugi are some of the most well-known examples.

A Japanese concept that I like to apply towards my own mental health is kika sai. Far from being some revolutionary new form of mindfulness, it’s just something I’ve made up. But I think the principles can be applied to all forms of mental health positivity.

What does kika sai mean?

The Japanese term ‘kika sai’ means ‘coming home.’ It’s the final part of the twenty-step process that is involved in a traditional Shinto funeral. At the end of the ceremony, ashes that haven’t been buried are brought home and placed into a shrine. Family offer thanks to the people who have attended the funeral and prayers are made for the deceased.

I came across the phrase while reading a comic book about the Marvel superhero Wolverine. His son, Daken, chose to give Wolverine a Shinto funeral. Something about the art and the story resonated with me. It depicted the story of a young man who had been at odds with his father for his entire life. But in death, Daken honoured Wolverine’s memory. He came home to Japan and turned his pain and anger into a peaceful moment.

Applying kika sai to mental health  

The idea of ‘coming home’ means a lot to me. I think it’s very powerful from a mental health perspective. Coming home can mean returning to a physical place. But it can also mean returning to the things that you love the most. No matter how dark the world becomes, come home to what you are passionate about.

In this context, my version of kika sai is reminding myself of how much I enjoy writing. It’s reminding myself of the joy of picking up a new book. It’s the feeling of reading a graphic novel and becoming engrossed by my favourite superheroes. It’s the simple peace of spending time with family and being around the people who make my life worth living.

So, think of kika sai as a road back to what makes you happy. The journey might be long and rough, but you will always have those things that keep you motivated. Build a home out of what you love and it will last forever inside your mind. This can be a helpful coping mechanism and it certainly works for me.  

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