Japanese culture has a reputation for being deeply spiritual and fluid. There’s plenty of inspiration to be found in concepts such as ikigai/the act of finding one’s purpose. There’s also the opportunity to find inspiration in the principle of oubaitori (oh-buy-toe-ree). This is the idea of not comparing yourself to someone else.
Everyone has their own unique traits, which is why Yamato Magazine is proud to feature a new series called Oubaitori Life. The segment will investigate the lives of fictional characters and see how Japanese concepts are applied to their stories. Let’s start things off with everyone’s favourite Canucklehead, Wolverine.
To understand Wolverine, it’s essential that you understand his connection to Japan. In his heart, Wolverine views himself as a ronin/failed samurai. He’s constantly searching for a way to find peace between the animal within and the good man that he wants to become. Therefore, there are many Japanese principles that Logan would apply to his daily life:
In Japanese, furusato means hometown. It creates the idea of feeling connected to the place you were born. But furusato doesn’t just mean the place where you’re from. It can mean a location that your heart belongs to. That’s why Japan is Wolverine’s furusato.
Whenever Logan returns to The Land of The Rising Sun, he’s reminded of why he loves the country so much. It’s the physical representation of his ikigai. In his daily life, Wolverine applies furusato to whatever location he stays in. Whether it’s finding a bar to drink sake in, or decorating a room with Japanese aesthetics, he’ll always come back to the feeling of home that Japan provides.
Mono-no-Aware translates to the bittersweet nature of being. It focuses on the transience of life. It’s inevitability of knowing that some things can never be experienced again. Mono-no-Aware brings self-awareness and that’s something Wolverine is familiar with. But for him, life isn’t transient in the traditional sense.
With his healing factor, Wolverine’s aging has been dramatically slowed. He’s lived for over a century and seen a hell of a lot. So, he’d apply mono-no-aware to his life by being aware of the lives of the people he cares about. He’d understand how to make the most of every moment with them. But there would also be the bitter sweetness in knowing that he’s destined to live on, while his loved ones grew older.
Like many Japanese concepts, setsunai has multiple layers. It’s a nuanced emotion that’s associated with the bittersweet and an endless heartache. It’s the awareness of knowing that a loved one is gone forever. Or the pain of being condemned to a life without the ability to have a family.
But setsunai also has connotations of strength. It’s the ability to carry sorrow and joy at once. The subtle mixture of melancholy, remembrance and hope.
Wolverine would experience setsunai regularly. He’d remember all the people that he’d loved and lost. But he’d also use it as fuel to keep going. To keep striving to be better than he was the day before and to protect the ones he cared about.
As painful as some memories are, they also evoke happiness. That’s the essence of natsukashii. It’s a nostalgic happiness brought on by a specific memory.
Logan would apply natsukashii by surrounding himself with the things that mean the most to him. It could involve walking through the streets of Tokyo and smelling the food. It could involve drinking his favourite beer and recalling a time when he’s on a night out with a friend.
Translating to ‘improvement,’ the concept of kaizen promotes positive change. There’s a strong business connotation to kaizen, but it extends beyond the work environment. Kaizen would be the most important part of Wolverine’s routine. It’s the commitment towards making the right decisions, the desire to move forward instead of backwards.
Wolverine is one of the most disciplined superheroes in the Marvel Universe. He’s dedicated himself to walking an honourable path. He’s set high standards for himself, while remaining realistic about what’s achievable. He wears his heart on his sleeve every day. All these traits are reflective of kaizen.
How would you apply these concepts to your life?