Finding optimism when life’s problems feel impossible

What I’ve learned from Japanese values of responsibility

Kaki Okumura


I feel like we should recognize it: Life is hard. Soaring living costs, climate change, and the lasting societal and economical impacts of Covid-19. Many face unique financial, social, and political challenges, on top of the everyday challenges and work we face in life.

But while it’s easy to blame our struggles on that which is out of our control, providing momentary comfort, this is not helpful over the long term.

Instead, if you are struggling, let me offer a perspective that may provide comfort, while also empowering you with the confidence to help you find optimism and peace, and ultimately, solutions.

(And don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to just “be more positive”)

What Japan learned from centuries of natural disasters

First, let’s start with a bit of Japanese history, to understand a common cultural perspective towards personal responsibility.

Historically, Japanese society faced a lot of challenges, simply because they faced a lot of natural disasters. It is geographically high-risk for earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and typhoons, and because of its mountainous terrain, agriculture was also difficult. Many things felt out of one’s control.

But instead of growing pessimistic and frustrated with these harsh conditions, Japanese culture learned to develop a unique perspective towards struggle that isn’t your own fault, and to value finding acceptance in that truth.

Your problems aren’t your fault, but we can still take responsibility for them

This perspective of acceptance is often referred to as “ukeire”.

Ukeire means that you don’t need to see the bright side of everything, but first, try finding acceptance in it. For a moment, allow the situation to be as it is, and relax in that peace.​



Kaki Okumura

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: 🌱