The irony of excess freedom according to Japanese living

Why structure is important to do what you want, when you want to

Kaki Okumura

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Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

You need to live more kisoku tadashii!

When I was younger, my grandmother would often admonish me with this phrase whenever I visited her in Japan during the summers.

As I woke up at 11am, with my bed, hair, and room a mess, with no plans for the day and nothing proper to eat in the fridge, I thought that summer breaks were supposed to be like this. What is wrong with an unstructured day? It was freeing and fun, to wake up without an alarm and without any responsibilities for the day.

But it was around a few hours later, when I was still in my pajamas and I realized that I hadn’t done anything besides staring at my Nintendo DS playing video games, that the value of my grandmother’s words would settle in. Maybe having a bit of structure in my day wouldn’t be too bad.

The direct translation for kisoku tadashii is “correct rule”, but it’s a phrase that is often used to describe how people should live their everyday lives — in a structured or routine way.

Kisoku (規則): rule

Tadashii (正しい): correct

It’s not a very romantic way to describe living, and it’s certainly not how I would describe my ambitions when it comes to my ideal life. When people talk about their ideal lifestyle, they often use words like freedom, adventure, relaxing, and peace. We don’t really think about wanting a routine or a list of things to do every day.

We want to do what we want, when we want to. But the problem is, without any structure, it’s really hard to do exactly that.

Without structure, we end up forgetting what it is we wanted to do, or without any planning we are unable to make time for it. Without routine, we are unable to build towards our goals, and we find ourselves feeling lost. It’s very easy to become unhappy without these things.

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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: www.kakikata.space 🌱