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Leisure and ikigai: Research memos

This blog post is to share some of memos I wrote through my doctoral research on leisure and ikigai, using grounded theory (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Doing this, I hope, would make my analysis process more transparent, and potentially inspire other researchers who are interested in grounded theory.

I would appreciate any feedback, too!


==== Copies of memos from here ====

Title: Fear of "nothing" among students Entry: June 20th, 2015 Thematic memo 6

I am writing this because I wanted to think about something I has sensed throughout the past 3 interviews--fear of "nothing." I think I would think of socio-economic, cultural, and political contexts of ikigai among Tokai students. I think this observation of fear of "nothing" is not only based on the interviews, but also based on my own college experiences and interactions with other Tokai students. In Japan, most students go to high shool. And many of them come to university. I think we are still in the zennyuu (or "all in") time when the number of available seats in all universities and colleges in Japan outnumber the number of students in a given academic year. So, if you really don't care about what you want to study or which university you want to go to, you can be a university student (of course, there are financial issues or so). Under such circumstances, being a university student and a graduate is not special; it doesn't add anything (any value) to you. On the contrary, the job market in Japan has been tough over the last few decades (there were some ups and downs). The job hunting system in Japan was (in)famous gobally. It started from the third year. If you include internship, it started even in the second or first year. It was bizzre. So, the government and major corporations made it a rule that major companies would not stary hiring until the fourth year. But still, the market is tough and students need to differentiate themselves from other candidatesto get a job they want. Here comes experience. Even in my college days, there were many students who wanted to "have experiences." Something that sounds good. Like studying abroad, internship, participating in some projects or so, volunteering, entreprenuership, varsity team... you name it. It was, and I believe it still is, almost like a "stamp rally" to collect all these experiences so that at the end of this rally called "college life," one can win by getting a desired job. In terms of experiences, I think Tokai is unique (maybe not that much). I have many friends who attended different "more prestigeous" universities, like Keio, Waseda, U of Tokyo, U of Kyoto, ICU, Meiji, etc. They are running in the top group of this rally. These universities appear to provide much information about experiences and support their students so that they can win chances to experience. Tokai is not too bad. You can experience things if you want. But, only if you want and seek. You have to be involved and connected to people who know opportunities. Masaomi and Sayaka both said that they felt they made a mistake in their earlier years. I think what they meant was partially that they did not seek out. I was one of those, too. Tokai is a good university with nice profs, nice staffs, nice friends, and nice environments. You can live a college life without doing anything. But, if you do so, you won't have any experience at the end. At least nothing you can tell to interviewers from companies. This is why I put a double quotation mark to "nothing" in the title. Of couse, students experience something; every single one of them. But, most of them turn into "nothing" once they face the job hunting or even when they think about it. Students would have a feel of "what have I done (or haven't done)?" Tokai is an interesting mixture of students who have experiences and who don't. So, you can come across with those who have and realize that you need to do something. Just like Masaomi did. Also, in Japan, till universities, the education system is highly structured. You don't really have many room to reach out and seek out. Every student receives almost same number of chances; the point is whether you can win it or not. But, at a university at least at Tokai, you have to be proactive. So, there is fear of "nothing," of not experiencing anything worthy. It appears that fear is prevalent among the interviewees so far and drives them to live a college life with experiences. I wonder, though, if this is limited to those who have been exposed to students who have "worthy" experiences such as study abroad or so. What about those who haven't really exposed to those stories? Or those who heard about them but could not relate to it (e.g., "well, that's good for him, but I can't study abroad.")? These could be a potentially theoretical sampling points.

Title: Ikigai and hito (or people) Entry: June 22nd, 2015 Thematic Memo 13

I am writing this memo after I read through Yoku's transcript. A keyword that underlies his account of ikigai is hito or people. The other 2 interviewees, Masaomi and Sayaka, also talked about the relationship bewteen their ikigai and people. It is clearly a key concept. I wanted to think of how Yoku talked about it. I felt that Yoku's account on the relationship between ikigai and people is a bit different from those of Masaomi and Sayaka. The latter interviewees emphasized their intimate relationships with significant others. On the contrary, Yoku underscored the importace of showing his ikigai (or work--whether works from his hobbies or literally "job" work) to other people, sharing the moment with others (e.g., coworkers), and getting feedback from others. There a couple of reasons for this. First, Yoku emphasized that he wanted to "go up" or ueni-ikitai. Here, "up" or ue can mean many things--better skill and ability, better performance, better position, job, and status... Getting feedback from others on his work is a way to improve his skill and ability so that he can move up. Second, Yoku said he felt a sense of "superiority" or satisfaction from showing his work to others and getting positive (or at least constructive) feedback. He was wondering if the term he used yuuetsu-kan, or a sense of superiority, is right or not though. I suspect this is not much about feeling superior to others, but feeling satisfied with what he has achieved (with his colleagues). It's more about "better him" than who he was yesterday. A sense of accomplishment and moving forward. He also used manzoku-kan (satisfaction) and yatta-kan (a sense of accomplishment). Anyways, he said he can experience kandou, or feel moved, by showing his work and getting feedback. Kandou is interesting; it is written in Chinese characters as "moved emotions." I see a link between kando and emotional overdrive in the other memoi. Positive emotions he experienced in this process keeps a given work or activity interesting and exciting to him and generates "energy" or "engine" for the next step. This resonates with Masaomi's account on motivation. Also, I want to bring in the notion of "push" and "pull" again. This process may be somehow "pull" for Yoku because he knows what he can accomplish and how he can feel at the end. But, the consequence from the process--positive emotions--is a "push" for the next step in his life. Ikigai, as in pushes and pulls, continues; it keeps students' lives move forward. It may begin with a push or pull. To be pushed, you have to have an opportunity. You have to face with a difficult situation and try to overcome it. To be pulled, you need to remain "interested" and "engaged" in life. Masaomi said, "if I lost my interest, I think it would be over." I think he is right. Staying interested is an important way to keep one's life going. Push and pull, they may be a core concept in this study...

Title: Two ways of using "pull" T35 Entry: June 30th, 2015 Thematic Memo 35

I am writing this memo on the next day of Jotaro's interview. Some theoretically important concepts from his interview were already written down in the previous memos. But, in this memo, I want to discuss another potentially important concept--the 2 ways of using a pull. A pull is the concept I developed to describe one of the two major ways students get motivated to engage with their lives: pull and push. Compared with push with which students are stimulated by external factors, pull motivate students by its own innate appeal--intrinsic motivation. Often something that can pull students is enjoyable or positively toned. Jotaro pulled by plans to hang out with his friends, for example. As just described, one way to use pull is to set a pull in the near future so that students get and remain motivated until they experience it. This means that they are motivated to do things other than the pull per se. For instance, when Jotaro forsees a plan to hang out with his friends over the weekend, he is motivated for studies in that week too. He and many other students know that striving amplifies their enjoyment! So, they do things they have to do and strive for when they have a pull in the future. This is the proactive way to use a pull to realize an engaged life. Another way to use a pull is more reactive. Sometimes, students get "worn out" by too much engaging especially striving. They are tired physically, mentally, and emotionally. Things are just too much. When they feel like they can't strive anymore, they often participate in something fun to take time off. Because it is sometning fun, this can be considered as another pull. Or, it is enjoying. After enjoying, students feel refreshed and can go back to what they have to do or strive. Maybe the latter is a description of disengagement. Is there any difference between enjoying and disengaging? I don't think they are the same things. Students sometimes enjoy the moment purely. It is not because they were worn out. But, disengaging appears to have enjoying elements all the time. (Unless there is such a thing like "too much of enjoying"!). So,perhaps, enjoying encompasses disengaging? Disengaging is a special form of enjoying?

Title: Chyuuto-hanpa -- doing half-way job T47 Entry: July 4th, 2015 Thematic Memo 47

I am writing this memo after I read through Violet's transcript. One phrase stood out to me was chyuuto-hanpa, or doing half-way job. This could be another important factor to discern the relationship between engaged and unengaged lives. Violet used this term when asked to identify a part of her life where she didn't have much ikigai--the first year of her college life. She thought this was because she was doing many things but doing half-way jobs. She was so into tennis in high school, but she quit it when she came to Tokai. The bukatsu was such a big part of her life back in high school. She felt void in her life. So, she tried out so many things in her first year in college--studies, saakuru (student group). She didn't like her major back then, so thought of changing into international studies or even aviation. She did "mosaku" or exploration back then. However, as she proceeded with the 2nd and 3rd years, she could take more specialized courses that were really about astronomics, not some mandatory math course. This helped her to stay in her major and focus on it. So, for her, this phase of