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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Happiness Literature

 October 2012 - December 1969

Japan is in the midst of a happiness boom. Happiness is the subject of an avalanche of books, magazines, blogs and websites. Since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 alone, more than 500 Japanese books about happiness have been published. From ordinary guidebooks – “10 ways to make your dog happy” – to academic analyses, the variety of books on happiness is enormous. Among them, some sport “happiness” in their title only to ride the swelling tide without having much to do with the topic itself.

Happiness renaissance

In November 2011, NHK broadcast a three-part series about Alain, pen name of French philosopher Émile-Auguste Chartier (1886–1951), whose 1925 Propos sur le bonheur did much to popularize the notion of happiness in Japan. In the afterword to his own book about happiness (Kōfukuron, 2001), the recently deceased philosopher Takaaki Yoshimoto confessed that, prior to reading Alain’s Propos, he, like many of his generation, could not relate to the concept of happiness. Today, there is a huge “Alain renaissance”. Several new editions of his Propos have recently been published, including a manga version and an e-book. Nikkei Business Online runs a column called “Reading Alain’s On Happiness every day”. Such an upsurge is indicative of something besides popular interest in a dated philosophical book.

Happiness in hard times

The attention Alain currently attracts is a sign of hard times. As long as the Japanese economy and population grew, nobody spent much time thinking about happiness; however, both growth rates came to a grinding halt years ago and still show little sign of recovery. The 3/11 disaster was a catalyst for many to reflect on happiness and misery, but the conditions that stimulate a heightened interest in happiness have built up gradually over the years: insecurity, social cleavage, loss of trust and a general lack of orientation in the direction capitalist society should move. Japan is not alone in this unease.

Quantification of happiness

The past few months have seen the release of the first World Happiness Report commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness (April2012) as well as the OECD’s Better Life Index (May 2012). These publications attract considerable attention in Japan, especially as Japan dropped from 19th to 21st place in the OECD index since the last survey. In a country where people tend to pay close attention to international comparisons, this is cause for much soul-searching among policy makers. Meanwhile, more surveys about life satisfaction and happiness are conducted by scholars and government agencies, and new publications both respond to and feed the public desire to learn more about happiness. We introduce a few of them in the following section. A list of further literature on happiness is given below.


Selected reviews

Masaaki MEZAKI (2011): Kōfuku tojōkoku Nippon. Atarashii kuni ni umarekawaru tame no teigen [A developing country in terms of happiness. A proposal for reinventing Japan]. Tokyo: Iwanami, 263 pages, 1,050 yen (ISBN 987-4757219410).

The author, a staunch individualist and globetrotter, offers a sweeping review of current happiness research to launch an equally sweeping critique of contemporary Japanese society. Analysing the often observed apparent inconsistency between the country’s high levels of material comfort and other objective indices of quality of life, on one hand, and the relatively low levels of subjective well-being and life satisfaction, on the other, Mezaki concludes that collectivism and the failure to develop individuality are to blame. He promotes his concept of “social individualism” as a potential remedy, which – if widely embraced – could make Japan a happier country. Candid and easy to read.


Fumio ŌTAKE et al. (2010): Nihon no kōfukudo: Kakusa, rōdō, kazoku [Happiness in Japan: Inequality, work, family]. Tokyo: Nihon Hyōronsha, 284 pages, 3,150 yen (ISBN 978-4535555983).

The renowned happiness economist Fumio Ōtake was lead editor for this compilation of select academic contributions to the field of Japan-related happiness economics. Most of the articles are statistical studies based on happiness data, which show correlations between happiness and fundamental socio-demographic variables such as income, gender and age. Furthermore, this volume also covers specific topics like work and unemployment, inequality, family and marriage, as well as work-life balance. Apart from statistical analyses, this volume also contains a methodological reflection on the meaning and methods of happiness economics. Although all of the articles have already been published elsewhere, this book is the reference for research in the field of Japan-related happiness economics. Basic knowledge of statistics makes the reading more accessible.


Sang-jung KANG (2008): Nayamu chikara [The power of worrying]. Tokyo: Shūeisha Shinsho, 190 pages, 680 yen (ISBN 978-4087204445).

A more indirect approach to happiness is presented in this book. Political scientist Kang, who is also a well-known media personality, connects the present time, marked by socio-demographic upheaval and new risks, with the advent of modernity at the beginning of the 20th century. By referring to the intellectual worlds of Natsume Sōseki and Max Weber, Kang shows that – today just as much as about a hundred years ago – the “power of worrying” can help to cope with new situations and mastering hitherto unknown challenges. However, accepting change does not have to invariably equate to giving up long-held values. With nine million sold copies, the book seems to have hit a nerve. A sequel followed in June 2012.


Hiroyuki ITSUKI (2012): Shin kōfukuron. Aoi tori no satta ato [New discourse on happiness. After the blue bird has fl own away]. Tokyo: Poplarbeech, 240 pages, 1,200 yen (ISBN 978-4591126950).

Itsuki, a seasoned author of many books, takes up the eternal topic of fleeting happiness, combining a report on his trip to Bhutan, the “kingdom of happiness”, with his take on current events, the rereading of literary works, and Buddha’s teachings about the futility of life. Itsuki’s reflections are centred on what other authors have written about happiness, if “centred” is the right word. For Itsuki’s reminiscences and ruminations do not have a clear focus. There are, however, some recurring themes, such as his criticism of social inequality and cutthroat competition, which, as he sees it, greatly contribute to the unhappiness that characterizes contemporary society. Yet he does not offer any countermeasures that are likely to improve the situation. Rather, Itsuki seeks solace in testimonies to the effect that people can experience moments of bliss even under the most inhumane conditions. His notion of happiness, then, is that of an ephemeral and entirely subjective sensation.


List of happiness literature


青山敦著(by Atsushi Aoyama)


(Kazuo Inamori’s management system for the soul: Mechanisms for building up all employee’s physical and mental happiness and competitiveness)

東京:日刊工業新聞社, 2011.6 (Nikkan Kōgyō Shinbunsha, Tokyo)


赤崎久美著(by Kumi Akazaki)


(Chizuru: Me and my daughter’s ‘happy’ life)

東京: 新評論, 2011.11 (Shin Hyōron, Tokyo)


赤穂依鈴子著(by Eriko Akō)


(Essence to recover from depression: How to find happiness from life with depression)

東京:星和書店, 2011.8 (Seiwa Shoten, Tokyo )


浅川智仁著(by Tomohito Asakawa)


(Words of courage: 100 wisdoms to attract happiness and success)

東京:文芸社, 2011.5 (Bungeisha, Tokyo)


アドクリーン編 (Ed. by Add- Clean)


(A tour of private art museums in the Kanto Area: Happiness in the works of favorite artists)

東京:日本出版社, 2011.10 (Nihon Shuppansha, Tokyo)


安孫子薫著(by Kaoru Abiko)

「お客様の幸せ」のためにディズニーはまず「おそうじ」を考えた:リピート率No.1 の秘訣
(Cleaning up as the first thing Disneyland thought of for the sake of ‘our customers’ happiness’: The key to its top ranking in repeat visitors)

東京:小学館, 2011.11(Shōgakukan, Tokyo)


安部芳裕著(by Yoshihiro Abe)

原発大震災の超ヤバイ話:知らない方が幸せかもしれない  超☆はらはら;003

(Some really inconvenient things about the nuclear catastrophe: You may be happier without knowing this)

東京:ヒカルランド, 2011.7 (Hikaru Land, Tokyo)


雨宮処凛著 (Karin Amamiya)

小心者的幸福論 (A happiness theory of the timid person)

東京:ポプラ社, 2011.3 (Poplar Publishing, Tokyo)


荒木勝, 下定雅弘, 山口和子編 (Masaru Araki, Masahiro Shimosada, Kazuko Yamaguchi (eds.))

東北アジアの幸福観 (Perceptions of Happiness in North East Asia)

岡山:岡山大学出版会, 2011.3 (Okayama Daigaku Shuppankai, Okayama)


海原純子[著] (Junko Umihara)

ツイッター幸福論:ネットワークサイズと日本人 (A theory of Twitter happiness: Network size and the Japanese)

東京:角川書店 角川グループパブリッシング(発売), 2011.2 (Kadokawa Shoten, Kadokawa Group Publishing, Tokyo)


枝廣淳子, 草郷孝好, 平山修一著 森本規子訳 (Junko Edahiro, Takayoshi Kusagō, Shūichi Hirayama/translated by Noriko Morimoto)

GNH「国民総幸福」:みんなでつくる幸せ社会へ (GNH ‘Gross National Happiness’: For a happiness society to made by all of us)

東京:海象社, 2011.12 (Kaizōsha, Tokyo)


枝廣淳子, 小林誠著 遠藤秀一写真 (Junko Edahiro, Makoto Kobayashi /Photo by Shūichi Endō)

笑顔の国、ツバルで考えたこと:ほんとうの危機と幸せとは (What I thought in Tuvalu, the land of smile: About real crisis and happiness)

東京:英治出版, 2011.8 (Eiji Shuppan, Tokyo)


江夏亮, 読売新聞大手小町編集部著 (Akira Enatsu, Yomiuri Shinbun Ōtekomachi Henshūbu)


これ効き!シリーズ (Prescriptions for people who worry about their friends: Hints for living a happy life)

東京:保健同人社, 2011.12 (Hoken Dōjinsha, Tokyo)


大橋照枝著 (Terue Ōhashi)

幸せの尺度:「サステナブル日本3.0」をめざして  麗澤大学経済学会叢書 (Measuring happiness: For a ‘Sustainable Japan 3.0’)

 [柏]:麗澤大学出版会 廣池学園事業部(発売), 2011.8 (Reitaku Daigaku Shuppankai, Hiroike Gakuen Jigyōbu, Kashiwa)


大山泰弘著 (Yasuhiro Ōyama)

利他のすすめ:チョーク工場で学んだ幸せに生きる18の知恵 (Recommendation of altruism: 18 lessons I learned at a chalk factory about how to live a happy life)

東京:WAVE出版, 2011.4 (WAVE Shuppan, Tokyo)


大和田順子著 (Junko Ōwada)

アグリ・コミュニティビジネス:農山村力×交流力でつむぐ幸せな社会 (Agri-community business: Creating a happy society from the power of farming villages and their communion)

京都:学芸出版社, 2011.2 (Gakugei Shuppansha, Kyoto)


沖縄大学地域研究所編 (Okinawa University, Institute for Regional Research (ed.))

ブータンから考える沖縄の幸福   沖縄大学地域研究所叢書 (What Bhutan can tell us about happiness in Okinawa)

東京:芙蓉書房出版, 2011.9 (Fuyō Shobō Shuppan, Tokyo)


越智啓子著 (Keiko Ochi)

人生の転機は幸せのチャンス!(Each turning point in life is a chance for happiness!)

東京:朝日新聞出版, 2011.3 (Asahi Shinbun Shuppan, Tokyo)


木暮太一著 (Taichi Kogure)

いまこそアダム・スミスの話をしよう:目指すべき幸福と道徳と経済学 (Time to talk about Adam Smith: Directions for happiness, morals and economics)

東京:マトマ出版, 2011.12 (Matoma Shuppan, Tokyo)


小島慶子著 (Keiko Kojima)

気の持ちようの幸福論 (A happiness theory on frame of mind)

東京:集英社, 2012.3 (Shūeisha, Tokyo)


ゴトウサンパチ著 (Sanpachi Gotō)

先生がアスペルガーって本当ですか?:現役教師の僕が見つけた幸せの法則 (“Do you really have Asperger?” How a teacher at work found his way to happiness”)

東京:明石書店, 2011.6 (Akashi Shoten, Tokyo)


小長谷有紀, 後藤正憲共編著 (Yuki Konagaya, Masanori Gotō (eds.))

社会主義的近代化の経験:幸せの実現と疎外 (Experiences with socialist modernization: Realization and alienation of happiness)

東京:明石書店, 2011.4 (Akashi Shoten, Tokyo)


紺野登著 (Noboru Konno)

幸せな小国オランダの智慧:災害にも負けないイノベーション社会 (The wisdoms of happy Holland: An innovation society keeping up its head against disasters)

東京:PHP研究所, 2012.1 (PHP Kenkyūjo, Tokyo)


佐伯啓思著 (Keishi Saeki)

反・幸福論 (An “anti”-theory of happiness)

東京:新潮社, 2012.1 (Shinchōsha, Tokyo)


佐藤悦子著 (Etsuko Satō)

佐藤悦子の幸せ習慣:今できることを全力で!(Etsuko Sato’s practices for happiness: Do what you can at your best!)

東京:講談社, 2011.6 (Kōdansha, Tokyo)


白石壮一郎著 (Sōichirō Shiraishi)

文化の権利、幸福への権利:人類学から考える (Cultures’ rights to happiness: From an anthropological point of view)

西宮:関西学院大学出版会, 2011.1 (Kwansei Gakuin Daigaku Shuppankai, Nishinomiya)


大坊郁夫編 (Ikuo Daibō (ed.))

幸福を目指す対人社会心理学:対人コミュニケーションと対人関係の科学 (An interpersonal social psychology in quest of happiness: The science of interpersonal communication and human relationships)

京都:ナカニシヤ出版, 2012.2 (Nakanishiya Shuppan, Kyoto)


田中理恵子著 (Rieko Tanaka)

平成幸福論ノート:変容する社会と「安定志向の罠」(Notes on Heisei happiness: Social changes and the ‘stability trap’)

東京:光文社, 2011.3 (Kōbunsha, Tokyo)


千田俊樹編著 (Toshiki Chida (ed.))

住民幸福度に基づく都市の実力評価:GDP志向型モデルから市民の等身大ハッピネス(NPH)へ(Evaluation of cities based on resident happiness: From the GDP model to the life-size happiness model)

[東京]:時事通信出版局, 2012.3 (Jijitsūshin Shuppankyoku, Tokyo)


千葉忠夫著 (Tadao Chiba)

格差と貧困のないデンマーク:世界一幸福な国の人づくり (No disparity and poverty in Denmark: Human resources in the world’s happiest country)

東京:PHP研究所, 2011.3 (PHP Kenkyūjo, Tokyo)


ついき秀学, 黒川白雲, 中野雄太著 (Shūgaku Tsuiki, Hakuun Kurokawa, Yūta Nakano)

日本経済再建宣言:幸福実現党の「新・所得倍増計画」でGDP世界一を目指せ! (Declaration to rebuild Japan’s economy: Heading for the world’s highest GDP with the Happiness Realization Party’s “New Double Income Plan”)

東京:幸福実現党 幸福の科学出版(発売), 2011,7 (Kōfuku Jitsugentō, Kōfuku no Kagaku Shuppan, Tokyo)


永田良一著 (Ryōichi Nagata)

“幸福の国”ブータンに学ぶ幸せを育む生き方 (Learning from Bhutan - a way of life to nurture happiness)

東京:同文舘出版, 2011.11 (Dōbunkan Shuppan, Tokyo)

日本弁護士連合会両性の平等に関する委員会編 (Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the committee of Equality of Gender (ed.))

離婚と子どもの幸せ:面会交流・養育費を男女共同参画社会の視点から考える (Divorce and children’s happiness: Parenting time and child-support from the point of view of a gender-equal society)

東京:明石書店, 2011.6 (Akashi Shoten, Tokyo)


野澤幸代著 (Sachiyo Nozawa)

幸福の晩酌:胃と心にやさしい94皿 (An evening drink of happiness: 94 dishes for your stomach and your soul)

東京:中央公論新社, 2012.1 (Chūō Kōron Shinsha, Tokyo)


ペーター・フィッシュリ、ダヴィッド・ヴァイス著 酒寄進一訳 (Peter Fischli, David Weiss/translated by Shinichi Sakayori)

幸福はぼくを見つけてくれるかな? (Findet mich das Glück?)
東京:フォイル, 2011,1 (Foil, Tokyo)


福島清彦著 (Kiyohiko Fukushima)

国富論から幸福論へ:GDP成長を超えて暮らしの質を高める時代 (Happiness rather than wealth of nations: Raising the quality of life in an age beyond GDP growth)

東京:税務経理協会, 2011.5 (Zeimu Keiri Kyōkai, Tokyo)


藤原範典著 (Norisuke Fujiwara)

地方行政読本:住んで幸せな地域社会のつくり方 (Primer for local governments: How to build a community of happy residents)

東京:おうふう, 2011.5 (Ōfū, Tokyo)


古市憲寿著 (Noritoshi Furuichi)

絶望の国の幸福な若者たち (Happy youths in a country of hopelessness)

東京:講談社, 2011.9 (Kōdansha, Tokyo)


堀口大學[著] 堀口すみれ子編 (Daigaku Horiguchi (author), Sumireko Horiguchi (ed.))

幸福(しあわせ)のパン種 : 堀口大學詩集 増補版 (Leaven of happiness: The poems of Daigaku Horiguchi)

鎌倉:かまくら春秋社, 2011.10 (Kamakura Shunjūsha, Kamakura)


村上和雄著 (Kazuo Murakami)

人を幸せにする「魂と遺伝子」の法則 (Laws of ‘genes and spirits’ to make people happy)

東京:致知出版社, 2011.4 (Chichi Shuppansha, Tokyo)


目崎雅昭著 (Masaaki Mezaki)

幸福途上国ニッポン:新しい国に生まれかわるための提言 (Happiness developing country Japan: Proposal for rebirth as a new country)

東京:アスペクト, 2011.7 (Aspect, Tokyo)


吉本隆明著 (Takaaki Yoshimoto)

老いの幸福論 (Theory of old age happiness)

東京:青春出版社, 2011.4 (Seishun Shuppansha, Tokyo)


和田秀樹著 ( Hideki Wada)

精神科医が本気で考えた「幸福感」の育て方 (A psychiatrist’s considerations about how to build up ‘feeling happiness’)

東京:新講社, 2011.4 (Shinkōsha, Tokyo)


和田秀樹著 (Hideki Wada)

自分を幸福にする競争、不幸にする競争:正しい「競争」の楽しみ方 (Competitions that make you happy and unhappy: How to enjoy proper competition)

東京:バジリコ, 2011.11 (Basilico, Tokyo)