Rolefulness and Ibasho

Nick: We are back with episode five of the Rolefulness Podcast. I am Nick Kemp and my co-host is Professor Daiki Kato. In this episode, we will explore the Japanese concept of ibasho and its relationship to rolefulness. Glad to be talking with you again, Daiki.

Daiki: Yeah, thank you for today. Let's start today's episode. 

Defining ibasho

Defining ibasho

Nick: Awesome. So ibasho is one of my favorite Japanese words. How would you define it, Daiki?

Daiki: So for many listeners, it's  their first time to hear the word ibasho and I'll explain what the word means. Ibasho is a Japanese word that means whereabouts and place of my own.

It is composed of two words: the verb 'iru' meaning to exist, and 'basho' which means place. Together as iru and basho, together as ibasho they indicate 'a place to be' and invite you to contemplate who is important to you and how you can find your place in the world. 

This may be your physical place where you feel connected with the environment around you; a regular holiday destination, the beach, park, or your favourite local cafe. On another level, the word can indicate a social niche rather than a physical one, the group of people amongst whom you can be yourself.

Nick: Yes, I love this word. And it's two contexts: it can be just a physical place like a park where you can take time off and relax or this very important social niche. And I guess that's where the rolefulness aspect will come into play. But like ikigai, ibasho actually has become a theory.

The ibasho theory

So it used to just be a regular word meaning whereabouts, but recently, it has become a theory in relation to truancy, the problem of truancy and also hikikomori. So yeah, that's interesting that there is a theory, shall we touch on ibasho theory as well?

Daiki: Yes. But I think it's better to talk about the basis of the ibasho theory first. Nick, you reviewed the study of Japanese ibasho theory, and I hope you can introduce it to the listeners. Is it okay?

Nick: Yeah, sure. So when I was researching ikigai, I stumbled upon ibasho theory. And that led me to discover the work of two professors from Sopia University, Professor Hideki Maruyama, and also professor Haruhiko Tanaka, who I interviewed. They both hold doctorates of philosophy in education. 

And this is how they defined ibasho in terms of its elements; so the elements of ibasho can be threefold: a comfortable space, reliable social relationships, and a positive belief in the near future. And they had a paper which I'll cite here,  "'Ibasho,' Youth Participation, and Education." 

So just going a bit deeper, an ibasho, offers a safe haven. So a shelter from the pressures of the outside world. It is a place for empowerment, fostering strength and confidence, especially in controlling one's own life, and claiming one's own rights. And we can recuperate or develop resilience and deal with pressures from the outside world and our ibasho. 

And then the third point is in an ibasho, you have the freedom to pursue what is important to you and express your creative self, enriching your life and the lives of others. So it supports self-actualization.

The ibasho scale

Ibash oand social roles

So it's quite a powerful concept, and what I discovered when I first read your papers, you used the sense of ibasho scale in reference to the rolefulness scale. So would you like to touch on the ibasho scale?

Daiki: In adolescent psychology, an individual's sense of acceptance by others is a key concept for both communication and their ability to foster appropriate relationships.

In psychology, besides the original literal meaning of the term, one's 'sense of ibasho' is used to mean their sense of being accepted by others. So, originally, as I mentioned, ibasho means a place, the physical place, but in psychology it means being accepted by others. 

So the psychological meaning is very important. There is a sense of ibasho scale developed by Dr. Yuriko Norisada in Japan, and that scale includes factors of 'the sense of perceived acceptance.' The scale also includes other sub factors such as 'the sense of authenticity,' 'the sense of relief.' and 'the sense of role.'

As this evidence shows, one's sense of role is an important component of interpersonal relationships. Therefore, the sense of ibasho relates with our social roles and it is meaningful to investigate the relationship between the sense of ibasho and rolefulness. 

I should explain a little more about the sub scale of ibasho scale; as Nick said, the sense of acceptance is very important, so it is the first sub factor of the ibasho scale.

But the other scale is also important. The sense of authenticity is a very important word in Japanese psychology, but many people are not familiar with it. For example, it's a very similar concept of identity. 

So, it is very important. We have the place and we have a person we can trust and during those times we can feel our identity and we can do things as I we are, as we like, so, it is a sense of authenticity.

And I focused on the sense of role, which is also an important factor of ibasho. The sense of role is most related to its rolefulness and I have introduced the relationship between the sense of role and the rolefulness in the later section.

Nick: Yes, actually, what came to mind when you were talking about the sense of authenticity is the Japanese word or the Japanese expression jibunrashi. So jibun is 'the self' and rashi is ‘becoming of', and so it's this idea that you're striving to be or wanting to be your authentic self. 

And maybe that's the challenge we all face in our life. We live our life with challenges, and we want to stay true to who we are and be authentic and sometimes we are, and sometimes maybe we aren't because of pressure and stress--we get upset, we get angry, we become lazy. But I really love that word jibunrashi suggesting you cannot be the best version of yourself. 

So in the West, I guess a lot of people in coaching or maybe even in well-being, they talk about becoming the best version of yourself. But I much prefer this idea of striving to be your authentic self as in jibunrashi. I think this is obviously clearly related to our roles, we want to be authentic in all of our roles. 

And then that's articulated by the ibasho scale, and then also this sense of relief. So it really ties into ibasho; those elements of relief, safety, being yourself, and the sense of purpose in the role. So yeah, these Japanese words and expressions are just amazing. You have one word, like ibasho, which articulates all this theory. 

But what's amazing is you discovered one, Daiki, in English with rolefulness. So that's amazing. Just going on a tangent, you also wrote your paper in Japanese, the rolefulness scale and rolefulness. How did you translate rolefulness into Japanese? What was the word you used?

Daiki: It's difficult to express the concept in Japanese. So yeah, I made the word rolefulness and made the definition about it, but I can't express it in Japanese. So in Japan and other countries I used the same word, rolefulness.

Nick: Okay, so you didn't use any variation of yakuwari? So you just used rolefulness?

Daiki: I translated it into Japanese. So as you say role is yakuwari in Japanese and 'fulness' means perhaps satisfaction. So maybe we can call it in Japanese manzoku-kan; manzoku means satisfaction.

So role is yakuwari and 'fulness' is manzoku-kan; kan is feeling, so it's role satisfaction feeling. So rolefulness may be translated in Japanese as 'yakuwari manzoku-kan.' But I think that rolefulness is good.

Nick: So do I. I do love this word. I loved it so much I said it to you, we've got to write a book on this concept. I was actually wondering, is there a word such as yakuwarisa.

And I thought probably not. So that's great, this will be a term used in hopefully many languages. It's fascinating for you, because you're a non native English speaker, but you've coined this English term, rolefulness. 

So that's amazing, I think. It sort of indicates the type of work that you do and the diligence of your work. And obviously, you care about these things: you care about people having a sense of purpose and a sense of role and authenticity. And yeah, I'm sure that relates to your work, which we'll touch on with this next question.

Developing the rolefulness scale

So as a researcher, and in developing the rolefulness scale, you did use obviously, the sense of ibasho scale as a point of reference. Do you want to touch on that a bit more?

Daiki: As I mentioned, I focused on the sense of role especially. The sense of ibasho scale includes some sub factors, but I especially focused on the sense of role. About 10 years ago, I was studying the effect of group art therapy with my students in my lab. My research topic is very varied but I'm interested in the effect of art therapy. 

And now we continue to research art therapy and I'm interested especially in group art therapy. So we express ourselves together by drawing or painting or making something together, so it is a very good effect to increase our social skills. 

So let me talk about my study about art therapy a little more. Art therapy is a method of psychotherapy and we express our feelings using art such as drawing, painting, and making something with several materials. I'm interested in LEGO blocks as a material of art therapy and examining its possibility of application in our therapy. 

In my childhood, I often played with LEGO blocks, and after I married and became a father, now I'm playing with my children with blocks. The LEGO block is a very popular toy not only in Japan but also in many other countries, so kids love it very much.I think it is not only a toy, but it is a very good material for art therapy. 

In our study, the participants expressed anything they desired using LEGO blocks collaboratively. We examined how a collaborative task could increase ibasho.

The findings indicated that the participants' sense of role was developed during the process, and this indicated that use of block construction collaborative tasks can be an effective medium of communication in group setting or effective tool in group therapy. 

Totally the score of the ibasho scale increased. Especially the sense of role, it significantly increased, it is a very interesting result. Based on the findings, I noticed that the sense of role could be increased in the short term and our social relationships are reflected in it.

These short term changes are really interesting. I thought that it is difficult to change ibasho in the short term; the increasing sense of ibasho needs a very long time in our lifetime. 

But this study demonstrated that just one time to work together using LEGO blocks. The time for creation is about 30 minutes or one hour, just a very short time, but the sense of role is increased in the short term, which is very surprising, but it is very interesting and important, I think.

So based on the result, I want to study about how we acquire the sense of role and understand the structure or the detail of role satisfaction.

Nick: This is fascinating. This idea of ibasho gives us this opportunity to experience rolefulness. And who knows, it might lead to a new role.

And even if it doesn't, even if it's just one experience, as you mentioned, within half an hour, you can have this feeling of role, which obviously is a very positive feeling and gives you a taste of having a sense of purpose or being appreciated or engaging in some sort of meaningful communication.

An ibasho of two

And I think what I've realised, just with you, over the last month, we've kind of created an ibasho of two. So at the moment, there's only you and me doing this project, and we've identified this subject that's worth sharing with other people. And so now we have this ibasho and we're helping each other share this concept. 

I guess your role, you're the science, you're the researcher behind the Science, so you know all the elements as to what rolefulness is, and I guess my perspective is I'm helping it reach an audience by suggesting this podcast, we're going to co-author a book together, and I guess I'm adding a layman's or everyday person's perspective. 

And that's how we develop the worksheets. So yeah, I have a really strong sense of rolefulness in what we're doing together, and it's just an ibasho of two. Do you think in that perspective? It's possible just to have an ibasho of two people where each can have a unique role.

Daiki: Yeah. As you said, I think that to feel ibasho, I think both the place and people are very important. So now, we are hosting this podcast or now we are preparing the new book project and this place,, is a place where we gather. 

So the place is very important and the people: me and you, Daiki and Nick, collaborating with each other and doing this project. I think both place and people are important to increase our sense of ibasho or rolefulness. So ibasho and rolefulness are connected to each other strongly.

Nick: It's interesting, because in a social context, there is usually a place. But for us, the challenge is, you're in Japan, I'm in Australia. So yeah, maybe our website, is a representation of our ibasho. And then hopefully, the podcast is an extension of that, and people can feel, maybe our listeners can feel part of our ibasho. 

Importance of ibasho in our roles

So going back to what you were talking about, with what we've just touched on, this example of us in each of our ibasho, it would be helpful to identify that we can have a role which we can embrace and pursue. What do you think?

Daiki: In our recent study, we investigated the effects of collaborative LEGO blocks creation on rolefulness. So, the previous study, we used the ibasho scale, but in this study we use rolefulness scale to investigate the effects of collaborative creation.

The results of the study showed that collaborative block activities can improve both social and internal rolefulness. That is very interesting. We talked about technology development and social role in the previous podcast.

The progress of the internet and social networking service are really convenient, but it decreases the chance to facilitate our social skills in person. Doing something and collaborating with others includes many chances to notice our social role and feel rolefulness. Therefore, I believe our ibasho would help us to identify our own roles. 

In the previous podcast, we were talking about worksheet, rolefulness worksheet we developed. In the recent study, I examined the effect of the worksheet; my students did the worksheet and answered the rolefulness scale and so how rolefulness increases is examined. The results showed that only social rolefulness increased through the worksheet. 

But collaborative LEGO block creation increased both social and internal rolefulness. These differences are very interesting. So I think the worksheet has a potential to increase rolefulness, but as we discussed in the previous podcast, the continuous use is important to increase internal rolefulness. 

But in the collaborative block creation, we demonstrated kind of the time for sharing experience. It is very important; the participants talked about their impressions or feelings through the collaborative work, and others listen to the impressions of other.

So that process facilitated a sense of being accepted by others, and so we can express our feelings. The interrelationship is very important to facilitate internal rolefulness.

Establishing rolefulness

Establishing rolefulness

Nick: That's what I would assume; that these in person experiences and communication would have. This influences your sense of self, role, obviously, as you just mentioned, being accepted.

I think having some sort of experience with others, and then journaling about it would be quite helpful to establish your sense of social rolefulness and internal rolefulness. But if you just started to journal on your general rolefulness without any specific social context, it will probably be harder to feel or internalise rolefulness. 

So I think it goes back or points to the importance of trying to have some sort of social engagement, if possible, every day and preferably in person. The in person aspect seems to matter a lot to rolefulness.

And so with that, Daiki, we probably should wrap up, and maybe in the next episode, we'll go to a different extreme, and that is hikikomori. We might explore this idea of rolelessness in a very severe form of social withdrawal. It used to be only associated with Japan, but now it's a global problem. And we'll be writing about it in our book. 

But listeners, don't forget to go to to download the worksheets, and if you haven't listened to the previous episodes, please do. And Daiki. I look forward to speaking to you next week on the subject of hikikomori and lack of role. Establishing rolefulness

Daiki: Okay, see you soon.

Nick: Okay, thanks so much for your time.