A few months back, you may have noticed the not-so-subtle changes made to this beautiful blogosphere. Yōkina Living became Akarui Lifestyle and, me being the amazing chaotic wonder that I am, there wasn’t much explanation as to why that was. Well…the wait is over! This post is going to chat about the reasons behind the switch and the goals of this blog going forwards.
Four years ago, Yōkina Living was created as a means for me to show my passion for Japan and suitability for the JET Programme. It was something extra to mention at the interview and a way to keep my writing muscles working. At that time, the identity of the blog wasn’t too important. I liked the name and ran with it- inspired by my N8 level Japanese. Yet, it became clear as time passed that the word yōkina wasn’t the perfect fit. To be yōkina is to be cheerful and to live yōkina is to be cheerful all the time or at least appear to be, both of which aren’t ideal. Living yōkina is an unachievable and, really, undesirable goal.
For all of its faults, Yōkina Living served me well. It was the start of my blogging journey and it was a prototype of what the blog is now. Even at the start, I knew that I wanted to use my writing to promote positivity and resilience. As I matured and developed, I understood the importance of nuance and the mal-fitting meaning become purposeful to me as it showed what I didn’t want the blog to promote – toxic positivity. Well + Good define this term brilliantly –
‘You’re a person. You’re not a millennial pink “Good Vibes Only” throw pillow. Sometimes things are terrible and it’s more effective to allow yourself or your loved ones to speak your truth. If you bottle things up, well, it can cause real stress on the body and the mind. And if you tell your friend that “everything happens for a reason” when some moron in a Hummer steamrolled their corgi, Waffles, you’re going to get hit upside the head.’
I’ve dabbled in toxic positivity, but never fully committed. My best (and sometimes worst) trait is my honesty, which makes it difficult to erase or ignore negativity. That’s why I wanted to make sure that my blog didn’t represent that kind of mentality.
The ‘Good Vibes Only’ lifestyle invalidates lived experience. Pushing away negative experiences to ‘be happy’ intensifies the natural feelings that are attached to those experiences and we know what happens when those feelings are pushed away. They watch from the glass bottle we’ve shoved them into and see us develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like repression and avoidance. These negative emotions watch and watch until the view gets too upsetting. Eventually, the glass bottle breaks, we blow out or burn out and the cycle starts again.
So, if yōkina wasn’t the right fit, what would be?
Another Japanese word? Of course! My move to Japan marked a big change in my life and I wanted it to remain a key feature of the blog. From being scared to jump a train from Lancaster to Wigan, I was jumping planes, trains, and driving my kei car all over the country (including the dangerously flooded mountain roads). My move also meant creating a life for myself, by myself, and so, for the first time, I was able to put my needs as a priority which (surprise, surprise) led to some serious self-development.
I heard the word akarui a lot and it was one of the first Japanese words I came to learn. I remember sitting in Gusto with my friends in Hitoyoshi city. Wired up on endless refill melon soda, we chatted about our first impressions of each other. Their first impression of me was … akarui and it’s a trait that I see in a lot of other people too.
Akarui means bright. But, as with many words in English, this word has a lot more connotations/ meanings. Akarui can be physically bright but also can be a figurative brightness, a personal luminosity, a light-mindedness, and a state of being enlightened. While that meaning of being cheerful remains, it stands with a multitude of other meanings- to the point where this word has become a guide for how I structure my life.
Cheerful: To have cheer and to be positive is important, even if it isn’t the be-all and end-all. Using positivity to balance our often negatively-biased mindsets is essential for a successful life.
Light-Minded: To take life with a pinch of salt, to be able to laugh at ourselves and remember the joy in life. Extending this to feeling weightless or unburdened allows us to remain in the present and stay mindful.
Enlightened: Self-awareness, self-growth, shining a light on the world around us and onto ourselves, every bit of ourselves including the grimy bits. Ignorance may be bliss but awareness is essential if you want consistent stability and ownership over your life.
Luminous: Resilient in hardship, ever-burning, self-sustaining source. This could be the most important trait of them all; to shine even when others try to dim your light is the most powerful that you can be.
I’m sure there are many other nuanced meanings that more fluent Japanese speakers would be aware of- if you do know any- please share them!
Light is comforting: nightlights when we can’t sleep, dancing flames of a campfire, torches to help find disappearing plugholes for our phone chargers. Light can also be terrifying: the hand that trembles over the switch to reveal the killer in a horror film, hesitation before casting a torchlight onto something long-buried, the blinding power of the sun. Light is beautiful and powerful and enduring and essential. Light is you.
I like to view this blog as a little lantern, initially guiding me and giving me comfort until, eventually, it gained brightness enough for other people to see. Akarui Lifestyle has allowed me to become more comfortable with vulnerability, to the point where I’m brave enough to share my truths with you; my grief, my experiences, my lessons, and my losses. This was encouraged by the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. When I’d write about schadenfreude or grief or low mood, I’d have people reaching out telling me that they felt the same and they had been comforted by my words which, in turn, gave me comfort too. I want that effect to continue to grow because there is a lot of darkness around us and it can become heavy and smothering.
I hope that by reading, you’re reminded that you aren’t alone, that you are gleaming amongst a constellation of other astral wonders that have felt your pain. I want to help however I can either by entertaining you, reminding you of how amazing you are, or how connected you are to others, or motivating you to level up your life! I want you to see your own light, your worth; to cultivate your fire, your passion; to share your light, your life experience; to cut through the darkness, your hardship; and to become enlightened and luminous, akarui.
I really want this blog to be a tool for good and would love you guys to help me make it that. What should we talk about? Let me know!