The past months I have been often thinking of the Japanse concept Ibasho. I came across it for the first time a few years ago, in an academic article investigating the importance of this concept for expatriate spouse adjustment (1).
What is Ibasho?
Ibasho literally means ‘a place to be’, and the authors of that article define it as a “sense of comfort and psychological security that a person feels in specific locations they regularly visit”. It is one of those words that does not really translate into English. The closest English word is probably “niche”, which is usually associated with a “situation, activity, or area that is specially suited to a person and his or her interests”, whereas Ibasho usually refers to a space. This space can also be social, based on relations with others. As the authors say: “It is an indigenous concept in the Japanese culture. In American culture, the concept is rarely, if ever, discussed.” Ibasho is something that you yourself create. You have to take action, it is not up to someone else to provide it to you.
Ibasho when travelling
Since reading the article, I realised that when I travel, I always look for the perfect place to sit down and read my book. I try to find ‘a place to be’. In San Diego it was the beautiful Sunset Cliffs, in Ancona it was the long series of stairs leading down to Passetto beach, in Oxford it was the botanical garden, and in Paris I quite enjoy spending some time in either Jardin du Luxembourg or les Arènes de Lutèce.
When I came to Denmark in September, Ibasho probably also influenced my decision to live in Slagelse and not elsewhere. Other than that I was keen to avoid a daily commute, I quite liked Slagelse when I had the chance to roam around. Granted, it is not very big (although it is the capital of this region so all the facilities are there) and does not really have any claim to fame, but it has a charming town centre with an amazing amount of sculptures and a beautifully situated church on top of the hill. I feel quite at home here, so I guess you can say I have built up some Ibasho here in Slagelse!
How about you? Do you recognize the concept of Ibasho in your daily life, or when you are travelling?
(1) Herleman, H. A., et al. (2008). Ibasho and the adjustment, satisfaction, and well-being of expatriate spouses. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 32: 282-299.
Photos by the author