Modern Iki Project

The goal of this website is to revive iki, deepen its understanding,
 and promote it thorough its use in art and design.

Basic characteristics of iki


Misunderstanding of iki
Kawaii and iki is not related

Misunderstanding of iki

The followings are the basic characteristics that are common to classic iki and modern iki.

  1. An explanation of iki is intrinsically not iki.

  2. Iki is the culture of townsfolk who oppose the oppression by samurais.

  3. Iki is different from wabi-sabi or miyabi.

  4. Iki is relative.

    • Iki cannot be the only value. It is one of many values.

    • There is no authority of iki. Also, iki cannot be authoritative.

  5. Iki is temporary, not pertinent.

  6. Iki includes clear will and intention, and yet, it is unobtrusive and inconspicuous.

  7. Iki is not pushy.

  8. Iki does not hide secret intention.

"Iki arrangement"

An "ikina hakarai" (iki arrangement) is an unusual action that incites admiration and brings emotions and sympathy. This may include a case when a US President replies to a letter of a sick girl (even if this could be simply a political maneuver in reality). An iki arrangement also refers to some kind of white lie. In "The Adventure of the Second Stain," Sherlock Holmes guards the honor and secret of a lady by lying to the prime minister. He apparently senses something is going on, but presumably he doesn't pursue further. By doing so, the prime minister also joins Holmes' scheme as a co-conspirator.


Q. Why do you write iki as 「いき」 in Japanese?  Isn't 「粋」 the right character?

A. 「粋」 can be read as「すい」(sui). 粋(すい) is similar to iki, but a different word. During the Edo period, 「いき」 was written in many kanji, including 粋, 意気, 趣向 etc.

Q. Is iki related to nationalism or patriotism?

Q. No. Iki is not related to nationalism or patriotism. Some people try to connect iki and bushido, but this is incorrect. Iki has been praised and nurtured among the townsfolk. Traditionally, iki often conveys opposition against samurais. Classic iki was the pride of Edo townsfolk, and it did have an exclusive aspect against non-Edo culture. However, as today's iki can be re-defined as modern iki, it is no longer bound to the time and place of Edo. Modern iki is an international concept, and it is not limited even to Japan.