A manga turned anime, HIKARU NO GO was released almost a decade ago. It’s a coming-of-age story and a story about devoting one’s life to a singular passion.
When Hikaru discovers an old go board in his grandfather’s attic, he accidentally awakens a ghost named Sai, a go player who lived during the Heian era of Japan. All Sai wants to do is study go, and Hikaru reluctantly plays a few games to appease the friendly spirit. But when the young boy’s lack of interest soon turns to enthusiasm, Sai is surprised to learn that Hikaru displays an innate talent for the game.
The heart of the story lies in their master-student relationship. The most poignant scenes happen after Sai begins to see that in Hikaru lies the path to achieve the divine move—a move so perfect and inspired that it is considered the pinnacle achievement of every go master. Sai’s quest for Kami no Itte, or the Hand of God, is the reason why his soul has been unable to rest.
Sai never reaches the divine move, and by the end of the anime, he quietly accepts that sometimes you are but a single step toward something greater. He sets his ego, his sense of self, aside, and the master becomes the student when Sai lifts Hikaru in his stead to reach for the stars.
Over a decade later, a popular documentary titled JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is released. The film follows the life of a sushi master named Jiro Ono, an eighty-five year old man who has devoted his life to crafting the perfect sushi. His Michelin three-star restaurant is in the basement of an office building near a Tokyo subway station. It takes months to get a reservation, and a twenty-minute meal costs over $300.
The documentary is a study in the simple joy of devoting your life to mastering your craft, but mastery doesn’t come without sacrifice. In Jiro’s case, he rarely saw his family while his children were growing up, and they lived in poverty for years.
In a review of the film, Roger Ebert asks: “If you find an occupation you love and spend your entire life working at it, is that enough?”
For me, it is.
Sometimes, the hardest part isn’t about figuring out what you love to do, but in humbly accepting that even if you never reach your Kami no Itte, it is enough to dedicate your life in pursuit of its truth.
This is what writing means to me.