There is a growing “genre” in Japan referred to as the “Iyashikei” (癒し系) genre.
“Iyashi” has a few meanings: soothing, comforting, solace, therapeutic. And “kei” means “style”.
The genre is used for “anime and manga created with the specific purpose of having a healing or soothing effect on the audience. Works of this kind often involve alternative realities with little to no conflict, emphasizing nature and the little delights in life.”
If you know a bit about Japanese anime or games you might already have an idea of a few titles that belong in this genre.
From televised anime that belong to the similar genre called “slice of life” (a genre dedicated to following the everyday activities of ordinary, yet usually cheerful and genuinely kind people) to the classic films by Studio Ghibli, you’ve probably noticed a certain soothing trend in Japanese media.
These soothing, Iyashikei films, shows, and games tend to focus on nature and childhood.
Japan loves making shows and games about childhood. Specifically about childhood summers spent catching bugs, fishing, going to festivals, sharing meals with family, and, of course, trips to the beach.
Sometimes nothing really happens in these games. We learn about certain characters and collect lots of fun things, but there isn’t much to overcome. Instead, every time we load up our save files we’re just happy to settle back into a brighter, kinder, and sunnier world for a while.
Some of these games have made the transition to American audiences. The most popular do have some conflict, but the atmospheres are usually so charming and lovingly rendered that the worlds still feel so comforting.
We even see the popularization of Iyashikei phone games. These are perhaps the most useful, they are accessible very quickly and provide us with doses of charm and calm when we might need it the most.
The growing investment into this genre in Japan is something we can learn from. It could serve us well to recognize the power of particular games to calm our nerves, to inspire gratitude for nature and relaxation, and to encourage us to engage in some healthy nostalgia.
Through these games we help ourselves re-learn how to appreciate small pleasures and little details with more enthusiasm. Most of these games and shows focus on nature, bringing our minds and eyes back to the loveliness of a sunny day, of green hills, and puddles to splash in. And many of these games have children protagonists (or protagonists who learn valuable life lessons from children) because our childhoods – however boring they seemed at the time – were infused with important wisdoms we forget as we grew older.
As children we enjoyed the feeling of grass between our toes, we practiced curiosity over small things (like bugs and digging in the dirt for treasure) more readily, we relished time with our family, and we seemed to have boundless energy and enthusiasm for treats and accomplishments we routinely overlook now.
Iyashikei games, shows, and movies are “healing” because they help us celebrate the ordinary parts of everyday life. These shows and games might have something magical happen in their stories, but, ultimately, they help us rejoice in the very simple and common elements of life. They remind us that wonder and awe can be found in the grass, in the summer breeze, on quiet verandas, in conversations with new friends, and at the dinner table with family.
Thank you for reading!
This blog, Screen Therapy, is dedicated to exploring how we can mindfully use the time we already spend on games and movies to strengthen our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is crucial when we face the everyday stresses and anxieties we all endure (such as the fear of death, how to develop the skills for loving relationships, or learning how to cope with just how difficult life feels, etc.)
We receive very little formal education or help in processing these difficult challenges, but by strengthening our self-knowledge and emotional intelligence through art and culture we can better pursue our personal balance.
Iyashikei: Japan’s Genre of “Healing Games”