A Word on Kuyashii!

The Japanese concept of being fueled by those who doubt you.

Jess Engle
May 16, 2016 · 2 min read

While watching the series “Chef’s Table” on Netflix some time ago, I ran into the brilliant Japanese concept of Kuyashii by way of the brilliant Chef Niki Nakayama. Nakayama cited Kuyashii as her driving force to succeed in the male-dominated culinary world. She says:

“In Japanese there’s this word called Kuyashii, which is when somebody puts you down or says you can’t do something and you have this burning desire to prove them wrong. Earlier in my career I felt a lot of motivation from that.”


Having the mindset of Kuyashii is being able to turn the intense frustration that comes from people who doubt you, into the energy to succeed. It’s the motivation to prove those who said “it can’t be done” wrong.

Interestingly, it’s is also an expression of all-encompassing frustration. The closest English translation seems to be “this totally sucks.” So, I guess the way Niki Nakayama uses it as along the lines of; “this sucks, and now I am super motivated to make it not suck.”

Whichever way you run with it, it’s a good word to have in your arsenal.


***If there are any Japanese people reading this who can help clarify the polarity of Kuyashii, do chime in!

***Chef’s Table: Niki Nakayama >

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