Haruki Murakami, looking pensive, head resting on his right hand

"In Japanese, we have the word 'mujo'. It means that everything is ephemeral. Everything born into this world changes, and will ultimately disappear. There is nothing that can be considered eternal or immutable. This view of the world was derived from Buddhism, but the idea of mujo was burned into the spirit of Japanese people beyond the strictly religious context, taking root in the common ethnic consciousness from ancient times.

The idea that all things are transient is an expression of resignation. We believe that it serves no purpose to go against nature. On the contrary, Japanese people have found positive expressions of beauty in this resignation. If we think about nature, for example, we cherish the cherry blossoms of spring, the fireflies of summer and the red leaves of autumn. For us, it is natural to observe them passionately, collectively and as a tradition. It can be difficult to find a hotel room near the best known sites of cherry blossoms, fireflies and red leaves in their respective seasons, as such places are invariably milling with visitors.

Why is this so? The answer may be found in the fact that cherry blossoms, fireflies and red leaves all lose their beauty within a very short space of time. We travel from afar to witness this glorious moment. And we are somehow relieved to confirm that they are not merely beautiful, but are already beginning to fall to the ground, to lose their small lights or their vivid beauty. We find peace of mind in the fact that the peak of beauty has been reached and is already starting to fade.

I donít know if natural disasters have affected such a mentality. Iím sure, however, that in some sense we have been able to collectively overcome successive natural disasters and to accept the unavoidable by virtue of this mentality. Perhaps such experiences have also shaped our notion of the aesthetic. The overwhelming majority of Japanese people were deeply shocked by this earthquake. While we may be accustomed to earthquakes, we still have not been able to come to terms with the scale of the destruction. We feel helpless, and are anxious about the future of our country.

Ultimately, weíll summon up the necessary mental energy, pick ourselves up and rebuild. In this regard, I have no particular worries. This is how we have survived throughout our long history. This time as well, we certainly will not remain frozen and in a state of shock forever. Broken houses can be rebuilt, and broken roads can be restored. ...