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

"You might say that we are living as uninvited guests on planet earth. Planet earth never asked us to live here. If she shakes a little, we canít complain, because shaking from time to time is just one of the earthís natural behaviours. Whether we like it or not, we must live with nature.

What I want to talk about here isnít something like buildings or roads, which can be rebuilt, but rather about things which canít be reconstructed easily, such as ethics and values. Such things are not physically tangible. Once they are broken, itís difficult to restore them, as this cannot be achieved with machines, labour and materials.

What Iím talking about concretely is the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. As you probably know, at least three of the six nuclear reactors damaged by the earthquake and tsunami have not yet been restored, and continue to leak radiation around them. Meltdowns occurred and the surrounding soil has been contaminated. Water that probably contains high levels of radioactivity has been dispersed in the surrounding ocean and the wind is carrying radiation to more distant areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people have had to evacuate their homes. Farms, ranches, factories, commercial centres and ports are now deserted, having been completely abandoned. Those who lived there may not ever be able to return. It also grieves me to say that the damage from this accident is not limited to Japan but will spread to neighbouring countries as well.

The reason why such a tragic accident occurred is more or less clear. The people who built these nuclear plants had not imagined that such a large tsunami would strike them. Some experts pointed out that tsunami of similar scale had struck these regions previously and insisted that the safety standards should be revised. The electrical power companies, however, ignored them. As commercial ventures, these companies did not want to invest massively in preparing for a tsunami which may occur only once every few hundred years.

It seems to me that the government, which is supposed to ensure the strictest possible safety and security measures for nuclear plants, downgraded these safety standards in order to promote nuclear power generation. ...