Haruki Murakami’s earthquake speech in Spain

Haruki Murakami gave a lovely speech when he received the Cataluña International Prize in June.

In Japanese, we have the word “mujō (無常)”. 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.

Full text translated into English is here.

(Thanks, Jason!)

3 thoughts on “Haruki Murakami’s earthquake speech in Spain

  1. thanks, but, it hurts to see where I once lived and my family still is near Minamisoma-their organic rice farm is shut down and they cannot grow food anymore neither, with little help from anyone. Funny grandma made me a beautiful coat from cloth she bought in Odaka, she died in tsunami. I will try to find positive expression of beauty in this resignation, truly, though I also express my truth and its bitterness too

  2. Seems to me [as an outsider] that there is a contradiction of sorts between this transitory idea in some quarters, and the business and political world where nuclear reactors are safe long beyond their lifespan, and where once a salaried job was a sinecure, ruling parties last a really long time, etc. Almost like a war of conservatism in the face of change.