In addition to the 3 Short Movies released on the occasion of publication of “At the End of the Matinee”, the English version of one of Hirano’s representative works, we released a new interview movie on the subject of “Diversity”.

What can we do to overcome the divide and disparity in the world ?
Hirano talks about that theme in terms of “Love”, “Dividualism”, and “Relationships”.

Please have a look!


Diversity & Relationships

Today, I’d like to talk to you about diversity and relationships with the Other.

Diversity is important. That is why there is so much emphasis around the world on the need to overcome conflict and division.  I completely agree with this. There has been wide-ranging political discussion about how to achieve this, as well as political action.

 I think the issue can be boiled down to two main approaches. First is the realization of a higher dimension of values to enable diversity. This approach places importance on the realization of a regard for fundamental human rights, equality before the law, humanism, and so on. I completely support this, and believe that our political efforts should aim for this goal.

The second position asserts that the means to overcome conflict and division can be found in the realization of diversity through more fine-grained relationships between people. This is what I would like to talk to you about today.

There is an economist named Amartya Sen. He argues that the most important method used by those who wish to foment social division and conflict is the attachment of a single category or identity to each person or individual. Associating each individual with a single category such as white or black, male or Christian, Asian or European, is a convenient strategy for those trying to stir up conflict between the categories. For example, labelling one person black and another white, or one person a man and another Christian. This is useful for those who seek unrest between such categories.Moreover, individuals trying to sustain bonds may find their routes of communication cut off by such divisions.

In fact, each of us has profoundly varied attributes that do not fit neatly in a single category such as man or woman, black or Asian. Take me for example. I am Asian, Japanese, male, and a father raising two kids. I like music, I like jazz, I like rock. I am of course an author. I also like Edgar Alan Poe and Dostoyevsky. In this way, I possess great diversity.

This diversity should allow us to find similarities even with those separated from us by categories. I like literature, I like baseball, I face various challenges raising two kids, and so on. If we can open up pathways to others through the varied attributes that each of us possess, and maintain these pathways, then we can sustain communication even if we are divided by categories. Therefore, recognizing the internal diversity of each person without gathering them into a unitary identity entails keeping open a channel that consistently sustains our relationship with the Other. I believe that this is one strategy for overcoming division and sustaining diversity.

I would now like to shift to my personal take on the ideas of Sen I have been discussing. I will focus on the concept of the “individual.” For North American and European people, the concept of the individual may seem in some sense self evident. However, it was first introduced to Asian countries in the modern era. This forced us to think more consciously about what the concept of the individual means. “Individual” literally means something that cannot be divided. Thus a single person possesses a unity that is both physically and subjectively indivisible. I believe that modernity is characterized by the assignment of fundamental human rights to this indivisible entity and the construction of systems with this entity as the smallest unit. 

In contrast to this notion of an indivisible single person, I have proposed a concept called the “dividual”. The idea is that each of us changes who we are from one personal relationship to the next. For example, your manner of speech, mood, and bearing with your lover, parents, childhood friends, and co-workers all differ slightly. This illustrates that you become a different you in each case. Some of us may show a wide range of variation while others may hardly change at all. However, the person you are, say, when alone with your lover and when in a serious conversation with a co-worker are never exactly the same.

These personalities inside the individual divide depending on your environment and present company. I call them “dividuals” to differentiate them from the individual. I am trying to reconceive the human being using a model where each person is considered to be a composite of multiple dividuals. This is distinct from the old personna model in which people have a true self at their core and must resort to superficially using a mask or persona according to context in order to communicate with society. Rather, my model considers the dividuals for each personal relationship to all be true selves and views the sum of dividuals as connected into a network with no center. 

Each dividual does not occupy the same proportion of who we are. For example, if the dividual for your current lover is important, it could occupy around 30% of the pie chart of who you are. The dividual you have for your co-workers may make up 15%, the dividual for your good friend 10%, and the dividual for you as an author 20%. We all carry a number of dividuals and the proportion between them shifts as our relationships with people change.


Divisualism for Self-affiamation & Self-negation

I have been developing this theory through my novels in part to think about self-affirmation and self-negation. The problem is that if we think of ourselves as an indivisible unity, then we are forced to confront all the challenges in life with the whole of who we are. For example, if someone finds their workplace intolerable, it is not merely the person they are at work who suffers. The whole of who they are suffers greatly. They take on feelings of self-negation. Or if someone has a terrible relationship with their parents, they begin to feel not only that this relationship is painful but that living is painful for the whole of who they are.

However, if we can understand ourselves using a model based on the concept of the dividual, rather than a model based on the concept of the indivisible individual, then we can compare each of the parts of who we are, whether at work, with a lover, or with a friend, and determine which of them is causing us stress. Moreover, we can objectively consider which dividuals make us feel good and happy. 

Then when facing problems in our lives, we can isolate the dividuals that make us feel good and those that bring us stress,and increase or decrease their proportion inside us accordingly. In order to achieve this, we can also come up with specific ways to alter our personal relationships and the places we go.

In this way, we discover that the dividuals that make us feel good emerge through our interactions, with certain people, music, literature, and so on. Full self-affirmation is difficult to achieve through affirmation of the whole individual. The exception is extreme narcissists. But if we can secure a pathway to arrive at ourselves via the Other by liking who we are when listening to certain music or when with certain people, then self affirmation becomes relatively easy. On the other hand, if you hate yourself, you can realize that one important factor is your relationship with others. In other words, feeling affirmation towards yourself requires the existence of the Other. The medium of the Other is crucial. I believe that this is the root of coexistence.

To develop this idea further and connect it to what I said earlier about community and diversity, whenever we communicate with the Other, usually through language, we always experience otherness blending with who we are. The more I engage in communication, the more my interlocuter’s perspective, way of using language, sensibility, cultural background, and so on mixes inside me. This is not limited to only one interlocuter. The more people I communicate with, the more various forms of otherness blend with who I am.

Therefore, it is impossible for us to expel this and completely purify ourselves. A manifold of otherness is always mixed up in who I am, and I am always experiencing this multiplicity of otherness continuing to blend inside me. Therefore, if someone tries to completely divide me from someone else, a rift may form between us, but I cannot rid myself of their otherness already mixed up inside me.

The concept of the individual asserts the unity of each single person, but it has the contrary effect of making us distinct from the Other close at hand. This is to perceive individual people as beings divided from each other but incapable of being divided further. Therefore, the notion of the individual treats people as independent and cut off from the Other. By contrast, the theory of what I call the dividual asserts that beings or personalities multiply internally, but that Others sustain between them through constant communication an indivisible shared,collaborative space and collaborative relationship. In other words, the idea is that something indivisible is always sustained between Others.

Therefore, even if an attempt is made to divide me from the Other using some category, their otherness is already blended with who I am. Moreover, relationships with anyone who can be referred to with a specific proper noun are always sustained in the form of something indivisible. I believe that this will become a more fine-grained but also powerful relationality that will resist the forces seeking social division through categorization.

And I think that when this happens, “Love” will be particularly important. It is through love that people are always constructing an indivisible space while exchanging otherness with each other. When this happens, love will be incredibly powerful.  It won’t necessarily be romantic love, but will come in many forms such as brotherly love, love of home, love for your language, love of music, and platonic love. 

This is one of the themes of the novels I have been writing in recent years. The theme occupies a particularly central place in At the End of the Matinee, my second novel to be translated into English. Please take this opportunity to find a copy and read it.


Classical guitarist Satoshi Makino has toured the world and is at the height of his career when he first lays eyes on journalist Yoko Komine. Their bond forms instantly. Upon their first meeting, they begin a conversation that will go on for years, with long spells of silence broken by powerful moments of connection. But neither knows enough about love to see it blooming nor has the confidence to make the first move. Will their connection endure, weaving them back together like instruments in a symphony, or will fate lead them apart?

Blending the harmonies of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes and the sensuality of Ian McEwan’s Enduring LoveAt the End of the Matinee is an enchanting and thought-provoking love story. Lauded as the “most beautiful love story of the century”, this bestseller continues to boast a wide range of loving readers.