We released 3 Short Movies on the occasion of publication of “At the End of the Matinee” , the English version of one of Hirano’s representative works.

And this is the continuation of “2. On Staging and Style as an Author“.

Please have a look!

(The transcription)

The future is continually changing the past

As a modern author, I bring to my novel-writing an interest in modernity and modern society. My efforts to understand the present are inevitably based on what happened in the past. This is the order that my thoughts move in. 

I debuted as an author at the end of the 1990s. This was after the Cold War system crumbled  and the world fell into confusion. In Japan, the economic bubble had burst bringing to an end the economic growth that had continued since World War II.  It was in this context of uncertainty about the future, both for the world and for Japan, that I began to write fiction. 

I wanted to find a way to understand the place where I found myself. So I began to trace the course of literary history, beginning with early modern Europe and proceeding to present-day Japan. My early work moved from fifteenth-century France, to nineteenth-century France, to late nineteenth-century Japan. In this way, I reflected on the present by tracing back the processes of history to early modernity. As I did so, I came to understand for myself how past events gave rise to aspects of the present. 

However, when this perspective is taken to its logical conclusion, it entails that all present conditions are necessary consequences of the past. This then becomes a constant obstacle whenever you consider some action for the future.  

For example, you might propose taking a new approach on the basis of some new idea. Then someone might reject this idea, claiming that the changes it requires in the present  are too difficult to bring about, because of some past chain of events. Japanese society has been a typical example of this. The more that understanding of the past has deepened, the more firmly the status quo has been asserted.

This applies to our individual histories as well. A certain pop theory of trauma has spread through society and many people have convinced themselves that who they are in the present is the result of traumatic childhood experiences. Such thinking may have a certain persuasiveness. However, if you fall into an endless cycle of thinking that aspects of who you are now are the result of specific events in the past, you can become trapped  in the cause-and-effect relationship between past and present. Then you may be unable to move on to the next stage in life. I have seen people end up in this situation. 

But if you are holding yourself back in this way, you can instead consider what you truly want the future to be and how the future ought to be, and only think about your present actions on this basis. This is an alternative perspective available to us. Instead of thinking that the present is how it is because of how the past was, you learn to see how the present ought to be because of how the future ought to be. I think this is most strikingly crucial when it comes to the problem of climate change. We could come up with endless explanations for how past chains of events led to the present. But if we are to think about our progress into the future, we need to consider what must be done now.

I was trying to reflect on the present in this way, in the context of these temporal axes, namely past, present, and future, when I came to another realization that made me reconsider the past: the past is not as stable as we like to believe. 

For example, history is always changing due to the latest research. Many historical facts of today are very different from what we learned in our teens. The idea that the past is not necessarily stable, in the way it has been passed down and recorded, is shared by historical revisionism, which attempts to use that to its advantage and falsify past events to suit its purposes. In other words, the past is vulnerable and fragile.

Even if you believe from personal experience that some event in the past determined who you are now, someone else who witnessed it may you tell you that it happened differently. Upon receiving such new information, your view of that past may change dramatically. Or there may have been something you could not accept as a child but as you grow into adulthood your view of your parents’ attitude may shift, and you may reevaluate what happened. I think that many people have experienced their own past changing in this way. 

In other words, we are stuck on the idea that the past cannot be changed when in fact future events are changing the past all the time. I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing. There are both positive and negative sides. For example, there is historical revisionism, as I mentioned. But for people who have been hurt by a serious event believing that what happens from present to future has a chance of changing the past may offer hope.

As a lover of European and classical music, when I listen to a composition with a form such as a fugue, I appreciate how the progression of each movement gradually changes the theme and other, earlier parts of the composition that I listened to already. This reveals the deep connection between music and how the future changes the past. 

Many extremely complex issues are tangled up in this novel, but the central theme maintained throughout is that the future changes the past. Many readers of this novel have said that they found this aspect particularly moving. I was also very happy with this while writing it and when it was complete.


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.