By: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Vintage Books London
Year of Publication: 2003
Pages: 309

The date is Monday 20 March, 1995. It is a beautiful clear spring morning. There is still a brisk breeze and people are bundled up in coats. Yesterday was Sunday, tomorrow is the Spring equinox, a national holiday. Sandwiched right in the middle of what should have been a long weekend, you're probably thinking "I wish I didn't have to work today." No such luck. You get up at the normal time, wash, dress, breakfast, and head for the subway station. You board the train, crowded as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. It promises to be a perfectly run-of-the-mill day. Until five men in disguise poke at the floor of the carriage with the sharpened tips of their umbrellas, puncturing some plastic bags filled with a strange liquid... 

This is a true story behind an act of terrorism that turned an average Monday morning into a national disaster. The novelist Haruki Murakami interviews the victims to try and establish precisely what happened on the subway that day. He also interview members and ex-members of the doomsday cult responsible, Aum Shinrikyo, in the hope that they might be able to explain the reason for the attack and how it was that their guru, Shoko Asahara, instilled such devotion in his followers. 

Murakami hoped that through these interviews, he could capture aside of the attacks which the Japanese media had ignored, the way it had affected average citizens. The interviews were conducted over nearly a year, from January 1996 and ending on December 1996. Sixty victims of the attacks and descriptions of how the attack were carried out along with Murakami's essay Blind Nightmare: Where are We Japanese Going? and the interviews with eight members of Aum are packed in this book.

This big disaster once appeared on many Japanese newspapers. Instead of telling about the condition of the victims, they focus more on blaming the cult. This Tokyo gas attack left only twelve people dead, but thousands were injured and many suffered serious after-effects. Murakami tells more. The disaster doesn't stop there. Some people  suffer of little harm, some lose their memories, others have to face post traumatic stress disorders and  also some are still undergoing therapy for serious health problems. These conditions make some of them lose their jobs and permanent handicap. 

These interviews bring many thoughts. First I admire the Japanese, even when the subway workers announced that there had been a released of poison gas, there was no general panic and many people seemed to have been thinking much more about getting to work rather than worrying about their personal health. They're really hard workers. Perhaps this situation also related to Japan as a very safe country, not the sort of place where terrorist attacks happen.

To see the situation from both sides, Murakami also interviewed the Aum members and attended several trials of the defendants. He wanted to come to some of understanding of who they were and what they were thinking now.  

The point is we never know what will happen to us. Even in such a beautiful day like that Monday, 20 March, 1995, a horrible thing might happen. Instead of blaming the cult members or their guru and feeling confused how on earth such educated people could devote themselves in that cult, we'd better look at ourselves. Let's just contemplate for a moment. Everyone has his/her reason. Everything happens for a reason.