Japanese novelist Banana Yoshimoto is no stranger to death. The subject of bereavement and how it affects those left behind has often been the starting point of her 12 books - from her acclaimed debut novel, Kitchen, to her latest, The Lake, which was published in English this month. Yoshimoto, her husband and son, who live in Tokyo, are among Japan's population of more than 127.9 million dealing with the after-effects of March 11's magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that hit Tohoku. 'If anything, what happened has strengthened my view of life and death,' she told the South China Morning Post. 'Rather than fate or divine intervention, I believe in the absoluteness of the natural rhythms of the universe. 'What I am exploring in my novels is not the deaths themselves, but the emotional recovery of those who are left behind. In other words, I am interested in the process of healing.' The twin disasters killed more than 15,000 people. Yoshimoto said the immediate concern of Tokyo residents was the risk from radioactive leaks at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant rather than the tsunami, which had not affected them directly. 'Only recently have we been able to truly mourn the losses in Tohoku,' she said. 'I pray those who lost their lives will rest in peace. 'The only good thing to have come out of this disaster was my surge of conviction and confidence in this country after seeing and hearing about the behaviours and attitudes of the victims. They have been so respectable - unlike the sensationalism of the media and the ambiguous responses of the government.' She saw, even at the height of suffering, their national character of hiding emotional pain in public. 'Evidence of strong unity, kindness and strength of the Japanese people on that catastrophic day was among the many moments that impressed me. 'Things will probably be better in the end, for our having lived through this: learning that we can survive being forced to cut back on electricity. Much of Tokyo's dazzling illumination has been turned off, but its people are very calm in spirit. Our long-time assumption that our economy would remain on an upswing indefinitely has been broken. This, too, is a long-awaited wake-up call.'