This project showcases student project work from Japan and the World, a modern Japanese history course offered at Kanda University of International Studies. It focuses on important themes and individuals from the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-26) periods, when Japan was beginning to open to the world after centuries of government-enforced isolation.

All submissions are researched, whether in English or Japanese, and references provided. Comments responding to and exploring ideas, suggesting connections or further reading, are most welcome. As entries are written by non-native English speakers, please refrain from non-constructive comments about language use.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Natsume Soseki

By Satoshi Ui
Natsume Soseki
Natsume Soseki

Soseki (known as Soseki Natsume) was born on 9th of February 1867 and passed away on the 9th of December 1916 at the age of 49. His real name was Kinnosuke (金之助). He had several jobs. He worked as a novelist, critic, and an English literature. But he is mainly famous for writing many novels. For example, his debut work “I am a Cat” (吾輩は猫である) in 1905, then “Botchan” (坊ちゃん) and “Londontou” (倫敦塔), became popular in magazines. He is also famous for being printed on the old 1000 yen bill. During his life, he did not just have a happy life but also was affected by mental problems and many diseases that gave hard time on his jobs.

Firstly, since he was an infant he had tough times in his childhood. His father had a very strong political power, but his family had many problems. For example, his grandpa was addicted to alcoholic and their wealth was slipping into danger but, later on his father strived to fix the problem. Also, his mother bore many children, and Soseki was born as an unwanted child and sent as an adopted child to many houses. However eventually he settled back to his parents’ home. This is when he began to be sick through his life, which had a big effect on his novels that he is going to write in the future.

Secondly, in his university life, he met a man name Masaoka Shiki (14th of October 1867 - 19th of September 1902, at the age of 34) who was famous for writing Chinese poems and haiku. This is when he started to study the haiku and changed his name to “Soseki”. Actually, this name was one of Shiki's pen names but he yield it to Soseki. This is when Shiki guided Soseki into the literature world. After graduating from Teikoku University, as a career he went to some schools and taught as a professor. Later on he decided to go study abroad in the U.K. After 2 years of studying abroad, he wrote his famous maiden work “I am a Cat” in the magazine named “Hototogisu”. After this good literature fame, he announced the new novels one after another.

Thirdly, in the year of 1907, he resigned teaching at school and found a job at the Asahi Newspaper (朝日新聞). From this moment, Soseki began to step toward to a professional author. In the same year of June he started to serialize the work “Gubizinsou” (虞美人草) on part of the newspaper. But, while writing the story he started suffering from “stomach ulcer”. This is when his nightmare began. After he finished the series of “Gubizinsou”, he worked on several novels until the last one “Meian” (明暗), that he could not complete. But, during his job he suffered from the stomach ulcer and nervous breakdown several times. He also broke some promises with the doctor about his health, for example, eating the jam that he loved or a lot of oily food.

Finally, I will explain about his great legacy and conclusion. Because of his complicated childhood, his thoughts and ideas were different from others. This happened to change his life. In the literature congress, he is famous for creating original Japanese words. For example, the word for “various” in Japanese came out “iroiro” (色々) which means “many colors” if you translate it directly. Also, this is very famous as a romantic sentences that he translated “I love you” into “Tsukiga-kireidesune” (月が綺麗ですね), which means that you are beautiful as a moon. By these examples, you can see that he is a talented person for creating new words. He is also famous for writing himself in his novels. He sometimes described the diseases and the situation that he was in to the readers too. These kinds of techniques are used a lot in the novels that are read in the present day. It makes us have attention and interest in a lot of books.


Wikipedia-Natume Soseki

Retrieved on 23/07/2013