By Natsume Soseki; Haruki Murakami (intr.)

Natsume Soseki's simply coming-of-age novel, Sanshiro depicts the eponymous twenty-three-year-old protagonist as he leaves the sleepy nation-state to wait a college within the continuously relocating "real international" of Tokyo. Baffled and all in favour of the site visitors, the lecturers, and-most of all-the girls, Sanshiro needs to locate his approach one of the sophisticates that fill his new lifestyles. An incisive social and cultural remark, Sanshiro is additionally a refined portrait of old flame, culture, and modernization, and the idealism of sweet sixteen opposed to the cynicism of center age.

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Soon I found myself having to reread my books. And when I had no more books left to read a second time, I started reading the books that remained in my wife’s bookcase. She had majored in Japanese literature, so she owned quite a number of books I had never read. Among them were two sets of “Complete Works” that piqued my curiosity: one belonging to the poet Miyazawa Kenji (1896–1933) and the other the Complete Works of Natsume Sōseki. My wife had originally planned to write her graduation thesis on Miyazawa Kenji.

Sōseki and Tanizaki, though, were not so bad. And so it came about that the novels of Sōseki and Tanizaki always bring back to me scenes from my life as a poverty-stricken newly-wed at the age of twenty-two. Our place was cold indoors, and the water in the kitchen sink was usually frozen on winter mornings. The alarm clock was broken, so if I wanted to know the time I had to go peek at the clock out in front of the tobacco shop at the bottom of the hill (I still smoked back then). We had a large window facing south, so at least there was plenty of sunshine coming in, but the National Railways’ Chūō Line ran by just below the window, which made it horribly noisy (on a par with Dan Aykroyd’s apartment next to the elevated railway in the movie Blues Brothers).

He is already twenty-two (twenty-three by Japanese numbering), and as a Meiji period student at Tokyo Imperial University, he is a member of the super-elite, one of those groomed to shoulder the burdens of the nation. How can such a character stay this way, arms folded, vacillating, unable to choose a path through life? ” And yet, quite honestly, that arms-folded, lukewarm life stance of Sanshirō’s that wraps logical and ethical complications in the softest possible emotional cloak is strangely comfortable for me and probably for most Japanese readers.

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