Kokoro/Soseki Natsume

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Kokoro is an excellent novel though it is short!

Kokoro is Japanese famous novel written by Soseki Natsume in 1914. Kokoro means heart, mind, mental, feeling or spirit in English. Kokoro is the best-selling book, and has sold a total of 7.1 million copies in Japan. Soseki was going to write a collection of short stories named Kokoro at the beginning. However, he wrote the only first story and published it because the first story called "Teacher's suicide note" ran long. That is written in preface of book.

The general flow of the story of Kokoro as below:
I meet Sensei(means teacher) in Kamakura city. I get along with Sensei, but Sensei does not open his heart because of the secret. The secret is that Sensei betrayed his best friend "K" and K did away with himself. Sensei writes a suicide note which says his secret and die by his own hand.

Most Japanese have read Kokoro because it appears in school text books. Many Japanese literature teachers teach a struggle between friendship and egoism by extracting a passage from it in class. The reason of Sensei's suicide tends to be expiation or atonement in class. Many people also think Sensei kills himself in compensation for K's death after reading Kokoro.

However, Sensei says the reason of suicide is losing spirit of Meiji era. It is said that spirit of Meiji era is feudal morality or Confucian ethics. People who have them should place importance on loyalty and norms of society. Spirit of Meiji era fade into the Western thnking and feeling in Taisho era after Meiji era. Western thinking place importance on individual liberty, rights and benefit. Soseki wrote such a historical backdrop.

That is a difficult thing to forgive for Sensei because he experienced betrayal and graft by his uncle. However, Sensei betrays his friend K and steals the woman K likes. Sensei falls into temptaion based on capitalism. In capitalism, things which many people want are very valuable. Sensei feels his spirit of Meiji era fade out, and kills himself.

On the other hand, some people think Soseki discribed modern people and loneliness. Myself is the most imporant thing for modern people in the present era. Myself consists self‐consciousness and ego. People who has strong self‐consciousness and ego cannot believe and accept others, they also cannot open their mind to others.

Sensei carries around worries on my own, and cannot open his heart because of his strong self‐consciousness. K's strong ego collapsed when the woman he like is stolen, and he kills himself because of feeling loneliness. Soseki descibed individualism which consists individual liberty and rights has some problem through Sensei and K.

Kokoro is an excellent novel though it is short. The scene of Kokoro is laid in Zaimokuza beach and Yuigahama beach of Kamakura city. You should go there if you like Kokoro.