Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My second day in Matsuyama, and I have been pondering the friendship between Soseki Natsume. and Shiki Masaoka.

Soseki is the father of modern Japanese literature, and Shiki is the founder of modern Haiku poems.

Shiki was born in Matsuyama, and Soseki came to teach in the city after graduating from University of Tokyo. Soseki based his novel Botchan on his experiences in this southern city on the Shikoku island.

That Soseki and Shiki both went on to achieve great things in literature is not independent of their friendship. Soseki and Shiki knew each other in the preparatory school for the university already. They exchanged views on literature. Soseki wrote many Haiku poems which Shiki read and made comments on. During a particularly intensive period of 50 days, Soseki and Shiki stayed at the same house, now reconstructed in a park in Matsuyama.

The friendship between people of the same sex is one of the most beautiful things in life. Records suggest that Shiki and Soseki were attracted to each other from the beginning, acknowledging the special qualities of the counterpart.

Shiki died at the premature age of 35. Three years later, Soseki wrote his first novel "I am a cat". Shiki had an ambition to be a novelist himself, but his short life under the shadows of tuberculosis did not allow a full development of his aspirations.

One could only imagine how Soseki felt as he looked back on his soul mate, who shared literary ambitions in the youth.

Soseki himself died at the age of 49. His last novel, Mei an (Light and Darkness) , was left unfinished.


砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Come to think of it, we Japanese might have to feel great more about the historical fact Soseki and Shiki were alive in the same period.

The father of modern Japanese literature and the founder of modern Haiku poems were arguing literature and Haiku poems under the same roof. It's almost a miracle.

When Soseki received the sad news of Shiki's death, he was studying in London. At that time, he wrote five pieces of Haiku poetry. One of them is,

(tamukubeki senkou mo nakute kure no aki )

I have no incense stick
to burn to offer for Shiki
in late autmn

(forgive my poor translation, please)

From the era down to now, we the people have been reading Soseki's novels, and have been studying Shiki's Haiku poems.

In that sense, their friendship still exists within our mind...

Anonymous said...

- their friendship still exists within our mind...

I totally agree with you, Mr. Sunayama.


砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Dear, Ms.michiko,

Thank you for your heartwarming comment.

Dr.Mogi's profound essay makes me think so.


Petrusa de Koker said...

...and indeed their friendship exists even further than they may have expected. Mr Sunayama's comment is so true. I do not even know/understand Japanese, but in this last few months I have read up a bit about these two great Japanese literary figures. Through their great legacy, through Ken Mogi's blog and through Mr Sunayama's comments and translation, a little bit of their greatness filtered through to me. That was enough for their friendship to make a big impression on me.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Dear, Petrusa,

Thank you for your kind-hearted comment.

So many books about the two great figues are published in Japan, and you and we can get them on the Internet shopping site.

But, Dr.Mogi's perspective strikes me as most convincing.


Anonymous said...

I think that the relation of Soseki and Shiki is indeed something literary.

Anonymous said...

good point ...