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Sōseki Natsume

Sōseki Natsume (February 9, 1867-December 9, 1916) was born Natsume Kinnosuke. He is widely known as the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji period. He was a scholar of British literature and a composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales. From 1984 to 2004, his portrait was featured on the Japanese 1000 yen note.

Short Biography

Natsume Kinnosuke was born in Babashita in the Edo region. He was adopted by a childless couple, but after their divorce, he was returned to his biological mother at age 9. However, his mother died only five years later.

While attending First Tokyo Middle School, he was enamored with Chinese literature. He went on to study architecture at Tokyo Imperial University.

In 1887, he met Masaoka Shiki who encouraged him to become a writer. From that point on, he chose the pen name Sōseki which means "stubborn" in Chinese. In 1893, he became a part-time teacher at the Tokyo Normal School while he studied as a graduate student.

Natsume began teaching at Matsuyama Middle School in 1895. During this time, he began publishing his haiku and Chinese poetry.

In 1900, he became the first Japanese English literary scholar and lived in poverty, loneliness, and mental problems while attempting to solify his knowledge of English literature at the University College, London. After his return to Japan, he became a professor of English literature at Tokyo Imperial University.

He died of a stomach ulcer in 1916.

Haiku by Natsume

  • On New Year's Day
  • I long to meet my parents
  • as they were before my birth.
  • The crow has flown away:
  • swaying in the evening sun,
  • a leafless tree.
  • Over the wintry
  • forest, winds howl in rage
  • with no leaves to blow.
  • people of my age -
  • with the passing of years
  • less impurities to cleanse
  • when they strike the bell
  • these gingko leaves are falling -
  • Temple Kencho-ji
  • Now gathering,
  • Now scattering,
  • Fireflies over the river.
  • five-tired waterfall -
  • on each tire there are
  • red maple leaves
  • the dark blue
  • is relaxing at the beginning of autumn -
  • ikat from Iyo
  • the sky I see
  • seems full of
  • magnolia blossoms

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