|Birth Day:||February 9, 1867|
|Death Date:||Dec 9, 1916 (age 49)|
|Birth Place:||Tokyo, Japan|
As per our current Database, Natsume Soseki died on Dec 9, 1916 (age 49).
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Born when his mother was forty years old and already had five children, he was raised for a time by an adoptive family (eventually, he was returned to his birth parents).
Born in 1867 as Natsume Kinnosuke in the town of Babashita in the Edo region of Ushigome (present Kikui, Shinjuku), Sōseki began his life as an unwanted child, born to his mother late in her life, forty years old and his father then fifty-three. When he was born, he already had five siblings. Having five children and a toddler had created family insecurity and was in some ways a disgrace to the Natsume family. A childless couple, Shiobara Masanosuke and his wife, adopted him in 1868 and raised him until the age of nine, when the couple divorced. He returned to his family and was welcomed by his mother although regarded as a nuisance by his father. His mother died when he was fourteen, and his two eldest brothers died in 1887, intensifying his sense of insecurity.
Sōseki attended the First Tokyo Middle School (now Hibiya High School), where he became enamored with Chinese literature, and fancied that he might someday become a writer. His desire to become an author arose when he was about fifteen when he told his older brother about his interest in literature. However, his family disapproved strongly of this course of action, and when Sōseki entered the Tokyo Imperial University in September 1884, it was with the intention of becoming an architect. Although he preferred Chinese classics, he started studying English at that time, feeling that it might prove useful to him in his future career, as English was a necessity in Japanese college.
In 1887, Sōseki met Masaoka Shiki, a friend who would give him encouragement on the path to becoming a writer, which would ultimately be his career. Shiki tutored him in the art of composing haiku. From this point on, he began signing his poems with the name Sōseki, which is a Chinese idiom meaning "stubborn". In 1890, he entered the English Literature department, and quickly mastered the English language. In 1891 he produced a partial English translation of the classical work Hōjōki upon requested by his then English literature professor James Main Dixon. Sōseki graduated in 1893, and enrolled for some time as a graduate student and part-time teacher at the Tokyo Normal School.
In 1895, Sōseki began teaching at Matsuyama Middle School in Shikoku, which became the setting of his novel Botchan. Along with fulfilling his teaching duties, Sōseki published haiku and Chinese poetry in a number of newspapers and periodicals. He resigned his post in 1896, and began teaching at the Fifth High School in Kumamoto. On June 10 of that year, he married Nakane Kyoko.
In 1900, the Japanese government sent Sōseki to study in Great Britain as "Japan's first Japanese English literary scholar". He visited Cambridge and stayed a night there, but gave up the idea of studying at the university because he could not afford it on his government scholarship. He studied instead at University College London (UCL). He had a miserable time in London, spending most of his days indoors buried in books, and his friends feared that he might be losing his mind. He also visited Pitlochry in Scotland, where he lodged with John Henry Dixon at the Dundarach Hotel.
Despite his poverty, loneliness, and mental problems, he solidified his knowledge of English literature during this period and returned to the Empire of Japan in January 1903. In April he was appointed to the First National College in Tokyo. Also, he was given the lectureship in English literature, subsequently replacing Koizumi Yakumo (Lafcadio Hearn) and ultimately becoming a professor of English literature at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he taught literary theory and literary criticism.
Sōseki's literary career began in 1903, when he began to contribute haiku, renku (haiku-style linked verse), haitaishi (linked verse on a set theme) and literary sketches to literary magazines, such as the prominent Hototogisu, edited by his former mentor Masaoka Shiki, and later by Takahama Kyoshi. However, it was the public success of his satirical novel I Am a Cat in 1905 that won him wide public admiration as well as critical acclaim.
He followed on this success with short stories, such as "Rondon tō" ("Tower of London") in 1905 and the novels Botchan ("Little Master"), and Kusamakura ("Grass Pillow") in 1906, which established his reputation, and which enabled him to leave his post at the university for a position with Asahi Shimbun in 1907, and to begin writing full-time. Much of his work deals with the relation between Japanese culture and Western culture. His early works in particular are influenced by his studies in London; his novel Kairo-kō was the earliest and only major prose treatment of the Arthurian legend in Japanese. He began writing one novel a year before his death from a stomach ulcer in 1916.
In the 21st century, there has been a global emergence of interest in Sōseki. Sōseki's Kokoro has been newly published in 10 languages, such as Arabic, Slovenian and Dutch, since 2001. In South Korea, the complete collection of Sōseki's long works began to be published in 2013. In English-speaking countries there has been a succession of English translations since 2008. About 60 of his works have been translated into more than 30 languages. Reasons for this emergence of global interest have been attributed in part to Haruki Murakami who said Sōseki was his favorite writer. Political scientist Kang Sang-jung, who is the principal of Seigakuin University, said, "Soseki predicted the problems we are facing today. He had a long-term view of civilization." He also said, "His popularity will become more global in the future".
In 2016, the centennial of Sōseki's death, Nishogakusha University in Tokyo collaborated with Hiroshi Ishiguro, robotics researcher at Osaka University, to create a robotic android version of Sōseki. Sōseki's grandson, Fusanosuke Natsume, voiced the 130 cm figure which depicted Sōseki at age 45. The robot gave lectures and recitations of Sōseki's works at the university, as a way to engage students' interest in literature.
In 2017, as part of the 150 year commemoration of Sōseki's birth, the Asahi beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art displayed the letter Sōseki had written suggesting names for the villa itself. Sōseki had been on good terms with the owner, Shotaro Kaga, who asked him to name the house. Sōseki died before its completion in 1917. Sōseki's diary was also on display during the exhibition. In June 2019, retired professor Ikuo Tsunematsu reopened the Sōseki Museum, in Surrey, dedicated to the writer's life in the United Kingdom. The museum originally opened in 1982 in London, but closed in 2016 due to high maintenance costs and a decreased rate of attendance. The collection includes over 10,000 items including works in translation, collected books and magazines from Sōseki's stay in London, and census records.
Currently, Natsume Soseki is 155 years, 7 months and 20 days old. Natsume Soseki will celebrate 156th birthday on a Thursday 9th of February 2023.
Find out about Natsume Soseki birthday activities in timeline view here.