Summary: Kokoro—meaning “heart”—is the story of a subtle and poignant friendship between two unnamed characters, a young man Watashi (“I” in Japanese) and an enigmatic elder whom he calls “Sensei.” Haunted by tragic secrets that have cast a long shadow over his life, Sensei slowly opens up to his young disciple, confessing indiscretions from his own student days that have left him reeling with guilt, and revealing, in the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between his moral anguish and his student’s struggle to understand it, the profound cultural shift from one generation to the next that characterized Japan in the early twentieth century.

“You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egoistical selves.”

I’m a little bit reluctant to call this a review or recommendation because Kokoro is one of the most famous work in modern Japanese literature. It’s like the American’s “To kill a mockingbird.” Still, I’m deeply impressed and movedby Kokoro, kokoroand I’d love to share my opinions! The novel has a film adaptation in 1955 and a less faithful anime adaptation in 2009 (episode 7 -8 in Aoi Bungaku). 

Historical context

I think a little historical background is crucial for this novel. Soseki is considered one of the major author of the 20th century, who is a pioneer in a Western-styled literature. He lives around the time of the Meiji period, which was marked an influx of Western influences including industrialization and culture values. The cultural and economic revolution in the Meiji era marked the beginning of modernization. Kokoro was published two years after the Meiji Emperor has died.Read More »