Natsume Sōseki, one of the premier novelists of modern Japan, was the literary name of Natsume Kinnosuke. Born in Tokyo, he spent his early childhood with two foster families before returning to his own family at the age of nine. As a student he excelled in both Chinese and English, entering the First Upper Middle School in 1888 and then proceeding (as was often the case) to Tokyo University in 1890.
The highly strung Sōseki graduated from Tokyo University, where he majored in English, in 1893, and while studying in the graduate school began teaching part-time at Tokyo Higher Normal School. In 1894 he abruptly accepted a job as an English teacher at Matsuyama (Shikoku) Middle School, moving to the Fifth Higher School in Kumamoto in 1895. He stayed here even after his marriage in 1896 until he was sent to England for two years on a government scholarship in 1900. Life in England for Sōseki was unpleasant, to say the least, and he returned to Tokyo in 1893 resolved never to go back. In April of the same year he was appointed lecturer at both the First Higher School and Tokyo University.
Sōseki, however, was dissatisfied with teaching, and the largely unexpected success of his early novels - including the lightly satirical Wagahai wa neko de aru (I Am a Cat, 1905-06) and Botchan (1906) - prompted him to give up his post in 1907 and join the Asahi Shimbun as the editor of its literary page. All of his subsequent serialized novels appeared in the newspaper's pages. The tone of these novels, beginning with Sanshirō (1908), Sorekara (And Then, 1909), and Mon (1910), was much darker than in Sōseki's previous fiction, many of the central characters belonging to what Donald Keene has called Sōseki's "gallery of self-torturing heroes." Some readers find the bleakness more than they can stomach, but several of these later works have a poignancy that is quite affecting, and one, Kokoro (1914), can be said to represent the legacy of a generation of Meiji intellectuals.
Sōseki suffered severe ulcer attacks beginning in 1910, after completing Mon. He came very close to death that year when he vomited a large quantity of blood while on a recuperative visit to the hot-spring resort of Shūzenji, in Izu. Sōseki's physical distress was further attended by profound marital disharmony. He continued to write and lecture, producing his last complete (and first autobiographical) novel Michikusa (Grass on the Wayside) in 1915, but succumbed to ulcer complications in 1916 before he could complete Meian (Light and Darkness).
The Eldritch Press Natsume Soseki Home Page: This site contains the complete text of Edwin McClellan's translation of Kokoro (with the permission of Regnery Gateway, which owns the copyright). It can also be downloaded as a ZIP compressed file. Some links are listed, but they date from 2000 and are mostly broken.
The Museum Meiji-Mura: This site includes a photograph of the house shared (at different times) by both Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki in Tokyo, now relocated to this outstanding open-air architectural museum in Aichi Prefecture. The photograph can be found in the list on this page.
The Soseki Museum in London: A site in Japanese devoted primarily to Sōseki's (dismal, according to some) two-year stay in England, with pictures of various artifacts and short explanations attached. Photographs of the lodging houses in which Sōseki stayed are also available. A previously promised English site never materialized, and the Japanese site is marred by a garish and confusing layout. A more inviting, if briefer, introduction to Sōseki's London Blue-Plaque lodging can actually be found at London-Go.com.
Short biographies of modern writers, with more detailed accounts in some cases. Where extra information has been provided, it is classified in up to four categories: life, translations, studies (mostly book-length or chapter-length in size), and weblinks.
Although personal judgments are sometimes included, much of the content is culled from such common, useful, and inexpensive reference sources as Shakaijin no tame no kokugo hyakka (Everyone's Encyclopedia of the Japanese Language, published by Taishūkan Shoten), Shinshōsetsu kokugo benran (Illustrated Handbook of the Japanese Language, Newly Revised and Updated, published by Tōkyō Shoseki), and--yes--the Japanese version of Wikipedia. The Shinchō Nihon-bungaku jiten has occasionally been consulted for purposes of verification and amplification.