(ŚĚä„Ā£„Ā°„āÉ„āď) is a novel
written by Natsume SŇćseki
in 1906. It is considered to be
one of the most popular novels in Japan, read by
most Japanese during their childhood.
The central theme of the story
The time point the narrator is settled at is not given. It is also
notable that pronouns are omitted
in the first nine paragraphs.
The story is based on the author's personal experience as a teacher
being transferred to Matsuyama
, which sets
the stage for this novel. Natsume was born in Tokyo, and
dwelling in Matsuyama was his first experience living
The novel reflects his feelings during that
- Botchan: the hero of this novel. Born in Tokyo, he has the
spirit of an Edokko. He graduates from
the Tokyo Academy of Physics, currently Tokyo University of Science, and
becomes a mathematics teacher. His defining characteristics are
common sense and a strong moral grounding.
- Yamaarashi (Porcupine): A fellow teacher. Yamaarashi is the
nickname for a teacher by the name of Hotta, born in Aizu. Yamaarashi has a great, samurai-like sense of justice.
- Akashatsu (Redshirt): Another fellow teacher and Doctor of
Literature. He is the typical intellectual. He represents the
continental European intellectual tradition, in its modern form, as
it drifts toward collectivism (socialism and communism (thus the
red shirt)) and relativism/nihilism. He speaks of morals but is
Machiavellian and immoral. A
rumormonger who for a short time was able to deceive even Botchan.
The battle for the heart and mind of Botchan between Yamaarashi and
Akashatsu represents the social and political tensions existing in
Japan at the turn of the last century. Soseki clearly rejects
Akashatsu. Soseki himself was a Doctor of English Literature
graduated from Tokyo University and later wrote that "if I were to
assign an actual person to every fictional character that appears
in Botchan, then Akashatsu would have to be me." He also wrote,
"The development of modern Japan must be seen as an on-the-surface
phenomenon" and worried that Japan was absorbing European culture
at a shallow and elitist level as represented by the character of
- Nodaiko (The Clown): Art teacher. Nodaiko is a Tokyoite, like
Botchan. He prides himself on his good taste but follows others
without much thought, which earns him Botchan's contempt.
- Uranari (Green pumpkin): Uranari is a very melancholic, but
refined, gentleman. Botchan looks up to him. Most agree that
Uranari, or some combination of Uranari and Botchan, is Soseki's
ideal of contemporary Japan.
- Tanuki (The Raccoon Dog): The principal
of the school where Botchan teaches. He has a very indecisive
- Kiyo: Botchan's servant in Tokyo. Now an
old woman, she took care of him when he was young. She is a fallen
aristocrat, dealing heroically with her new situation.
- Geisha: Woman entertainers, often found
performing Japanese dances at banquets.
- Students at the school: Botchan thinks they are devious, and
they often puzzle him.
- School: the main stage of the novel.
- DŇćgo Onsen: Hot spring where Botchan likes to go.
Thanks in part to the novel, the springs are now a famous
sightseeing spot in Japan.
- Botchan's observations and thoughts about
Matsuyama, on Shikoku, one of the
four main islands of Japan. Botchan lived in the
ultra-modern Tokyo before moving to the traditional Matsuyama, and
is often surprised by their unusual customs.
- The battle for the heart and mind of Botchan between Hotta and
Akashatsu. Will Botchan's common sense and moral grounding become
corrupted by Akashatsu, or will he team up with Hotta to battle the
increasing break from tradition and morals, for purely selfish
gain, that Akashatsu represents? This is the question posed
throughout the novel.
- At the time of the writing of Botchan, Japan was in the midst
of a rapidly accelerating westernization, where traditional
Japanese values and way of life were disappearing, especially in
big cities such as Tokyo. Soseki himself had spent 3 years in
London to study English literature. In his later works, Soseki
seems to imply that the antagonist Akashatsu represents the author
himself; an elitist intellectual who has only a shallow
understanding of European culture, at odds with Japanese values and
Main scenes and events of the novel
- Botchan goes to Matsuyama: Eight days after Botchan graduates
from a college in Tokyo, his principal calls him to his office and
tells Botchan that a middle school in Shikoku needs a mathematics
teacher. The salary is forty yen a month, and Botchan can't think
of anything else he could become other than a math teacher.
- Botchan is disappointed with his new position.
- Fishing: Botchan recognizes that Akashatsu is a devious man
when he and Akashatsu go fishing together.
- Locusts: The students tease Botchan by putting locusts in his
- Uranari's transfer: By abusing his authority, Akashatsu schemes
to and succeeds in transferring Uranari to another school for
Akashatsu's own profit.
- At the end of the novel, revenge: Botchan and Yamaarashi get
revenge on Akashatsu and Nodaiko. Botchan resigns his job and
returns to Tokyo. He finds a job as a tramway engineer.
adapted parts of the
novel into his ten-volume series‚ÄĒpublished in Japan beginning in
1986‚ÄĒcalled The Times of Botchan
in English. Others
translations have appeared in French (Au temps de
), Italian (Ai tempi di Bocchan) and
Spanish (La epoca de Botchan), all published by Coconino
Press. A new translation has also
appeared in Spanish, published by Editorial
Impedimenta. There is also a 1935
film adaptation, as well as an adaptation in the series Animated
Classics of Japanese Literature.
There is an animated adaptation that was released in North America
by Central Park Media
- " New Video Releases." Central Park Media.
February 8, 2003. Retrieved on October 10, 2009.