Why has Tohoku University organized an exhibition at the Embassy?
Prior to the exhibition at the Embassy, Tohoku University held an exhibition at UCL. Last year, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of academic exchange between Japan and the UK, our universities concluded an academic exchange agreement. The exhibition at UCL was a collaborative exercise in the field of humanities between the two university libraries and was also aimed at enhancing the presence and recognition of Tohoku University in the UK. As the Embassy was planning an exhibition to show the influence of the academic and cultural exchange on contemporary Japanese language and culture, Tohoku University was delighted to be able to collaborate with the Embassy. Of course, we would be even more delighted if Tohoku University became more widely known in the UK as a result.
Please tell us about the main exhibits that are included in the exhibition.
Diary of Drifting across the Sea and Diary from England in 1901 were written by Soseki while he was studying in the UK. These diaries are extremely important academic source materials, not only because they describe his student life but also because they contain a number of his unique thoughts on the difference between the Japanese and British societies from his own viewpoint of civilisation theory. In addition, the exhibition contains his research plan and a list of books he purchased as well as a guidebook of London at that time to which he would have referred.
Why have Soseki’s books and belongings on display come to be in Tohoku University’s possession?
Tohoku University and Soseki did not have any direct relationship. However, Komiya Toyotaka (1884-1966), professor of German literature at the University as well as its head librarian, very much admired Soseki’s works and as a result the Soseki collection came to the University between 1943 and March 1944, during World War II. The former residence of Soseki in Tokyo was destroyed in an air raid in March 1945 but the important collection, already safe in Tohoku University, was saved in tact.
What are the features of the Soseki Library owned by Tohoku University?
There are approximately 3000 books in the Soseki collection. In addition, the Soseki Library contains the writer's own diaries and handwritten literature research notes as well as drafts of the novels. There are around 1200 books in Japanese and Chinese, and 1650 non-Japanese ones which include about 500 books that Soseki purchased while studying in the UK. The collection is particularly notable in that a large number of these books contain underlinings and notes by Soseki himself. From these, we can trace Soseki’s thought processes and explore the sources and secrets of his literary creations.
In the Soseki Library, some of the letters the writer addressed to his wife Kyoko during his stay in the UK are included. What do they tell us about the man himself?
In Soseki’s autobiographical novel "Grass on the Wayside” (1915), the main character is reminiscent of Soseki himself who has just returned from studying abroad. The protagonist and his wife, while wanting to show their love for each other, cannot express their feelings frankly face to face. While studying in the UK, Soseki frankly wrote in his letters to Kyoko his feelings for her, such as “I miss you” 「お前のことが恋しい」. In the letter to Kyoko dated 8 March 1901, on display in this exhibition, Soseki reported to her in a somewhat shy manner that he had been told by his British friend who had seen a photograph of Kyoko holding their child that his wife and daughter were extremely lovely 「大変可愛らしいお嬢さんと奥さんだ」.