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Published by hermestrismegistus
apanese novel
apanese novel

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Published by: hermestrismegistus on Jul 07, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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KOKORO (The Mind)
I first became acquainted with Sensei one summer at Kamakura. I call him Sensei (Teacher) for the simplereason that this is the way I used to address him. In fact, this seems more natural to me than to refer tohim by his surname.Subsequently, upon my return to Tokyo, I had numerous occasions to visit him at his home. I also met his beautiful wife. Once every month Sensei went to the cemetery at Zôshigaya to pray for the soul of adeparted friend who had been buried there. Why he did so and who this dead friend was, he did not tellme. " I am a lonely man," he said, and smiled in a wistful sort of way.Sensei was a college-bred man. To me, a college student, this fact was easily discernible. Yet, though hewas a man possessed of an amazing talent, somehow he had not taken an active part in the affairs of hiscontemporary world. As one, however, who was constant to a single individual without saying much, heseemed to me greater by far than the great professors who served as my academic instructors. He said: "Love is a sin, and it is sacred." Again : " You should not place too deep a trust in me. " Though I could notunderstand what precisely he meant by these sayings, my acquaintance with him and his family graduallyripened, in the meantime, into a warm friendship.When my father, who suffered from a kidney ailment, grew worse and I decided to make a short visit tomy native province, Sensei spoke to me kindly, suggesting many precautionary measures to be takenagainst the disease. My father's condition, however, did not prove to be serious. When I returned to TokyoI found that the time set for submitting my graduation thesis had almost expired. For the preparation of this thesis, also, I received much guidance and instruction from Sensei.Fortunately I was able to graduate from the university. I then returned to my native province, though of course it was not with the intention of living permanently in the country, but for the purpose of reportingthe fact of my graduation and of inquiring after my father's condition.
My father was in better spirits than I had anticipated. He attended to such matters as deciding the day onwhich my graduation party should be given. But before that day had yet arrived, something very graveindeed occurred : the reported illness of the Emperor Mciji. This event, which was quickly made knownthroughout Japan through the newspapers, had the effect of dissipating all thoughts of a mere graduation party in a country home, like specks of dust blown away by a great gust of wind. " I think we shouldforego our plans out of deference to the Emperor," said my father. He remained silent after that and
seemed to contemplate his own illness. Every day he waited for the newspaper to arrive and was the firstto read it. " Here ! Read this," he would say. " The paper is again full of reports to-day about the Tenshi-sama. " My father always referred to the Emperor as Tenshi-sama (literally, Son of Heaven). " It is anirreverent thing to say, but the Tenshi-sama's illness is probably similar to mine, don't you think ? "My father's spirits gradually declined. And when the Emperor's demise was reported, he held thenewspaper in his hand and said: " Oh! Oh! The Tenshi-sama has at last left for another world. Myself, too.... " He did not finish the sentence.After that my father had frequent fainting spells. There was no hope for him. All our relatives weresummoned and kept vigil at his bedside. I had meanwhile written to Sensei every day, without fail,regarding my father's condition. And in order to set the members of my family at ease, I also wrote,asking him — though I knew this was an unreasonable request — to assist me in securing a position.Sensei's reply did not arrive for a long time. Finally a letter came,a thick, voluminous one. It containednothing in the nature of an answer to my request. It dealt with something far more important. I withdrewfor a brief interval from my father's room, where a crisis seemed to arrive at any moment, and was aboutto glance through the letter when of a sudden I turned to the last paragraph and received a great shock. Itsaid : " By the time this letter reaches you I shall no longer be of this world. I shall already be dead."My father, to me, was a father in the physical sense. But Sensei was my spiritual father. The spirit of thatlonely Sensei, though I could not fathom it, had challenged my mind ; had even penetrated deeply into myheart. And this was the man who had chosen to seek sudden death. The things he had said which I couldnot grasp and their seeming association with something dark in his own past, were, to me, entirelyirrelevant now. All that mattered, and concerning which I wanted to know, was his immediate welfare. Iran like mad to the railway station. I scribbled a note to my mother on a scrap of paper, against the wall of the station, and leaped upon a train bound for Tokyo, leaving my father who was nearing his end, and began once more, from the beginning, to read Sensei's letter. The contents were as follows:
Since you have declared that you wish, in all seriousness, to acquire knowledge that springs from lifeitself, I should like to relate to you my past. I am going to fling upon your head, in all frankness, the dark shadows of that life. But you must not be afraid. Concentrate upon the dark things and grasp somethingwhich might possibly serve as future guidance to you.I lost my parents before I reached the age of twenty. Both died of typhoid fever. My uncle undertook toarrange all the subsequent details, and I left for Tokyo, where I entered a higher school. When I returnedto my native province for the first time during a summer vacation, I found that my uncle and his wife hadmoved into my own dwelling house, which had been vacant since my parents passed away. They gave mea warm reception, and I spent a very happy summer there. The following summer was the same. At thattime my uncle suggested that I marry his daughter, who was my younger cousin. But since my cousin andI had been close chums since childhood days, I could not feel toward her, no matter how I tried toentertain the idea, as one should toward one's wife. I therefore went back to Tokyo without promising, atthe time, to marry her. The third time I visited my native province, which was the summer after that, Ifound that my uncle's attitude toward me had undergone a complete change. Not only he, but all themembers of his family assumed a front which, to me, seemed singularly queer.Alone I went to kneel before the graves of my father and mother. My private world underwent a strangemetamorphosis. My uncle now used artifice in making me marry his daughter and attempted, besides, toappropriate the fortune which my late parents had bequeathed to me. Inevitably I quarrelled with him.
Then, taking with me what little was remaining from my legacy, I left for Tokyo, determined that never again would I return to my home province.I next arranged to lodge with the family of a soldier who had died in war, in their house in Koishikawadai.This household consisted of the Mistress (the widow), her beautiful daughter, and a maid. Since I now feltthat I could no longer rely upon others, it seemed impossible for me to get into terms of harmoniousfellowship with this family. But the Mistress praised me, saying I was sedate and self 
possessed. She alsosaid I was a studious person.Her attitude made me feel at ease. The hostile feeling toward people which I had acquired through myuncle gradually subsided within me, and I began to cultivate a closer friendship with the family, even tothe extent of sharing amusing stories with the daughter. I confided to them about my past, received their sympathy, and was treated by the Mistress as though I were a relative of the family. It was all very pleasant. But, on the other hand, I began to feel suspicious of the Mistress, thinking that perhaps she wasdevoting her efforts towards getting me into closer intimacy with her daughter, with intentions similar tothose of my uncle. Nevertheless, I did not want to suspect the girl herself. On the contrary, I found myself becomingincreasingly disturbed over her, losing my self-possession and entering into a state of excitement. Oncethe three of us went out together to do some shopping, and the next day I was made the object of some bantering by my friends.I reported this to the Mistress. I even thought of going one step further by telling her about my feelingtoward her daughter, but in the end I could not manage to say it, and let the opportune moment slip by.My relations with the Mistress and her daughter were in this state when it became necessary that another young man should enter into the situation. If he had not crossed my path, there would probably have beenno necessity for my writing you a lengthy epistle. Let me here call this young man simply as K. K. had been my close friend since childhood days. As a matter of fact, it was I who had brought him, against hiswill, to lodge at this house.K. was the son of a Buddhist priest of the Shin Sect. For certain reasons he was adopted by a physicianand had expected to study in Tokyo in order to become a physician himself. But that did not suit his taste.He changed to a special study of religious philosophy. For this he was driven out of his adopted familyand suffered also the discontinuance of his school allowances from his legitimate home. He thus became anight school teacher and attended the university during the day. His subsequent mode of life was sowretched and pathetic that, since I had a small sum remaining from my legacy, I induced him to come tolive at my house and secretly paid for his board.He was inclined to silence. Further, he deliberately chose to pursue the sort of existence which involvedhardship and inconvenience, in order — so he said — to discipline his will. Having been reared in theBuddhist dogma, it is probable that he even went to the extent of lashing his body so that his soul mightrise to greater splendour and brilliance. The Mistress said he was a man with a personality that was quiteinaccessible.Yet, in the meantime, K. became friendly with the member of the household. The daughter, particularly,held frequent chats with him in his room. To me, moved as I was with the intense desire to take exclusive possession of her, this turn of events was somewhat disconcerting. Yet it was I who brought him to live inthis house, against his wish. The irony of it all made me suffer all the more.At last the catastrophe came. In that grave and solemn manner of his, he one day bared his love for her. Iwas stunned — to think that he had beaten me out! ... But this was not all. I was completely overcome bythe favourable circumstances of his case, so that I even felt a sense of fear in my heart — the fear arisingfrom a recognition of the fact that he had a better record than me at the university and that even his ardour was greater than mine.As to his love, however, he had confided it to no one else. It was several days afterwards that I finallythought of giving utterance to my accumulated feelings in a counter-attack. I asked him how he expected

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