To the Spring Equinox and Beyond

BOOK: To the Spring Equinox and Beyond
7.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

To the Spring Equinox and Beyond

Sōseki Natsume
(1867-1916) is widely considered the foremost novelist of the Meiji period (1868-1914). After graduating from Tokyo Imperial University in 1893, he taught high school before spending two years in England on a Japanese government scholarship. He returned to lecture in English literature at the university. Numerous nervous disorders forced him to give up teaching in 1908 and he became a full-time writer for the
Asahi Shimbun.
His nine major novels of which this was the sixth, thus appeared first in the columns of the
Today, Sōseki's novels still enjoy immense popularity in Japan, and contemporary Japanese writers continue to be affected by his work.

Sanford Goldstein,
Professor Emeritus of Purdue University, USA, and Professor Emeritus of Keiwa College in Japan, holds a Ph.D from the University of Winconsin. He spent most of his working life at Purdue University, but also held positions at Niigata University and Nagasaki University. After his retirement from Purdue in 1992, he spent 11 years at Keiwa College. He is currently a visiting researcher at Keiwa Liberal Arts Research Institute. Professor Goldstein is a gifted
poet and founding editor of
Five Lines Down,
the influential American
magazine, and has had two recent anthologies dedicated to him. He has translated several classics of modem Japanese literature.

The late Professor
Kingo Ochiai
was a graduate of Tokyo University. He worked for many years at Niigata University in the Department of English, where he retired Professor Emeritus. While colleagues at Niigata, Goldstein and Ochiai collaborated on several translations, including
The Wild Geese and To the Spring Equinox and Beyond.

To the Spring Equinox and Beyond

by Sōseki Natsume

Translated from the Japanese
by Kingo Ochiai and Sanford Goldstein

Boston • Rutland, Vermont • Tokyo

Published by Tuttle Publishing, an imprint of Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd

Copyright in Japan © 1985 Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.

First edition, 1985
Published under ISBN 0-8048-1490-2

LCC Card No. 85-051628
ISBN: 978-1-4629-0487-7 (ebook)

Distributed by

Tuttle Publishing
Yaekari Building, 3rd Floor
5-4-12 Osaki, Shinagawa-ku
Tokyo 141-0032 Tel: (03) 5437 0171; Fax: (03) 5437 0755
Email: [email protected]

North America, Latin America & Europe
Tuttle Publishing, 364 Innovation Drive
North Clarendon, VT 05759-9436
Tel: (802) 773 8930; Fax: (802) 773 6993
Email: [email protected]

Berkeley Books Pte. Ltd.
61 Tai Seng Avenue #02-12, Singapore 534167
Tel: (65) 6280 1330; Fax: (65) 6280 6290
Email: [email protected]

04 06 08 09 07 05
1 3 5 7 8 6 4 2

Printed in Singapore

Table of Contents

To the Spring Equinox and Beyond
After a Bath
   page 9
At the Streetcar Stop
   page 39
The Report
   page 132
A Rainy Day
   page 169
Sunaga's Story
   page 191
Matsumoto's Account
   page 281
   page 313
Translators' Afterword
   page 317
   page 329

To the Spring Equinox and Beyond (Higan-sugi made)
first appeared in serial form in the
Asahi Shimbun
from January to April, 1912. Like most of Soseki Natsume's works, this novel is still in print in various forms in Japan today. The subdivisions of the titled sections of the novel, separated in this translation by asterisks, represent the installments in the original serialization.

To the Spring Equinox and Beyond

  After a Bath

For some days past Keitaro had been wearing himself out running around in search of a job without finding anything promising. If it had simply been a matter of scurrying here and there, he knew his strong physique could have easily carried him through. But as he was baffled time and again by opportunities that had seemed favorable, yet which suddenly became entangled and were brought to a standstill or which somehow slipped away just as he was stretching out his hand to unravel the situation, he found his mind failing him sooner than his body.

One night at supper, half out of spite, he drank several bottles of beer even though he didn't really want to, merely hoping to induce in himself as much pleasure as he could. But no amount of beer could dispel the consciousness that he was attempting to be cheerful, as it were, in another's apparel, so he called in the maid to have the supper things removed.

"Tagawa-san!" she cried out, glancing at his face, this followed by "Oh, heavens, Tagawa-san!"

Passing his hand over his face, Keitaro said, "Red, isn't it? It's too precious a color to keep this long under an electric lamp. I'd better get to bed. Please make it up for me." Warding off another remark from the maid, he went out into the hallway. After washing up, he slid into bed, muttering to himself that he would rest a few days.

He woke twice during the night, once from thirst, once from a dream. When he opened his eyes a third time, the day was dawning. As soon as he was aware of the world being astir, he said to himself, "Rest, rest," and again dozed off. He was next awakened by the boarding-house clock rudely striking the hour into his ear. To sleep after that was impossible no matter how hard he tried. Giving up, he smoked until the ashes of the half-finished cigarette dropped onto his white pillowcase. Still he resolved not to leave his bed. But the bright sun came through the eastern window, the rays giving him a slight headache. At last he yielded, got up, and went over to the public bathhouse, a toothbrush in his mouth, a towel in his hand.

It was just after ten by the bathhouse clock. All the wooden buckets in the bath area were piled on one side. No one was there except a man whose profile could be seen in the tub. He was idly dabbing his hands in the water as he looked at the sunlight coming through the windowpanes. It turned out to be Morimoto, who lived in Keitaro's boardinghouse. Keitaro's "Good morning" was returned, the other adding, "Say, you've got a toothbrush in your mouth at this late hour. That accounts for there being no light in your room last night, doesn't it?"

"My light was on all evening. Mine's a clean life— unlike yours. You know very well I seldom go out on the town at night."

"Right. You're a man of exemplary conduct, so much so I envy you."

Keitaro felt slightly embarrassed by this. Morimoto, his body below the midriff immersed in the bath, still kept dabbing at the water, his face rather serious.

Keitaro, looking at each drenched hair of the man's moustache drooping down on his carefree face, said, "Let's forget about me. What's wrong with you? Aren't you going to work today?"

"It's a holiday," Morimoto answered, his elbows languidly on the rim of the tub, his forehead down on them as if he were suffering from a headache.

"What for?"

"Oh, for nothing in particular. One I'm taking on my own."

Keitaro felt as if unexpectedly he had found someone of his own sort. He cried out, "So you're taking a day off too!"

"That's right," Morimoto replied, still leaning over the rim of the tub.

Not until Keitaro stood before a wooden bucket and the bathman began washing his back did Morimoto emerge from the water, his body so red that steam rose from it. He squatted on the floor, an expression of exquisite comfort on his face. Looking in admiration at Keitaro's muscular body, he said, "That's quite a physique you've got!"

"It's gotten worse lately."

"Hardly. If you call yours worse, mine's . . ." Morimoto drew Keitaro's attention to his stomach, slapping it with his hand. His belly had so caved in that it seemed drawn toward his back. "My job, you know," he observed, "makes it worse and worse. Though I've aggravated it by a good deal of intemperance." He then burst into a laugh as though he had suddenly remembered something.

"How about one of your old stories?" Keitaro suggested, his voice attuned to the other's laugh. "It's been quite a while since I've heard one. I have lots of free time today."

"Certainly," Morimoto replied, but while he showed briskness in response, he was quite slow to move. Or rather, it was a temporary suspension of activity caused by the boiling of his muscles in the hot water.

While Keitaro rubbed his soaped head, the soles of his feet, and the roots of his toes, Morimoto remained seated on the floor, showing no sign of washing any part of his anatomy. At last he flung his emaciated body into the heated water again, and at about the same time as Keitaro, he got up to dry off.

"Sometimes it's nice to have a bath in the morning, when the water's clean," Morimoto said.

"Yes, especially for you, since you take it not to wash yourself, but just to be in hot water—I mean, not for any practical purpose but merely for the pleasure of bathing."

"I'm not that particular when I bathe; I just couldn't be bothered washing up when I come in the morning. Whether in or out of water, I'm idle. Compared to me, you're three times more industrious. You wash from head to toe and leave no part untouched. You even brush your teeth! I'm impressed by your thoroughness."

They left the bathhouse together. Morimoto wanted to buy a roll of writing paper from a shop on a nearby street, and Keitaro thought he might as well go along. Turning east at the corner of the side street, they found the main road in bad condition. With a kind of contempt over the traces of mud kneaded and splattered by horses and vehicles and pedestrians that had trampled the dirt soaked by last night's rain, the two walked on. The sun was high overhead, but the vapor rising from the earth still seemed to be drawing its waves on the horizon.

"A pity," Morimoto said, "that a late riser like you missed the sights we had early this morning. The sun was high, but there was a thick mist. You could make out all the streetcar passengers distinctly silhouetted like shadows on a screen. With the sunlight behind them, each looked like a grayish monster. It was the funniest sight, really extraordinary."

Morimoto went into the stationer's, leaving Keitaro waiting, and soon came back out, his hand keeping the envelopes and rolled writing paper from falling out of the front of his kimono. The two retraced their steps and returned to their boardinghouse, where they climbed the two flights of stairs to their floor, the padded sound of their slippers audible. Keitaro opened the
to his room and invited Morimoto in.

"But it's nearly lunchtime," Morimoto said, showing none of the hesitation his words implied and following Keitaro in as easily as if the room were his own. "You've got a fine view all the time," he commented as he opened the
window and put his wet towel on the wooden railing outside.

Keitaro had long been curious about this person who went to Shimbashi Station every day and who seldom fell ill despite his emaciated body. Over thirty and still a bachelor living in a boardinghouse, he was working at the station, but what he was in charge of or what actual work he was engaged in was all a blank to Keitaro, for he had never asked Morimoto about it, nor had the other mentioned it. When Keitaro occasionally went to the station to see someone off, he was too busy among the crowds even to associate the place with Morimoto, and there were no instances when Morimoto came into view to remind Keitaro of his existence. Their acquaintance was merely one which had begun by exchanges of greetings and talk on everyday topics simply because of their lodging in the same house for a long time or because of a mutual sympathy shared by such men.

This being their relationship, Keitaro's curiosity about Morimoto was perhaps less in terms of Morimoto's present state of affairs than his past. He had once heard from Morimoto about his having been an honest husband whose wife had given birth to a child who had later died. Keitaro still remembered being amused by the words the other had spoken at the time: "I guess you could say that my kid's death rescued me—I was in great fear, you know, of my
curses." Keitaro had not even known what a
was. Morimoto informed him, "It's only 'mountain god' pronounced in the Chinese way." In recollecting what Morimoto had told him, Keitaro felt the man's past had in it a touch of romanticism which emitted a light as mysterious as a comet's tail.

In addition to anecdotes about women joined to or separated from him, Morimoto was the hero of various adventures. Apparently he had not yet gone seal hunting with a gun on Kaihyo Island, but it seemed certain he had once made a fortune from salmon fishing somewhere in Hokkaido. And it was undoubtedly a fact, since Morimoto had himself confessed it, that he had started a rumor about a vein of antimony in a mountain in Shikoku from which no antimony had yet been extracted. But the most extraordinary event of all was his plan to establish a company for manufacturing taps. He said he had hit on the idea out of the fact that few craftsmen in Tokyo were making these for sake casks, but to his lasting regret, a quarrel with an artisan he had summoned from Osaka had ruined the entire scheme.

When it came to stories outside his business dealings, he easily proved himself in possession of a rich stock of material. That he saw many a bear taking a nap on its back on rocks in the mountains beyond the upper part of the Chikuma River in Shinano Province was the least extraordinary part of one of his tales. He proceeded to tell a still more unusual story concerning his having been surprised by a blind man climbing to the summit of Mount Togakushi, which is too steep even for ordinary men. A pilgrim aiming to get to the sanctuary at Togakushi Shrine is compelled, no matter how strong his legs, to spend a night on the path. About halfway up, Morimoto was passing the night by a fire he had made to ward off the chill. Suddenly he caught the tinkling sound of a bell below. He was wondering about it as it drew nearer until all at once a blind man appeared. And, what was more, the blind man wished him a good night and went on his way. On being questioned by Keitaro, who found the story a bit unbelievable, Morimoto explained that the blind man had a guide with a bell tied to his belt and that he could follow the route by the sound. Though partly satisfied with this explanation, Keitaro still considered the story rather strange.

BOOK: To the Spring Equinox and Beyond
7.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Dorset Murders by Sly, Nicola;
Slim for Life by Jillian Michaels
Grotesco by Natsuo Kirino
Frontier Justice - 01 by Arthur Bradley
Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke
Vampiro Zero by David Wellington
Lost in Time by Melissa de La Cruz