Kumamoto and the Meeting of Two ‘Sosekis’


The year 2016 was the centenary of a great writer of Meiji Era, Soseki Natsume’s passing, and there were many celebrations to commemorate it in year 2016.

One of these events was a stage production titled ‘I Love Kumamoto: 4 Years and 3 Months in the Life of Soseki’ (program details in Japanese). The play revolved around the period of time that Soseki spent as a teacher of the fifth Public High School of Japan (total 8 in Japan) in Kumamoto – these eight national high schools are entry points as prep-schools (and later some became) to Imperial Universities.

You may already know about the happy coincidences that led to the Royal Ballet visiting Kumamoto in the aftermath of the earthquake of 2016, in a show of solidarity, and my getting to know governor Kabashima through this event, and then in turn learning from him about my great-grandfather, Osamu Kurokawa and his friendship with a certain Kinnosuke (Natsume) Soseki. I had known about the play through this whirlwind of events, that there would be a performance in Kumamoto in October, and one in Tokyo in December.

My great-grandfather had served as a court physician for the Hosokawa clan. He was also a noted haiku poet with the pen-name of ’Soseki’ (in Japanese), the ninth master in a tradition that goes all the way back to Yusai Hosokawa.

Being invited to the reception party held on the eve of the Tokyo performance, I was able to meet the people involved in the production, many from Kumamoto.

The performance was held the next day at the Yotsuya Ward Memorial Hall (in Japanese) in Shinjuku, a location that held special significance for Soseki. The lead character (Natsume Soseki) was played by Kenkichi Hamahata, a well known actor.

The play included a scene where the reputed physician ‘Soseki’, visited at the bedside of the young Natsume Soseki who is laid low by a bout of fever, have a pleasant conversation of this expected encounter of two ‘Soseki’.

The play was a joy to watch. Mr. Hamahata gave a performance befitting the high regard he has held in, and the cast portraying the young Natsume Soseki also earned kudos for their performance.

It was a special occasion where I was also able to catch up with family and relatives, and the day passed pleasantly.

But really, life is full of strange serendipities.