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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,163 ratings  ·  271 reviews
A stunning new translation—the first in more than forty years—of a major novel by the father of modern Japanese fiction

Natsume Sōseki's Kusamakura follows its nameless young artist-narrator on a meandering walking tour of the mountains. At the inn at a hot spring resort, he has a series of mysterious encounters with Nami, the lovely young daughter of the establishment.
Paperback, 152 pages
Published July 31st 2008 by Penguin Classics (first published 1906)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,163 ratings  ·  271 reviews

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Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ns, にほん

“And when its difficulties intensify, you find yourself longing to leave that world and dwell in some easier one- and then, when you understand at last the difficulties will dog you wherever you may live, this is when poetry and art are born...”

For the very first time on a murky morning, I saw a set of colours come alive on the wall of my living room. The orderly row of comatose crayons suddenly sprang like a newborn foal twirling on the pasty canvass. Amid the angry voices of my parents I
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rowena by: Praj
Shelves: japanese-lit
“Yes, a poem, a painting, can draw the story of troubles from a troubled world and lay in its place a blessed realm before our grateful eyes.”- Natsume Soseki, Kusamakura

Natsume Soseki might soon be a new favourite of mine. This is a book I read after reading Praj's wonderful review.

Kusamakura tells the story of an unnamed artist looking for artistic inspiration while walking through the Japanese mountains, and his encounters at the on-sen (Japanese hotspring) where he encounters the beautiful
Stephen P
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stephen by: Ben Winch
Shelves: favorites
A thirst for the purity of an openness that eschews all restrictions of internal will or external codes. The rare locale of an artist. A place of imagination and dreaming existing apart from the vulgarity of movement-the world. Seeking it removes any chance of finding it. The locale is something which arrives. A splendor of reverie for those patient enough to wait. A book that replenishes the inspiration of awaiting.

We travel with the narrator, a 30 year old Japanese artist. His steps takes him
Elie F
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese
If The Gate reminds me of the evanescence of autumn, Kusamakura reminds me of the drowsiness of spring: the presence of the soul is forgotten, and the human spirit is forged into nature and elevated to be the realm of pure poetry. Unlike The Gate which is so full of weariness and melancholy, Kusamakura has abundant elements of sarcasm and humor which makes it sound like the inner voice of an adolescent boy who is still trying to imagine the immortal beauty of his own self. Adolescent years, ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
This is a beautiful book which takes place a metaphorical and physical mountain climb. I would consider it Soseki's more interior-facing work and one of incredible zen-like wisdom and imagery. Again, do not expect laughing geisha and dancing no actors but rather the mature musings of a Japanese master writer grappling with middle age at 39.
Here is an example of his irony-laden highly reflective pose chosen at random:

I eased my law-abiding buttocks down on the cushioning grass. One could remain
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thesaurus rex
Recommended to Mariel by: velocityraptor
"Clearly I am thinking about nothing. I am most certainly looking at nothing. Since nothing is present to my consciousness to beguile me with its color and movement, I have not become one with anything. Yet I am in motion: motion neither within the world nor outside it- simply motion. Neither motion as flower, nor as bird, nor motion in relation to another human, just ecstatic emotion."
To me, that is the "nonemotion" from Kusamakura of life as nature as art as life as poetry. In my own hazed
Ben Winch
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japanese, asian, 5-stars
Beautiful. Joyous. Sharp, clear, precise. Soseki’s best, I think, for its freedom, for its glow. True, from here on near everything he wrote had the magic, but like Kafka’s his characters were hemmed in, in darkness. Here, from when the unnamed “I” appears on a mountain path until he disappears at a train station as the world calls from down the tracks, all is glittering. I couldn’t read this when I was down; it demanded I engage with it, bring heart to it, enjoy it. I know not everyone (few ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A meditation on life and beauty beneath a kaleidoscope of colours and images, a paean to beauty set against a harlequin shimmer of colours, from the reflections of a sun-light on a the leaves of a tree or the bucolic blooming on the whimsically white flower petals beneath the inky blue night sky. The incandescence of the night-sky, the warbling of the sky-lark beneath leaves of a tree leaden with rain, the pale, indescribable iridescence of sun-light on a mountain slope, the poetry-leaden ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I think this book is the perfect example of a “very good book that is simply not for me.” The writing is beautiful, the language poetic. I must heap praise upon the translator as this must have been quite a challenge. Every line is seemingly trying to evoke a sense of awed beauty and the translator does an admirable job… and yet almost every page I wished the book would just end and let me be done with it. I only finished it out of stubbornness and because it is only 146 pages… and they seemed ...more
Eddie Watkins
Jun 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese-fiction
Pure simple enchantment, with a healthy helping of farts. Soseki set out to write a “haiku-novel” and Kusamakura does bear many resemblances to Basho’s haiku travel book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North; but it is less a novel than a treatise on “aesthetic living”, which in the context of this book is akin to a path to enlightenment. So it is filled with asides, with brief discourses on how to live “non-emotionally”, free from petty social entanglements, so to clear the way for reaching the “ ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
If there were such a thing as 'reading meditation', this book would be it. Its languid pace takes the reader on an introspective journey filled with acute observations and insight. With vivid imagery, every sentence was a delight to read. In truth, nothing much happens but it is a welcome departure from the usual hustle and bustle of most contemporary literature.

Final rating: 4.5*
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan


AS FOR THE FOLLOWING 6 WELL-WISHERS: Sonja, Ben, Aubrey, *Bar*, Garima, and Aziz, please move your 'Like' by reclicking your 'Like' on this review (for 'Unlike') then click 'Like' on this one for the right book review: thanks for your kind help. However, I have
Apr 02, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese, in-mmxx
If you work by reason, you grow rough-edged; if you choose to dip your oar into sentiment’s stream, it will sweep you away. Demanding your own way only serves to constrain you. However you look at it, the human world is not an easy place to live.
And when its difficulties intensify, you find yourself longing to leave that world and dwell in some easier one—and then, when you understand at last that difficulties will dog you wherever you may live, this is when poetry and art are born.

Jan 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
Formerly translated in an edition entitled "The Three-Cornered World" by Alan Turney, this is a new translation by Meredith McKinney. Reading this compact novel by Natsume Soseki was similar to reading a haiku-like one that requires literary interpretations according to, I think, one's interests, backgrounds and appreciation. The more we read it farther from Chapter 1 onwards, we'd gradually realize why Soseki has rightly been acclaimed as " the father of modern Japanese literature" and in his ...more
220913: this is not a novel. this is not an essay. this is somewhere in between, and possibly requires certain knowledge of history and society and aesthetics, all from 1906 japan, depending on what your ideas are, about art, about literature, about how these are changing through contacts with europeans. this can be frustrating, or boring, when the author follows tangents, describes moments b.ut not plot, moments of other encounters with nature or emblematic others, priest, barber, innkeeper, ...more
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, japan
Translated from Natsume Soseki's “Kusamakura” by Alan Turney, “The Three-Cornered World” itself first published in 1965 has once confused me since some years ago when I first came across and read another copy published in 2008 because Meredith McKinney has transliterated its Japanese title into English; therefore, we read this novel from two translators whose expertise we may compare from its 43-year gap.

I have found reading this book more enjoyable and understandable than the one by Dr McKinney
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Note on the Translation
Suggestions for Further Reading


Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was really lovely and refreshing to read.
From the start I was captivated by the nice sense of peace
and beauty.
The narrator is so interesting as he describes what it means to
be a true artist but he is also very funny at times.
Made me think a lot about when I look at a piece of art and
really like it but can't explain why that this is ok as the artist
just wants you to feel the emotion he is trying to portrait.
Also makes you realise that just by appreciating nature and beauty
you are an
Jul 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
I am an artist
So listen to me.
I am an artist
So don't you dare
Count my farts.
J.M. Hushour
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I am the sort of person who can never become a true artist as long as he is having his farts counted by detectives."

A delightfully untroubled artist wanders around a hot-spring inn in rural Japan musing on the nature of art while verbally and sexually sparring with the innkeeper's daughter. A bit of a lazy ass, the narrator does his best to remove himself from the crappy modern world so that he can get a poetic grip on the shaft of Nature. The crazy-ass innkeeper's daughter, divorced and
Susan Budd
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite prose. Natsume Soseki described this book as “a haiku-like novel, that lives through beauty.” That’s exactly what it is. Every sentence is a delight. This translation is by Meredith McKinney. I’ve compared it with the translation by Alan Turney titled The Three-Cornered World and McKinney’s translation is much more poetic and representative of the Japanese aesthetic.
Yon Nyan (BiblioNyan)
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: japanese-lit
Every so often, I find myself holding a book that I absolutely love yet despise with such intense vehemence. After a long period of years, I have once again found such a novel—Kusamakura written by Natsume Soseki.

This novel is everything that I love about intellectual writing. The imagery and poise of the story truly touch base with the artist within me. However, the pretentious arrogance of the unnamed protagonist as well as his habitual inclination to spew about every minute detail drives me
The Three-Cornered World

By Natsume Soseki (1867-1916)

This short novel, written in the first person, is the story of an artist (maybe the author himself) who is tired of the stress of city life in Tokyo.
He decides to travel to a mountain region to resource himself in nature and a quiet. He only takes his color box for painting and a notepad for writing poems.
He stays at an ancient and more or less deserted hot spring thermal establishment and sets out on day trips in the surrounding country for
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miriam Cihodariu
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
The original title of this short novel is Kusamakura, which is a metaphor word (literally pillow-grass), meant to describe the wanderer's lifestyle and wanderlust itself. I find it much more appropriate than the title under which it was first translated, The Three-Cornered World.

In short, the novel is a praise to the old Japanese art of contemplation for the sake of observing beauty. The main character and narrator is an artist looking for inspiration for his paintings and poems, over the course
Another fine book by one of my favorite authors. This is a hard one to rate because it can't be judged as a normal event sequence book but rather taken from an artistic point. I would like to re-read this just because there was so much to digest. Being an artist, I could step into what the author was conveying and I found myself lost in the prose or the offered haiku. Don't expect to understand this book on the first reading, I certainly didn't.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book enabled the unique opportunity to enter through the psyche of an artist.
Aug 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
I can't tell if this is written as nothing more than a meandering reflection on nature, art, and human emotion, or a satire about people who take these things too seriously and completely miss the point.

the narrator never paints anything - which he excuses because of the fundamentally artistic quality of his character, but, are we really supposed to take his inner narrative at face value? even though he keeps saying that everyone reminds him of figures in a painting, he's hardly cool,
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title comes from a passage that explains what I find simultaneously attractive about making art and repulsively air-headed. Its beautiful but removed, in a way it denies any reality outside of aesthetics- and that necessarily makes one a cripple:

"Even something frightening may appear poetic if you stand back and regard it simply as a shape, and the eerie may make an excellent picture if you think of it as something which is completely independent of yourself. Exactly the same is true with
vi macdonald
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you get just a few sentences into a book and you just think to yourself "oh, I needed this". This was one of those books for me. I needed this. During this part of my life particularly. I can see this quickly becoming one of those books I find myself returning to and dipping into on regular rotation. Definitely going to have to get my hands on more Sōseki.
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Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石, February 9, 1867 – December 9, 1916), born Natsume Kinnosuke (夏目 金之助), was a Japanese novelist. He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, kanshi, and fairy tales. From 1984 until 2004, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen ...more
“Approach everything rationally, and you become harsh. Pole along in the stream of emotions, and you will be swept away by the current. Give free rein to your desires, and you become uncomfortably confined. It is not a very agreeable place to live, this world of ours.” 35 likes
“Tea is, in fact, a marvelous drink. To those who spurn it on the grounds of insomnia, I say that it’s better to be deprived of sleep than of tea.” 15 likes
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