Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Kokoro” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.02  ·  Rating details ·  17,449 ratings  ·  1,486 reviews
Hailed by The New Yorker as "rich in understanding and insight," Kokoro — "the heart of things" — is the work of one of Japan's most popular authors. This thought-provoking trilogy of stories explores the very essence of loneliness and stands as a stirring introduction to modern Japanese literature.
Paperback, 248 pages
Published July 1st 1996 by Gateway Editions (first published 1914)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Kokoro, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Richard Hearn did write a book titled Kokoro. It was written in 1895 while Natsume’s Kokoro was written in 1914. Hearn’s was a collection of brief essays of h…moreHearn did write a book titled Kokoro. It was written in 1895 while Natsume’s Kokoro was written in 1914. Hearn’s was a collection of brief essays of his observations of Japanese culture, life. It was concerned with the ‘interior’ rather than the ‘exterior’ aspects of Japan. Hearn did not speak, let alone write, Japanese fluently enough to translate any books from Japanese to English. He died in 1904. (less)
Ramona Boldizsar I don't see much similarity if truth be told. Botchan (one of the author's earliest works), on the other hand, could be compared quite easily with Cat…moreI don't see much similarity if truth be told. Botchan (one of the author's earliest works), on the other hand, could be compared quite easily with Catcher in the Rye. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,449 ratings  ·  1,486 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Kokoro
A languid, melancholic dream of a novel which pierces the heart of the reader with its quiet intensity.

Cautious in its narrative tread on the ground of contentious issues, delicate in its broaching of subjects like the indignity of death, sin and redemption, existentialist ennui, self-recrimination and misanthropy, 'Kokoro' is a masterful recounting of a tragedy which unfolds against the backdrop of the dying years of the Meiji era. As Emperor Meiji breathes his last taking along with him the an
Jim Fonseca
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
The main character is a young man, a college student, who meets an older man at a beach resort. Over time he develops a strong admiration for him, visiting at his home and calling him Sensei. The interesting thing about the “wise” old man is that he does nothing. He seems to be a scholar but doesn’t read or write, he just “hangs out.”


Sensei has no real friends other than the young man. His only activity is making a monthly visit a grave at a local cemetery. Who that deceased person is becomes t
Federico DN
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes you feel the desire to know the all-time greatest different nationalities have created through history. In this case, a japanese classic.

This novel is divided into three parts of a same story, taking place during the Meiji reign, around the 1800s. The laborious life of an university student trying to graduate; his relationship with his countryside family and a delicately tragic situation with his father; and, lastly, his friendship with "Sensei", a kind of extremely well educated mento
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
A few years ago I had arranged to meet up with a girl I was loosely dating. I liked her a lot, but as she is a DJ, who works late nights, seeing each other was not easy. I had agreed to go to the club she was playing at that night and wait for her to finish, which would be something like 3am. As I didn’t want to spend the entire night stood at the side of the DJ booth waiting for her I asked my brother if he wanted to join me. I explained why I wanted to go out, I assured him that I would be fre ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
"You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves."

The quote above sums up perfectly the main theme of this classic Japanese novel. The other one is guilt.

"There is no such thing as a stereotype bad man in this world. Under normal conditions, everybody is more or less good, or, at least, ordinary. But tempt them, and they may suddenly change. That is what is so frightening about men. One must alwa
I aspire to compose a review. This book richly deserves it.

***UPDATE: Three years later and no review, but my failing is now solved.
I highly recommend that you read my friend, Alex's, review:

The key to Kokoro is knowing yourself as a reader and whether its charms are ones you'll appreciate or reject. Alex provides you the info you need to decide whether Kokoro and you will be a satisfying match.
Elyse  Walters
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful classic Japanese story.....
This is a quiet introspective book that was first published in 1996.
They say great books are timeless - and it’s certainly true with “Kokoro”....( which means *Heart* in Japanese).
I paid $1.19 for the Kindle download....and I kid you not...this thin book ( 248 paperback pages), was very hard to pull away from.
Was it moving? Powerful? Thought- Provoking? emotional? I’m pulling at straws trying to see if it’s possible if can covey one word that best describe
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Kokoro” is about a respectable man’s account of his life before he makes a great decision. An unusual book which I really enjoyed, and I would recommend it to readers who do not mind their stories sprinkled with an air of sadness throughout.

You certainly don't need to know anything about Japan or Japanese culture to appreciate, and get something profound from this work. Like so many great works of fiction, it appeals to the human in everyone, and asks those questions every human struggles with
Elie F
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
"I believe you don't really become a finer person just by reading lots of books"

I know a lot of Westerners are obsessed with the East and our civilization, finding its mysterious inconclusiveness attractive in opposition to the somewhat dogmatic West. Nonetheless, it is one thing to be an outside admirer and another thing to have that blood in your vein. Kokoro is a novel of frustration, fragility, distrust, terror, and hopelessness of the blood the East has in it vein, a reflection on the super
Michael Finocchiaro
I have mentioned elsewhere that the later Soseki books tend to be darker and more melancholic not to say extremely pessimistic and Kokoro definitely fits this mold. I am NOT taking anything away from the gorgeous language and descriptions here nor the intimate conversations primarily by writing between the protagonist and his Sensei, but it is not something to read if you are down in the dumps. The narrative devices are original even for Soseki and his mastery of character and betrayal of emotio ...more
E. G.
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
About the Title
Suggestions for Further Reading


Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: when it dies
Recommended to Mariel by: when it lives
Kokoro translates to "the heart of things". I only know this because the translator's forward said it was so. I need a translator, from my heart's mind to yours (anyone?)... I am afraid that I will wander around in the dark mental spaces again. Gray shades of life experiences and emotional (not necessarily reality) experiences. Who could pick up on the undertones and relevances? I'm truly afraid that worse than making no sense, I'll be sitting at the feet (Muppet babies feet? Peanuts gang feet? ...more
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wimps
Shelves: japan, 2018
It's not that you've done something wrong! It's that you haven't done anything. The critical moment in this book will seem so familiar to you: you've not done something like it hundreds of times, or realized you were in danger of not doing it. A conversation must be had. You gotta break up with someone, or tell them you're in love with them. It's scary. You don't do it. These moments don't usually become crucial turning points in your life. You just move on, maybe a few degrees less happy than y ...more
Mar 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ns, にほん
"How can I escape,except through faith,madness or death?"

Kokoro is an epic melodrama of isolation and self-inflicted guilt. A beautiful heartfelt experience from the exploring friendship between a young graduate student and his mentor(Sensei).Soseki brilliantly unveils an intricate web of egoism,guilt,temptations and loneliness through various anecdotes on Sensei's reclusive living. No wonder Soseki succeeded Lafacdio Hearn as a lecturer in English Literature in the Imperial University(1903).
Kokoro is the title of this Japanese classic published in 1914 by Natsume Soseki. It is also a Japanese word meaning “the heart of a thing”, or in other words the essence or the core of whatever it is one is talking about, maybe a person or perhaps a concept. It is good to keep this in mind as you read the book. If the word intrigues you, I think you will also like the book. The book leads you on a search for understanding of the central character.

The story spreads over several years, starting
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos)(on leave)
As with many 'classic' Japanese novels, 'Kokoro' is a rumination on changing mores. Japan went through many culture shaking changes between the time in 1853 that U.S. Navy Commander and erstwhile 'diplomat' threatened Tokyo with bombardment if Japan did not enter into diplomatic discussions and the post-WWII period.

I found this book to be both fascinating and frustrating as it carries the reader over various times of change. Indeed, I often found myself to be quite upset at the characters as th
The Artisan Geek
------------------VIDEO REVIEW------------------

I did a full video review on this book, including some background information on Natsume and the cultural and historical context of the book.

Read this for my diverse classics book club. Really enjoyed it!

You can find me on
Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pub-1914
My book club buddy made us all read it because he was dating a Japanese girl and wanted to learn more about her culture (I hope one day someone reads Prus for me, that would be real love). Anyway, they've been married for a while now, so that should give you an idea how behind I am with my reviews.

After all the melodrama of the Western literature, reading Kokoro was a refreshing experience of emotional restraint. It's an absolute classic, written in 1914, the end of Meiji era when Japan was goi
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Kokoro is the story of an unnamed protagonist who meets his mentor whom he refers to as Sensei. Truth be told not much take place in the book as far as action is concerned so if you are looking for a page turner you'll probably end up disappointed. However, Soseki manages to portray a whole era masterfully and he really unravels the depths of human psyche. The themes included in the book are mistrusting people, dysfunctional communication, inability to relate to other people's feelings, sadness, ...more
Nancy Oakes
11/30/2016 - update: thanks to my love for foreign films, British comedy and other shows which for some reason we cannot get here, we have multi-region dvd capability & so I was able to watch the movie based on this novel. Scroll to the bottom of this post if at all interested in the film.*

Kokoro is,as I discovered, one of those novels where a second reading and a bit of research can completely change what you thought about it after the first time through. The second read was spurred by 1) disco
Some books I close the cover on and I could tell you that minute exactly what I think of them, what they were trying to convey, and whether they have done it well. This isn’t one of those books. I finished it. I sat a while. I pondered. I wondered even then if there was something about our narrator and Sensei’s relationship that I had missed, something about Sensei and his friend, K’s? Sensei means “teacher”, but what exactly did he wish to teach our young narrator and did he succeed?

I wondered
Siti Shakira Suhaimi
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This amazing 248 pages Classics was written beautifully, enough to get my attachment after few pages. It told stories on human relationship with one another, on different degree. Relationship that happen to everyone. The feelings that probably can be called 'love' of different angle, of different literary meaning, and individual's actions based on the feeling. Sometimes we didn't notice we did something because of love, as we didn't even notice the love is there. We thought we are doing it to fi ...more
Daniel Clausen
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing

This is the first line of Kokoro, a fantastic line that sets the stage for the story of the relationship between a young man and an older gentleman he refers to as Sensei.

"I usually call the person "sensei." And so, here I will just refer to him as "sensei" without revealing his true name."

Like much of Soseki's books, the tone is gentle with quite a bit of dialogue and not much of what Westerners would call action. Many of the book's themes are univer
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book as delicate as a butterfly, its wings fluttering in the wind, spreading the fragrance of a fresh honeycomb. No wonder Haruki Murakami named this to be his favourite writer. Both have a way of glancing into the depths of one's soul and writing from the heart and this meditation kindly providing a profound insight into the nature of loneliness is amongst the rawest, most heartfelt I have ever read.

I have always been fascinated by the way in which Japanese writers are expressing their ideas,
Darryl Suite
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is it too early to call this my favorite book of the year? Because right now, I feel like I have been blessed with transcendence. The quiet storm.

In 1910s Japan, an aimless young man finds a kindred spirit in Sensei, an older gentleman who happens to be a bit of a recluse. The young man is desperate for life lessons, and is hopeful that Sensei can provide him with existential answers. The book is separated into three sections: Part 1 explores the two men’s unexpected friendship. Part 2 is the na
Mar 01, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very quiet book, one that whispers its way through the details of a friendship between two men but which brings us to an understanding of how the understated detail can be more intense and painful than one which is expressed loudly and with force. The level of restraint and discipline displayed are admirable in many ways, but they coexist with an a great deal of hypocrisy and an expectation of self-imposed subservience .

However the book was marred ,for me, from the beginning by the fa
Hiba Arrame
I have just finished this, I'm on a bus, so many faces, and I wonder, how lonely are the souls behind these tired, cheerful, talking faces? What lays beyond the head resting on the glass pane and the lost gaze in a horizon unseen to everyone else?

I found myself surprisingly relating so much to Sensei, and I imagined myself having lengthy conversations with him where we finish each other's sentences. Would his fate have been different if he had found in someone else his heart's desire and secrets
Jul 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
This novel, centered around the friendship of a young student and an elder "Sensei", deals with the transition from Japan's Meiji society to the modern era. The young student develops a strange fascination with the misanthrope Sensei and through vague conversations, and ultimately a tell-all epistle, discovers the truth behind the Sensei's ennui and malaise. The book moves slowly, and the reluctance of the characters to just say what they are thinking is a bit tedious, but it is well written and ...more
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-red-circle
I was concerned that I was finding it a bit dull, and Sensei felt too dramatic and self-important to care what happens to him. He certainly isn't likeable, but his testament in the last chapter is enthralling and makes the book. It leaves us with a very strange ending.

"loneliness is the price we have to pay for being in the modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves"

"But what affected me most was his last sentence, which had perhaps been written as an afterthoug
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: like-a-lot, other-lit
I am deeply drawn into the atmosphere in Kokoro. There is something so "Japanese" about the book that I could not describe. Quiet, slow, serene, beautiful and seemingly calm, yet somehow so strong, so unsettling, stirring my heart. I enjoyed this feeling, the deeply unsettled emotions.

The story flows and unfolds so very slowly, still somehow I found myself devouring every single word. The mere 250 pages seem to last a lot longer, as if I have experienced the deep, silent, cautiously guarded sadn
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
/lit/ (revival ed...: [July 2020] Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki 18 72 Aug 08, 2020 07:09PM  
Reading 1001: Kokoro by Natsume Sōseki 4 19 Apr 18, 2020 08:40PM  
Japanese Literature: Discussion for Kokoro, by Natsume Sōseki 38 159 Mar 12, 2020 07:13AM  
Never too Late to...: 2019 August: Kokoro 20 35 Aug 26, 2019 11:28AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect summary for specific edition 3 12 Feb 12, 2019 07:03PM  
Club littéraire p...: Club littéraire parisien - 11 juin 2017 à 17h00 3 6 Jun 10, 2017 07:39AM  
End of book comments 1 25 Jan 02, 2016 06:54PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • No Longer Human
  • The Setting Sun
  • Snow Country
  • Schoolgirl
  • Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories
  • The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
  • The Woman in the Dunes
  • The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
  • Confessions of a Mask
  • The Silent Cry
  • Spring Snow
  • A Personal Matter
  • Naomi
  • Kitchen
  • Kappa
  • Runaway Horses
  • Thousand Cranes
  • The Sound of the Mountain
See similar books…
Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石), 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 note. In Japan, he is often considered t ...more

Related Articles

While dealing with her husband's illness, this debut author turned to the refuge of Jane Austen's work. That refuge turned into her highly anticipa...
90 likes · 13 comments
“I believe that words uttered in passion contain a greater living truth than do those words which express thoughts rationally conceived. It is blood that moves the body. Words are not meant to stir the air only: they are capable of moving greater things.” 329 likes
“You seem to be under the impression that there is a special breed of bad humans. There is no such thing as a stereotype bad man in this world. Under normal conditions, everybody is more or less good, or, at least, ordinary. But tempt them, and they may suddenly change. That is what is so frightening about men.” 264 likes
More quotes…