Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Reception of Hōjōki in Meiji Japan:
With a Focus on Natsume Sōseki’s English Translation

PRADHAN Gouranga Charan

Department of Japanese Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)

Key words:

Hōjōki, Natsume Sōseki, James Main Dixon, translation of Hōjōki

Kamo no Chōmei’s Hōjōki (1212) has a long history of readership. Throughout the history of Japanese literature, it continuously invited attention, not only from readers in Japan, but also from abroad. It is well known that Natsume Sōseki translated Hōjōki into English while he was a student at the request of James Main Dixon, his English literature professor at Tokyo Imperial University. Dixon, building upon Sōseki’s translation, further authored an article comparing Kamo no Chōmei with English poet William Wordsworth, and also produced his own English translation. It is owing to the endeavours of these two that Hōjōki became available to readers in the West for the first time. Hence, in order to study the history of Hōjōki’s reception, especially its circulation in the West, the insights offered by Sōseki and Dixon are particularly crucial. With this in mind, the focus in this paper is to deepen our understanding of Hōjoki’s reception through a close analysis of relevant English language resources that mention this work. We have found, from our study of late nineteenth century resources, that Hōjōki had already appeared, albeit in fragments, in English-language literature before Sōseki’s translation. Dixon was perhaps the first Westerner to show a keen interest in Hōjōki, and his primary thematic interest was the issue of reclusion and solitude. Also, the contents of Dixon’s talk on Chōmei show that the Western audience appreciated Hojoki and its author from the perspectives of the Christian cultural ethos. This paper also discusses the intertextual affinity between Sōseki’s essay and Dixon’s article. It demonstrates how the latter built his arguments based on the former’s ideas.