About Tokyo Tech
About Tokyo Tech
Over a century ago on January 17, 1914, distinguished novelist Soseki Natsume gave a lecture at Tokyo Higher Technical School, a forerunner of Tokyo Tech. Soseki, best known for the epoch-making Botchan and satirical I Am a Cat, declined to give the lecture countless times. So why did he eventually decide to talk to the students? What did he talk about, and what happened afterwards?
Soseki's reclusive ways were not unknown. When Kinmochi Saionji, Prime Minister of Japan at the time, invited him and other writers to a party at his residence, Soseki unceremoniously declined the invitation with a postcard. He did, however, agree to a lecture at Tokyo Higher Technical School after being invited some dozen times. It took the persistent members of the School's literature club three years, but finally Soseki acquiesced.
So what did Soseki have to say to technical school students? "I cannot speak of anything interesting... and my talk has no title." Spoken in a surly voice, these were the opening words to his lecture. The following is an abridged version of the remainder of his one-hour lecture, a precious part of the School's history.
At a later date, it came to Soseki's knowledge that a student at Tokyo Higher Technical School had not understood his lecture. Having a strong desire to be of benefit to participating students, the writer felt great regret and disappointment upon hearing this. Some of his thoughts at the time were published in an essay in The Asahi Shimbun.
Several days later, when the writer was feeling dejected about the reaction of his audience, Soseki received several letters from other students who had heard the lecture. These letters stated — contrary to Soseki's understanding — that many students had both comprehended and enjoyed the writer's speech. Relieved that the initial student's reaction did not represent that of the whole group, Soseki's feelings of disappointment turned into gratitude.
With aspiring engineers as his audience, Soseki Natsume presented a valuable perspective on the similarities and differences between engineering and literature. His message most certainly left a mark on the students at the time, and still holds a special place in the pages of Tokyo Tech history one century later.
This article is an excerpt from a Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives flyer.
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Published: June 2015