sōseki natsume : i am a cat
By Patricia Belyea
OTTAWA CA Recently in Tokyo, I discovered my new favorite place for browsing and buying—Shibuya Booksellers.
This hip shop stocks a gorgeous collection of books, many created in-house by Shibuya Publishing. A delightful portion of the merchandise is thoughtfully curated jewelry, accessories and writing supplies.
I chose a book bag with a silkscreened illustration for my youngest daughter, Victoria, because she appreciates books. Born a speed reader, Victoria raced through volumes at an insatiable rate as a kid. Now a student at University of Washington, she works part-time in Special Collections—handling rare and archival books.
(You know Victoria and her ever-changing hair color as she manages Okan Arts Online Shop one day a week. Every month, in the e-newsletter, she presents a different yukata cotton pattern.)
Who was the character on Victoria’s book bag? At our AirBNB apartment in Yoyogi Park, I googled Natsume.
It turns out that Sōseki Natsume is Japan’s best loved novelist. His famous book, I Am A Cat, was written as a series of ten short stories for a literary periodical. While online, I immediately purchased a vintage copy of I Am A Cat—to pair with the book bag.
Victoria loves cats, especially her precious Peach Blossom. What a perfect gift!
Back in Seattle, our family gathered for a welcome-home dinner where everyone received a gift from Japan. Victoria graciously pointed out that her copy of I Am A Cat was only Volume III. With her interest piqued, she vowed to purchase the missing two volumes.
Also intrigued, I’d hoped to borrow Victoria’s book for an upcoming trip to visit my mom in Ottawa. Wanting to read the compilation from the beginning, I ordered a newer, three-volume edition from Amazon.
What’s so special about these stories that brought Natsume such renown? His feline protagonist, an unnamed cat, reports candidly on the lives of ordinary Japanese people at the turn of the 20th century.
Whether curled up in the lap of his school-teacher master or prowling the neighborhood, this tri-colored tabby witnessed the antics of everyday folks caught in the social tension of Japan becoming Westernized. Natsume, a scholar of Japanese, Chinese and English literature, keeps the reader interested with his insightful commentary and biting cynicism.
Over 100 years later, there’s a resurgence of interest in Natsume’s work. Today he’s seen as a visionary who recognized the challenges Japan would face in modern times.
To visit Shibuya Booksellers website +click here
To read a brief interview with Seita Fukui, the founder of Shibuya Publishing, on the Kinfolk website +click here
To visit the exciting website of Sayori Wada who illustrated the book bag +click here
To purchase a copy of I Am A Cat directly from Tuttle +click here
To purchase a copy of I Am A Cat from Amazon +click here
To purchase a vintage copy of I Am A Cat from Abe Books +click here
Fun Trivia: The 1000¥ banknote featured Natsume’s portrait from 1984 to 2004.
QUILT ART SYMPOSIUM
April 16, 2016
Washington State History Museum
Quilt Art Symposium promises to shine a light on the future of Quilt Art with three leading speakers, a luncheon, an artist-led tour of the CQA exhibit Cutting Edge, and an opening party.
The speakers talk about what they’ve learned and what they believe is next in Quilt Art:
Dr. Sandra Sider, Curator, Texas Quilt Museum
Cathy Izzo, Owner, The Art Quilt Gallery, Manhattan
Chris Sazaki, President, Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA)
Tickets are $75.
Learn more at QuiltArtSym.com