sōseki natsume : i am a cat :: Okan Arts
sōseki natsume : i am a cat

sōseki natsume : i am a cat

By Patricia Belyea

Shibuya BookSellers Business CardOTTAWA 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.)

Victoria Stone, Okan Arts Online Store Manager

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!

Victoria Stone & Peach Blossom

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.

5-ThreeVolAlso 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.

Victoria Stone with Cat Lovers Yukata CottonTo 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 in TacomaYou’re Invited

April 16, 2016
Washington State History Museum
Tacoma WA

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

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4 comments to “sōseki natsume : i am a cat”

  1. marty thompson says:

    Always enjoy mention of new to me bookseller

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Marty—I kick myself for not taking a photo of the store. The building was designed by a Japanese architect. The whole space is airy and pleasant to visit. The back wall of the store is a floor-to-ceiling glass wall where you can see the Shibuya Publishing staff at work. (It’s an open space filled with desks and Macs. Essentially customers can see “books being made.” A wonderful concept.

  2. Laura Soriano says:

    Have this book in my collection and love to re-visit it! Love it!

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Laura, I really enjoyed imbibing a little bit of the book each day with my morning coffee. What a great way to get started each day. Best, PB