Botchan, the nickname that means “Young Master”, is the namesake of one of the most famous literature ever made by Japanese author Natsume Souseki. The novel was written in 1906, during the Meiji period following the Restoration. With that in mind, we can see what Natsume had to say about Japanese society in this period. The novel mainly focuses on Bocthan, a poor young man who lives in Tokyo and live with his idealism. Throughout the story, his hot-blooded attitude is the main drive of the story as he becoms a teacher who “rebels” in Japanese society of the time.
As a teacher, Botchan displays the ideal of Japanese character. He gets angry at his student whenever they act deviant, scolds other teachers when they misuse their authority, etc. Of course this comes with consequences, such as threats from other teachers, or getting expelled from the school.
From historical point of view, the setting of Botchan is in the Meiji era, when Japan is transitioning from feudalism to a modern state through westernization. In this period, Japan grew quickly as they opened their “hearts” to the outside world (in this case, to the western nations). The society was also beginning to adopt western culture and literature into their own. Botchan experiences this westernization through the characters he meets, some of them have already adapted to western culture, and some of them still holding on to their own customs. The stratification of feudal society where the samurai class held much authority in the previous period was also being diminished. In the feudal system, the commoner must obey not only the Emperor, but the daimyo and samurai. In the story, there is a growing mindset that people in the Meiji era are equal with daimyo and samurai getting treated as commoners too.
Many Japanese saw the Meiji Restoration like a “renaissance,” because many changes happened, such as the rapid growth in education, industry, politics and economy. Botchan as the main character potrays this transition very well, as a Tokyo kid who was born and grew in the capital city. Botchan’s attitudes toward his students and co-workers also the shown that the high status of daimyo and samurai is no longer needed in the Meiji era. The strict and rigid soial codes of the Tokugawa era has given way to the values of Japanese people in the Meiji era. Yes, there are some customs that didn’t really leave away (Botchan’s own nickname is rooted in the region he is from). But, Botchan’s attitude as someone who sees honesty and open minded-ness as his main principles is something that the Japanese people admire about. It is inevitable that this novel becomes a favourite throughout generations because the main character, Botchan, is the ideal Japanese for them.
Botchan by Natsume Souseki
- Format: Soft Cover
- ISBN: 9786020331676
- Published In: 18 July 2016
- Language: Indonesia (translation by Indah Sati Prasidina)
- Publisher: Gramedia Pustaka Utama
- Pages: 224
- Dimension: 135 mm x 200 mm
The Indonesian Anime Times | by Adyatma Putra Pratama