The Gate - Natsume Soseki


Slow-burn character study in early 20th century Tokyo.

indicative quotes

He was driven to the conclusion that while living in Tokyo he had never in fact seen Tokyo [10]

they dwelled in the city as though living deep in the mountains [132]

Under the sun the couple [Sosuke, Oyone] presented smiles to the world; under the moon they were lost in thought [151]

why bother?

Soseki can really write, but he's not trying to blow you away on the sentence level. He'll write sentences like this:

As the leaves luxuriated in the autumn sunlight they drooped down heavily in silent clusters, not a single one stirring [6]

to let you know he can, but then continue quietly on. Kawabata is a more striking stylist but I cannot tell whether or not he's Soseki's better.


Less obviously focused on Japaneseness than on Sosuke as a character type, as a portrait of adulthood stasis. Things happen to Sosuke (family squabbles, half-hearted attempts at spirituality) but he never gets anywhere.

He was someone destined neither to pass through the gate nor to be satisfied with never having passed through it. He was on of those unfortunate souls fated to stand in the gate’s shadow, frozen in his tracks, until the day was done. [203]

nature amid city life

sometimes, as soon as they had gotten up, they excitedly counted the number of blossoms that had opened that day [83]

over the next hour, splashing light across the land, the sun rose boldly, unchallenged, into a blue sky [112]

the natural beauty of city life itself

gazing down from some eminence at the congeries of the roof tiles stretching out for miles in all directions under the blazing sun...each and every detail of this dizzying panorama assailed his senses with a force that drummed into his head the word, “Mag-nif-i-cent!"' [137]